Does point and click interactivity destroy the story?
The convergence of interactivity with narrative

Donna Leishman
Masters of Design
School of Visual Communication
Session 2000/2001


Introduction

Section 1: Life is not story, Story is what we do to life after it happens.
Section 2: The Potential of Games
Section 3: Full Motion Video Clips and Lexia as a concept
Section 4: Dominant Genres: Gothenburg Cultures and perceived conditioning
Section 5: Default Story lines and chronology
Section 6: Comics as a template for Sequence
Section 7: Transforming Meanings: Structures of Thought
Section 8: Puzzle Solving

Conclusion
Endnotes - References
Bibliography
Interviews: A Foreword
Interview

girl@6amhoover.com

 


Introduction <<<BACK
In this paper, I will be discussing and answering whether interactive technologies and gaming techniques can converge with a recognisably narrative experience- or if literal alongside mental interaction will destroy our narrative immersion. The role and relationship between the author and the reader is seriously challenged within interactive narratives, she is no longer responsible simply for the words and images of the story but now the rules by which the words and images would appear.

Problematic Terminology
Although the games industry is well established as commercial and merchandising money making mammoth, culturally its status as a valid Art form worthy of academic discussion is up for debate (The high and low Art argument). It is generally accepted that games are still an emergent medium complete with all the associated pitfalls (lack of agreed terminology, unfocused research strains). Even more so is the genre of
non-goal orientated interactive narrative, or Fiction (1), which is still very much seen as a commercially weak experimental art form. (2)

For the purposes of this paper certain types of games (namely adventure and
role-playing) will be categorised as valid forms of Interactive Narratives as they contain narrative dependent characters, plot and suspense. Interactive Fictions first appeared as textual games ('Adventure' on the ARPA net 1977, Donald Woods, Will Crowther) which in turn saw the growth of Hypertext Narratives (Michael Joyce, Stuart Moulthrop, 1987) and eventually evolved into a world of sophisticated graphics, animation and sound (Myst, Miller and Miller 1993), to the point of our billion dollar gaming industry with online MUD communities and spin off help books (today). Interactivity is big business.

Interactive narratives can be defined as digital (this is not exclusive but for this paper) narrative experiences which necessitates your intervention to either complete or to continue the authored or unauthored sequences of events. This leaves you with an individual interpretation of the narrative (by way of individual paths of interaction).

In an Interactive Narrative the person who is experiencing (reading, viewing, listening to, playing) effects the way the story goes, and perhaps the way it comes out. This is what makes the story interactive. Key to interactive narratives is to tell a story when you cannot guarantee the events themselves or the order in which they will be received. As Michael Hippolyte termed, you have to place "limits"/ certain types of convergences. Different formats have been tried to test these limits but generally, the first common format limits the viewer to activities such as playing with gadgets and solving puzzles, which may entertain and embellish but does not advance the story. For example, by 'clicking' the lamp you can get the light to come on but you cannot use it to illuminate other areas of the room. These hotspots of foci can often be seen to distract from the main narrative especially if they are many in number and isolated from the story. This format is often seen in children's multimedia titles and playful flash web animations.

At the opposite end of the interactivity scale is the 'simulation' games format, like the most recent big seller 'The Sims' by Will Wright. These software releases offer the potential for millions of stories, which only come to life when the program is run. The story is based on guaranteed rules of social and urban development. You as the player are free to design your own structure and set your own secondary goals.

Somewhere in between these two is the most common format where by the author places limits on both the viewer and the story. The viewer has a finite set of choices and the story a finite set of outcomes. Key to developing good Interactive Narratives is this tension between the authors goal to express something explicit and the viewers freedom (as a interactive participant) to choose amongst the narrative possibilities.

