[…] (This begins another of the Great Debates on WRT.) Previous debates: Frustration, Hamlet, Intelligent Design. […]]]>
[…] (This post returns to an exchange between Jeremy and Mark Bernstein from this past summer. Below are resources for a course discussions of Hamlet and interactive works For this in-class installment of WRT we are joined by the fine English students of the Archer school). First, the debate. Can Hamlet be adapted into an electronic interactive form? […]]]>
The point about first and third person makes a lot of sense to me, though I’m starting to think that moving an avatar around a stage is distinct but not separate from the effects of point of view.
I want to emphasize the role of this character movement in one’s own mental construction of the “story” that occurs in the game. I’m sure someone has written about this more eloquently than I’m phrasing it. My question is what is the difference between the told and played version of that knight episode that make the first so “unsatisfying,” assuming it is.]]>
I haven’t read Chris Crawford’s latest, but here are some thoughts:
First, your knight example implies that first person is more emotionally engaging than third - which it might be, if it is immersive. It might also be less engaging if the agency of the interactor is alienated (”Ah, the agony as I thought I was hitting the X button but was actually hitting the Y button”). I’m not sure identification is the key difference. Third person seems to create intense identification just fine, as witness how common it is to cry over novel and film outcomes vs how common it is to cry upon failing a game level.
Agency, on the other hand, raises the intensity of immersion / alienation - although now that I think about it I’m not entirely clear the extent to which “identification” and “immersion” are continuous or distinct. I suppose I define identification as emotional metaphor - “we lost” meaning you identify with the sports team - whereas immersion is emotional simile - Scott McCloud’s great example from Understanding Comics being “He hit me!” being indicative of how the participatory immersion of driving changes the thought “His car hit my car!”
As to your second idea, limits are tricky - sometimes the most limited experiences imply the richest offstage or off-page worlds.
The final point, on the intensity of playing Hamlet, seems to bring us full circle. I think it is an open question - which is more emotionally intense, the experience of walking into a dangerous situation (first person) or watching someone else do it (third person, as in horror films, above)?
The obvious answer might be first, but then, I think that depends on one’s stake. Which is more intense - walking into a dark alley at night, or watching a closed-circut video of your children walking into a dark alley at night? And can one fear for the video-game knight (who, after all, may die one thousand times) as much as we fear for a character in a script, who presumably has but one life’s course to run?]]>
That’s a good point about Hamlet’s activity.
I’ve been looking at Chris Crawford’s Chris Crawford on interactive storytelling. He’s got a few ideas to throw into the mix.
One he thinks the user “should be able to make lots of dramatically interesting decisions” (53). This goes against my inevitable plot idea.
Second, he offers a bad example of a story, or an example of a bad linear story about a knight who rides away from the castle and dies after falling off a horse. The story, he argues is unsuccessful. As a game, however, we would find this satisfying.
Now Crawford is making a point about the difference between stories and games, but there are a few aspects of this that play into your post.
When we play games our identification with the avatar raises the stakes of the action. The story is not: There once was a knight who rode on his horse, fell off and died, but instead: I am a knight. I get on my horse and make it ride. We pick up speed. I can barely control it. I fight with all my might to stay on. Ah, the agony as I fall to my death only to try again tomorrow.
I’m stretching a bit, but you get my point.
The second idea is that games give us the promise of something more beyond starts and stops, whereas the printed story (aside from serials) is the whole enchilada.
In the first case, identification through play and guiding the character seems to add an intensity of plot that stories must work much harder to build.
Being Hamlet, then, might be an intense experience even while walking down a hallway towards the King, never knowing what mouse might be crawling behind the tapestries.