Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Interactive Experiences Spectrum

Brice Morrison over at GameSetWatch has written an interesting opinion article with the title, "Why A Game Designer Outgrew Video Games". Morrison is a game designer who blogs about "games in a wider context and how they can be more than simply entertainment."

Mental Maps

Morrison points out that a positive change has been devices such as the Wii which has created a wider audience. There are people who have trouble creating mental maps between themselves, through the controller to games. The Wii allows people to interact using a mental map which they are already familiar with, their own bodies.


Morrison notes that games are a younger medium and I would add that the hurdles for a person to make a game are higher. There are technical and artistic hurdles as well as hurdles in the way of audience participation. The audience need to learn a tremendous amount in order to participate. The number of people who can write or use a camera is huge compared to the people who can draw well which is what comics depend on and this explains the disparity with comics. I would suggest the people with the opportunity and skill for games development is similar to those who can develop comics. It is kind of like comparing open source software contributor numbers with Wikipedia contributor numbers.

Each game has to be a blockbuster and games which are not, just don't reach the wider audience. My time is precious, I don't want to be trying out a hundred artistic games.

Games and Experiences

I find it interesting that we expect so much from games. I mean, we don't expect nearly as much from formal games such as boardgames, card games and sports games. We don't expect nearly as much from informal school yard games either.

I suspect that we are expecting more because games provide an experience, much the same way as books and movies do. In particular, we expect more from games because they provide an interactive experience which we intuitively sense has the potential to be be even more powerful than non-interactive experiences.

However, it is this which has led us to this junction point in time, where we sense there should be more to games. The spectrum for exploration in non-interactive experiences are huge but the spectrum for exploration in interactive experiences is in the order of many magnitudes larger.

I would suggest we examine our games with greater care. Some games intend to be games or interactive experiences or something in between. I would suggest that we note that there are situations where the power of an experience is lessened because so much goes on whilst we go through it. I would suggest we look at influences for other forms of interactive experiences such as role-playing.

Time Frames

Books and movies are about story telling and games are about story experiencing. Story telling is an art form that is specifically intended to transmit experiences directly. The time for experiences books, movies and games differ as well and contributes to the current gulfs we are seeing between each of the mediums. In books and movies we can trim it down to the core moments and pack those moments in. With an interactive experience, it's different. With books and movies, the poignancy comes from highlighting key moments. With games, it is about making choices and facing consequences.


It is also about the role you play. In books and movies, the intention is for us to observe and absorb from the experience of another. In games it is about experiencing it for ourselves. In that case, most people would rather step into the role of someone exciting.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this so I'll sign off here. My goal is for games to overtake comics first, then movies and finally books.

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