Works and papers cited in this discussion mostly come from game and literacy theoreticians and critics and with contributions from hypertext authors and designers. For the most, the sources are diverse doctoral papers, online forums, and recent newspaper articles balanced with first person interviews. (3)

It is argued that the literal contribution of the interaction within Interactive Narratives at present is all but a series of point and clicks. You receive a prompt of some kind, to which you must respond by pointing and clicking the mouse, or controller, or by typing your keyboard. An immediate problem with making these types of decisions is the involuntary feeling of responsibility, which can be seen as a destructive frame of mind for immersive story interaction. I will argue that with the responsibility and awareness of our actions comes the potential for a stronger and new form of interaction
(in relation to our familiar sit back and read/watch). This will be gained from developing the readers understanding of the "meaning" imbued within the decision/interaction. This can be expanded into the design as a contributory factor to the narrative experience. I will discuss and attempt to develop new ideas for involving interaction within a story whereby the full "storyness" is maintained. Since the birth of the New Media industry there has been continual debate over narrative interactivity. One side of the debate advocates a strong narrative and viewer manipulation; the other prefers an inspiring (narrative) environment, emergent storylines and unbroken interactivity. Believers in the first option usually have grounding in some authored - centred medium such as cinema, or the theatre. Believers of the other view generally work within the games industry. The work of the "Directors"(4) involving interactivity have been seen more or less as digitised versions of narratives based on the traditional structures and formats. But as further discussed in Section 7, this argument is rather complex, for we have various multimedia and hypertexts which surpass the previous literary formats but confusingly use the guise of these older formats (print, film) as comfortable/familiar interfaces for the users. It should be noted that the games industry's attempts at interactive narratives are often equated to highly elaborate puzzles based around the ethos of kill or be killed.
I also intend to look in Section 6 at the panelled illustration techniques as exemplified in the comic genre and its' use of non-verbal reading combined with involuntary mental closure as a method of storytelling and developing interaction.

The games industry was the first to develop major new ways of interaction with narratives. In the early days, the input into these games was wholly textual (no visual support) and the responses were remote in delivery, but successful none the less. The computer game today responds instantaneously to every action of the player, which in turn provokes a new response. If this "perpetual continual feedback loop"(5) between human - computer interaction is seminal in constructing that essential "immersion" within the gaming experience. Games share a common feature, the necessity of being lost within stories, I will look at differences in these immersions. It looks certain that the dynamics of good game design may help us understand the interactive possibilities and the future of Narratives.

 

Section1: Life is not story. Story is what we do to life after it happens <<<BACK

"Adults and children tell stories about events that they see present in the world around them, about events that they have experienced in the past, and about events that take place in their imagination. In all cases, stories impose structure on those events such that listeners (including the storyteller) can understand them, and thereby gain some particular perspective on the events." (6)

Will Wright the designer of The Sims stated that for him that,
"Storytelling seems to be a fundamentally linear path through a much larger space of 'potential stories.' I think of stories as a compression technique that we humans have developed to communicate. We use them not just to communicate linear event sequences but also whole environments and sets of possibilities. When I watch Indiana Jones escaping from the Temple of Doom it is not what happens to him that I find interesting, it is what might have happened had he slipped in front of the boulder. Dozens of potential failure states are compressed into a few seconds of action and transmitted to my brain with amazing efficiency."

How many times have we each left the film theatre thinking '... that wasn't what I imagined happening, what if this had happened...that would have made it better (for me personally), more interesting...'?
Storytelling and story absorbing play a complex role in the development of our social and personal awareness and attitudes. Narratives can promote group role-playing and provide a very personal immersive experience. I find Will Wright's ideas on narratives very interesting, the importance of recognising the 'potential stories' and mental compression as a positive factor in the reading of narratives. His point of view also highlights the many different levels at which we become involved whilst being engaged with a story. MITs' Cassel and Ryoki state that

"Fantasy play and narrative activity prepare the way (in children) for the development of abstract thinking and higher mental processes which in turn fosters the development of children's imaginations. "


They also go on to state that
"We may choose to engage in such storytelling to inform others about our experiences or beliefs, or to get enough distance from those experiences to be able to reflect on them ("cooling off function" of the narrative.) These narrative effects are required by children in along developmental process that begins around the age two and does not end until pre-adolescence."

