Whatever you think about interactive entertainment (commonly referred to as video games or computers games), and whatever you think about the long-term potential for interactive storytelling, there is one critical and indisputable difference between interactive works and all other forms of entertainment. Movies, books, television, theater and even live-action sports are all witnessed, while interactive works are participatory.
This may seem like an obvious point, and perhaps even trivial, but it isn’t. It’s not only central to what makes interactive entertainment compelling, it’s a revolutionary change in the relationship between entertainment product and intended audience. Because players/users make choices instead of witnessing other people’s choices, the meaning inherent in an interactive work is heightened and intensified, both personally and culturally.
To see this clearly, imagine any gripping or emotionally-charged scene you’ve ever experienced in a passive form — a great moment in a novel, a thrilling scene in a film. Now translate that experience from one you’re witnessing to one you’re participating in. Instead of reading about the gunfight, you’re shooting. Instead of watching the heroine slip past the mob, you’re doing the sneaking. Instead of witnessing Sophie’s choice, you have to make Sophie’s choice. [ Read more ]