Within every reading or understanding of a narrative, there is always a certain amount of personalisation that directly relates to self-awareness and vision. We have all been shocked by the intimate similarities of characters in stories, whether it is a kinship with their emotions or situations. This awareness in this situation serves as a kind of educational database. Stories can also offer and show us worlds (7) and situations, fictions so completely unlike our own experiences, that we as the reader / viewer travel the distance of the story encountering the pre authored plots and events, learning insights into new situation where we can develop a relationship with the characters involved. Once we have been 'pulled into' a story we can become fully immersed and we can often find ourselves attached emotionally and intellectually e.g. trying to predict the future events and likely or possible conclusions. All these experiences are very formative kinds of interaction, all happening without us the reader/ viewer ever being asked to get directly involved within the story. This purely mental/passive form of immersive interaction is and can be a very powerful way involving the reader / viewer in narratives.

Simply put, joining the two words together "Interactive Narratives", should mean a reciprocal relationship set within a narrative (story). Critics of interactive narratives claim that the entire concept is an oxymoron. That real interaction precludes any possibility of intended story; on the other hand, any intended story is similarly destroyed by interaction. Key to this argument is our vision of acceptable narrative form (further discussed in Section 8).
Prior to print, stories were traditionally narrated from memory or created from the storytellers' imagination. Then, you as the listener must commit the story to memory, which in turn becomes wholly interactive in the retelling, changing from mind to mind


and mouth to mouth, only here we change roles from the listener to the 'rememberer -storyteller'. In practice however even these interactive retellings have simply the potential to be wholly interactive and in these oral cultures the stories would tend to be simplified encoded tales, which changed in relation to purpose, audience and the narrators personal style. Nevertheless, since the advent of capturing and committing narratives to print, image and film, we have removed most of the audience non-linear manipulation. Today's technology has returned to the storyteller the ability to involve and imbue different levels of interaction back to the reader/ viewer via the keyboard, mouse, games controller, remote control, touch-screen monitor, Virtual Reality headset and mobile phones.

Much of the argument of whether interactivity can fuse with storytelling begins with the supposition that traditional narratives have never contained any physical interaction. The genre of pop up books is obviously contrary to that argument, you as the potential reader need to physically intervene, to touch, to pull and look for the devices that will trigger the pop up events. Of course the argument supposes is that no "serious" literary offerings have been multilinear or interactive, popup books are "childish" and playful (which is another argument all together and is touched upon in Section 8) and not regarded as part of the Gothenburg hierarchical notion of proper narrative form. What narratives have never had (or have only recently had with hypertext fiction, adventure games, and DD role-playing) was an interaction whereby you as the participant can alter the outcomes of the initially authored text. Thus making the transition from participant to a kind of sub-author (again a well agreed upon name has not been defined for the interactive audience and this is liable to remain in flux as the types of interactions veer in different directions as the narrative structures as pushed!), whereby your involvement personalises the narrative experience. This already can be seen to happen in certain gaming experiences, but rather than having open ended options for self authoring, the games designer normally anticipates and has guided you through the narratives, offering you options to fragment the journey you take within the game and offering you a potential of different endings, but these endings have been as authored and designed for effect (dramatic effect) in relation to the choices you have made. Regarding conclusions, they are as linear as the one ending of a book or a film.


Fig1. Open decision tree model

Otherwise, if an interactive story follows the open decision tree model, which contains no limitations (see above) the story will quickly develop into a gigantic geometric progression. We simply need (in relation to man-hours on authoring and our desire for endings) some (all) of these branches to converge, effectively meaning certain sequences or decisions will bring you to the exact same point in the story. A good amount of convergences can mean that a large amount of interactions can be offered. Narrative convergence is an economic necessity and should be treated as an artistic device, a new literary tool.

 

Section2: The Potential of games<<<BACK

Our culture at present does not accredit 'games' as a serious narrative form as discussed in Section 8. Indeed the notion of play and entertainment is largely seen as detrimental to our narrative and social education (8). This is also compounded by the fear of psychological damage, especially the fear of aggression building /addiction in adolescent boys. Although these concerns merit extensive research, we should not allow these fears to taint the development of interactive media as a new medium. Nicholas Ferguson (9) describes research done with young and old age groups calculating cognitive rehabilitation through computer play enhancing their spatial ability, motor co-ordination, tracking capacity, and attention and memory. Moreover, it is worth remembering the roles of other more established mass media in the perpetuation of violent stereotypes (Hollywood cinema releases).
Games are not regarded as an obvious narrative form. When we think of games we normally associate them with 'shoot em' up' Doom and Quake Arenas. However, like most other media forms therein lies a multitude of sub genres. Computer games publications divide the contemporary field into seven genres (in which there are varying degrees of narrative elements): action/arcade, adventure, role-playing/adventure, simulation, sports, strategy, and war. Within these categories, of course, there remains much overlap. The recent Tomb Raider release, essentially an adventure game contains a section of a computerised chess game, wherein you need to beat the resident Artificial Intelligence to progress any further in the game. The narrative content within these sub genres differs greatly; arcade-style games such as Tetris contain practically no narrative elements being abstract action games. Whereas role-play/action games such as, the moody Silent Hill or Metal Gear Solid are at the top end of the narrative games industry. The different genres offer different types of game play, and different levels of immersion. These adventure role-playing games are the closest to continuous response interactive narratives.

"The storytelling is essential to the adventure game genre. Adventure games are woven together from the characters, settings, objects and puzzles placed in them by the designer" (10)

However, there remains a feeling, even within the most engaging of role-playing games, that separates the experience from traditional narratives such as films or books. Ever since the programmers and developers realised back in the early sixties that the potential lay not in the computers' ability to perform calculations but in its capacity to represent action in which humans could participate (Laurel), professionals have been attempting to offer new and improved methods and applications of computer to human interaction. Within the narrative realm, the solution to maintaining users' sense of control whilst still sustaining a compelling story was to set the game up as a series of puzzles (puzzles akin to play is seen as being a 'low' art form). The puzzle solving combined with environment exploration; the picking up of clues, travelling to all the right location in the correct order would allow you to reach the next level. Meanwhile, during the process you are expected to make mistakes, die and restart the game countless many times, this is seen as the sum of the narrative experience. The key difference between the linear narratives of stories and films and that of the adventure role-playing game is the very thing that distinguished the genres. The ability and the way in which we as players and not readers have to interact. We need to intervene, to commit an action within the narrative for the story to progress. I suggest that this shock of responsibility, for every action within the puzzle solving game automatically suggest a right or wrong choice, inevitably changes the player relationship within any narrative. It, in a sense, destroys the type of interaction that we are most familiar with typified by films and books, but I argue does not 'destroy' the narrative. In games, we inevitably have the urge or desire to go back and check if we have made the correct decision combined with the compulsion to know where these other choices would have taken us. A good game is often played/ explored multiple times so that we can envisage the whole picture.

We almost always self-reflect onto narratives. In narratives, we often realise that we can feel the same as certain characters. Or have encountered a similar dilemma, but to be placed in the shoes of the leading character so to speak and imbued with the ability of reciprocal interaction is a radical change the role of reader to role-player. Although it could be argued that we are still essentially 'reading', but reading with a postmodernist mind's ability to feel immersion in chaos and mystery. The awareness you have in these often-intense environments with a given mission certainly ups the emotional commitment, but in terms of narrative immersion - it changes it completely- the way we mentally function. Nicholas Fergason (9) states
"The concept of 'immersion' in video games- the sense of inhabiting a miniature world is well documented 'but for him 'the question of 'emotion'... (Meaning the players mental and physiological response) is becoming more important.

Can we develop interactive narratives that would sustain the user (not player) to their end without the use of puzzle play? (11). We are becoming increasingly familiar with our role as a player and as a reader, but as a narrative interactor there exists no intermediary role-playing experience. Essential to developing good experiences will be accepting the limits that interaction puts on the narrative e.g. not being able to hinge the story on characters.

 


Section3: Full Motion Video Clips and Lexias as a concept.
<<<BACK

Rather than being seen as a more involved form of interaction is the computer a more alienating-distant- form of interaction than, say, watching a film? The role of the player leads you, the interactor, to hunt for visual and textual clues, source the previous gaming histories to anticipate similar trends, or for useful fragmented pieces of narratives to solve the immediate puzzle at hand. This combined with the likelihood of real-time skirmishes in the games, time restrictions and the necessary physical input of the character e.g. continual exploration or motion. This is all under the duress of emotional strain, fear, anxiety or frustration as you attempt to jump to that ledge for the fifteenth time. Considering this - the high level of sensory demands, the thinking, doing, remembering, looking and listening there is little mental space left to actually become immersed within the narrative (and this in games is not necessarily seen as a negative quality, and is being suggested as a factor in there addictive quality). This mental pacing is called the "gameplay" in games.
But alas they say that the best stories exist within your head, being given the time and inclination to understand and realise the narrative using your mind. You would think that this lack of sensory space- whereby your imagination can come to life- would be resolved by the FMV's (Full Motion Video Clips - short sections of non-interactive video). Allowing the equivalent of the picture book's blank page, a pause, a breather to gather your thoughts, feelings and ideas before you get back to the playing/watching/reading. These FMV's simply fail to, should we say, create "the void" perhaps because the FMV's are not narratively or artistically blank enough. They are normally lush sensory highly rendered pieces of cinematography. They are not designed to develop an additional depth/insight into your player character or the supporting teammates and enemies or necessarily enable you to gain a further understanding of the subplots or narrative histories. A major factor in why FMV's are not produced to fulfil such functions is the expected length of the video clip.
They normally last between two to eight minutes long. One of the seemingly primary aims of the FMV's at present is to promote and explain the "gaming environments" using state of the art virtual reality technologies. Enabling our minds eye to visualise the advanced textures and lightening that the non-FMV reality of the games visuals could not sustain. The FMV's are also commonly used to explain the top-level plot developments and mission settings.

Fig 2. The interactive author Crankbunny utilises spatial filmic visual techniques.
The blankness here is literal in the use of large areas of black, which helps the reader cope with the often-demanding levels of narrative closure and audio interpretation. See http://www.crankbunny.net/movie/
In addition, please refer to the artists interview in appendix for a full discussion on this issue.


The Full Motion Video episodes are an interesting feature within the interactive narrative game (Lexias serve the same almost the same function in hypertext narratives only rather than 'guaranteed' video clips they are block of narrative text and links). They are the main reason why the adventure games industry was dubbed the "New Hollywood: Interactive Cinema". In that the visual quality (3D special effects), narrative structures and tone can be devastatingly similar to viewing a state of the art Silicon Graphic cinema experience, but sharing the same interface of 'looking just like' a Hollywood animation conditions us into sitting back and stereotyping the characters as actors. Indeed Hollywood moved into Silicon Valley to learn and use these production techniques from the games industry. In some instances the FMV's have been directed and designed past the cinema experience (but these are rare). Traditional formats within games normally have an introduction FMV sequence whereby the tone and narrative preludes are set.

So these intro FMV's have set an industry format, they give the player a bit to think about (a tiny amount), an initial understanding of what issues are at hand, all while the game loads. The recent Tomb Raider release goes one step further by placing the FMV clip plus the first gaming level back in Lara Croft's personal history, back to her formative teenage years. This period in Lara's history is prior to her years and experiences found within the Sony Playstation Platinum (golden oldies) series Tomb Raider 1-3. FMV's are the games designers' anchors, a way to structure the "complete" game. These small chunks of 'linear' experience normally have to be uncovered and experienced for the player to successfully move forward, there is however normally hidden prize narrative chunks, which are viewed as rewards for accomplished gameplay. FMVs and lexia are completely intertwined with orders of sequence and are essential tools in the interactive authors' palette.

 

Section4: Dominant Genres, Gothenburg Cultures, and perceived conditioning. <<<BACK

"...From the comfortable old hierarchical dominatons to the scary new networks" (12)

" Most of the theory out there about the import of digital communication - the power of interaction - has been written by people who were exposed to the "digital universe" much later than others - or who have had limited if any exposure. There is another group of digerati out there, through a new generation that's grown up with computers. The under twenty seven-set." (13)

The book like the textual story seems to rule over all other forms of narrative media as the most important (intellectually), and as new media's narrative offerings converge and diverge, the amount of lengthy verbose textual offerings are in decline. This paper is not about discussing whether the book and textual literacy is more important than say cinematic non-verbal reading but is to challenge the hold that such dominant mediums have over the developing interactive media.

Games and Interactive experiences in general are agreed to having the traits of an emergent medium. The properties of the medium are not established. A real problem is the lack of coherent terminology: a lot of time is spent defining terms such as "game","narrative","interactivity", and "immersive", what we do have are terms that can be displaced from other mediums, goals, plots... This is understandable as the very nature of digital art forms is, as H. Kassia Fleisher calls it--"Scrapbook" quality, the computer can and does mimic all other media: digitally representing sound, movement, photographs, print, words... Many multimedia offerings look like stylish miniaturised films or animations (Broadband offerings will soon open-up this scale issue). As an emergent medium we (theoreticians, designers, critics, writers) need to discuss what the essential properties above and beyond existing media of the medium are and the kind of functions it can serve culture at large. What relationship can it establish with its audience, what constitutes good and bad uses of the medium.

In her "Manifesto for Cyborgs "(1986) writer Donna Haraway imagines an interactive future whereby...

"Perhaps paraplegics and other severely handicapped people can (and sometimes do) have the most intense experiences of complex hybridisation with other communication devices.29...Why should our bodies end at the skin, or include at best other beings encapsulated by skin? From the seventeenth century until now, machines could be animated - given ghostly souls to make them speak or move or to account for their orderly development and mental capacity...For us, in imagination and in other practice, machines can be prosthetic devices, intimate components, friendly selves." P178

Infancy in a medium often sees the medium reach its arm out to hold on to its big brother's shoulder as it struggles to find its feet (Film was first understood as "photoplays", leaning on theatre and photography 1895). So too has multimedia. This is especially highlighted in interface design, whether this is STILL excusable (it is safe to call the multimedia industry 20 years OLD). CD-ROM electronic fiction is a classic category where an older more established cross medium interface is used detrimentally. The narrative is always normally represented (e.g. looks just like) a book, complete with animated pages turning, with inanimate textual and pictorial offerings. This is a direct response of our cultural fear of games in the face of education. Publishers are playing it safe and similarly reassuring the worried purchasing parents that they are buying something recognisable and non destructive (as games are often portrayed as). Another example is the second generation WebPages which can still be seen to have buttons that are rendered three dimensionally as to be 'recognisable' hi-fi like push-click buttons. This is all timid design, quietly assuring us, showing us how to behave. The dual danger of using these familiar interfaces is perpetuating the stunting of our cognitive growth and the user instinctively assumes the role of a (as in the case of
e-books) a book "reader". So, when text starts flying off the screen and the animation comes crashing to a halt and prompts start flashing, it is quite a mental effort for the interactors to understand and be prepared for the input required from their comfortable position as passive readers.

"...I would rather get my "audio/visual/stimulation and storyline"
Package in and 1 1/2 movie not a week long computer game." (14)
We want something MORE, or at least something different out of our interactive narrative than we could get out of a book or from a film.

Am I saying that there needs to be a purging of all prior/ influential media in the minds of the "creators" of interactive work? In some respects there does need to be a spring cleaning and a focused analysis of how user expectancies are formed, and together with an awareness of how to push and expand the assets of the new media and not sit safely on the laurels of what has gone before. However, one must not forget that there is the other person involved in this equation, the audience. By becoming too experimental or too safe will certainly have your audience wandering off because they are either bored or lost. There is also a limited audience (if any at all) if you choose to use state of the art software to develop your brand new shiny groundbreaking work. So I guess we should keep our minds focused on development but...
"Softly softly, catchy monkey "

Problematic Characters
"The platonic ideal of the cartoon may... seem to omit much of the ambiguity and complex characterisation which are the hallmarks of modern literature leaving them suitable only for children."(1)

Technical limitations are very much in place in offering conversant characters, which is what an interactive environment naturally "begs" from their characters. Previous attempts at designing CC (conversant characters) have had their problems because they, like the early computer textual games, need the computer to "parse" the information. CC rely on the computer to search for keywords, and glean attitudes and emotional tones from the interactors sentence structures and inflections. You have in this scenario- a high chance of having an unsatisfactory conversation with the character as correct language and proper syntax usage comes to play. Another option that is well practised in game design is concentrating on narratively alive and emotive backgrounds like Thomas Hardy or Edgar Allen Poe exemplified in print narratives. Embedding not only buildings and locations with humanistic attributes but inanimate objects. This allows for insightful interactions with the narrative world at hand and can enhance the interactor's emotional involvement.

Also used as means to offer interesting characters is role-play, using on screen avatars. Whereby humans guide their onscreen form, interacting behind these virtual masks. By this method, you can get a depth of unpredictability in actions and communication, but at the risk is of having poor levels of role-play- because people inevitably just play or fight in these types of games. This is a highlighted in MUD realm and team based gaming such as Half-Life, which succeeds as a tactical aim and shoot game with some narrative elements. These characters have to be narratively independent because they are ultimately uncontrollable to the author. Also used as a tool within games is the FMV set pieces, whereby like real scripted actors, characters say their piece and depart, improvisation and conversation is very rarely seen within FMV sequences.

Designers have also experimented with offering non-conversant iconic characters (as seen in Myst), which may give "looks", leave notes- interact with you indirectly. (See the main characters the interactive Red Ridinghood, offer you only body/ facial language with some textual insights into the main character (her secret diary)
See www.gsa.ac.uk/student/redridinghood/index.html).
As designers we need to be aware that this necessary aloofness can potentially leave the interactor feeling frustrated with the lack of humanity in the experience.

At present the common criticisms bestowed from the literary hierarchy are that games and interactive environments have a key lack of respectable "quest" plot and the characters are hollow (an actual argument used by literary critic Michael Dirda of the Washington Post critiquing "Myst"). But in such an argument the critics are generally just overanalysing the point and show themselves to be literary critics not gaming or new media critics, in that, generally, these critics have never experienced the interactives first hand, or have a understanding of the limitations that the technology places. It is not the characters found in these environments that should be their focus (as in books or films) or should I say critics should not use this as a crutch to berate the medium as a literary form. For, after all, what we are asking, to have complex and interesting interactive characters is very ambitious if not impossible. The narrative will come from the world itself and our participation in it and the set pieces of linear experience. You the interactor are investing yourself and all your temperament, cultural experience, idiosyncratic nature of reading and interacting into this narrative environment. Is purely up to us, we are the driving force, we are complex and unpredictable in way that computers find it hard to mimic, and as interactors we can smell the metallic-ness of a computer generated character a mile off, and its doesn't smell good.

We are in the early stages of the medium, and perhaps the gaming formats (driven by mass-market desires) have established poor characters formats and it will be a slow process to move away from these stereotypes and set character representations.
However, as Janet Murray states
"Literary stereotypes are like rough sketches of the world, which the next generation or the more capable artist can modify and elaborate" (28).
It should be up to the new inventive interactive 'authors', to develop expertise in interactive character development. But then I have feeling that interactive narratives may well be about realising yourself in a fuller capacity than objectifying and bonding with a set of given authored characters (such in films and books). Today we have specialist MIT researchers in the Gesture and Narrative Language Group who solely work on conversational computer characters, and hopefully from such results we can create more satisfying conversational digital characters to compliment the stunning interactive environments that are available.

 

Section5: Default Story-lines/ The Chronology Problem <<<BACK

Most stories have a defined sequence of events, or chronology, without which the story makes no sense. If there are any cause-and- effect relationships between events in a story (and there almost always are), then there is a chronology that cannot logically be reversed.

If the telling of a story is linear, and then that story has a default chronology, which is the chronology of the telling. That is, if nothing else is said, the first events described are the ones that happened earliest, the last events described are the ones that happened last, and everything that happens in between is described in order. This is simply the default: stories with flashbacks and foreshadows, i.e., events described out of sequence, can have a much more complex chronology. Linearly is what happens automatically unless an effort is made to alter our now instinctive Westernised mode of reading.

If the telling of a story is non-linear, however, there is no default chronology. The telling may go along many paths, each with its own implicit chronology. Nevertheless, if there are chronological rules to be enforced, the author must assure that the chronology that emerges from each telling fulfils those rules. Naturally, this translates into limits on the viewer's choices. Limits come in the form of temporal/temporary linear sections (see Section 3) set pieces with concrete outcomes.

Fig 3.Conclusive decision tree model

In non-linear chronology, we are unable to perceive the design as a whole and until the final chapter. We can only guess at linkages and relationships. The author promotes this uncertainty by intercutting panels and sequences from different narrative lines and often from distant points in time, future as well as past, so that readers must work hard to construct continuity (S Moulthrop). Such challenges to conventional sequence are of course a hallmark of modernist fiction.

A way to successfully author non-linear storylines is to intentionally create vague lexias (blocks of narrative experience). Otherwise they are presented with a dizzying chronology when it comes analysing story time, and also in relation to narration time. Of course, these lexias can also be authored in that they can be interpreted differently as the sequence of viewing changes. This as a concept may seem simple enough but this Anti-Aristotelian notion, which should demand that no episode should be redundant and that it should take place in a fixed sequence, goes very much against the grain of our official narrative hierarchies, and at a deeper level reflects our suspicion of avant- garde or experimental art.
In 1936 the very vocal Gertrude Stein stated,
"There is no reason why chapter should succeed each other since nothing succeeds another, not now any more. In the old novels yes but not now anymore"

Today writers/reader/listeners continue to reinvent the same wheel of (missed) fortune. Why do we desire our readers' attentions, rather than their intentions? After all humans do not think at a rationale in a linear method (one logical thought at a time in a logical order of sequence)- its a key reason why computers cannot successfully mimic our creativity, so why should our narrative future remain authored into linearity: authors need to push the narrative imaginations of culture at large- pushing narrative form forward. The advent of interactive narratives will not steal or erase people's desires to watch a good film, or read a good book; it will only give us more choice...

 


Section6: Comics as a template for Sequence <<<BACK

In his seminal book 'Understanding Comics: the invisible art" Scott McCloud, defines comics as
'Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.' (15:9)

Comics as a medium share many of the strangleholds and suppositions that "games" are prone to (only suitable for recreational pursuits, transitory e.g. "you'll grow out of them" non educational, purely entertainment based...), as they also share some of the more interesting achievements when it comes to developing truly new modes of communication and mental interactions- interesting structures.

One of the shared aspects of these media is the idea of the visual awareness we have when we interact with inanimate objects. For example when driving, we experience much more than our five senses report. In our minds eye we can picture 'the whole car' not just the actual things we see, hear and feel. The vehicle becomes an extension of our body. It absorbs our sense of Identity. We become the car. . Our identities and awareness are invested in many inanimate objects every day. Our clothes for example can trigger numerous transformations in the way others see us and in the way we see ourselves. Our ability to extend our identities into inanimate objects can cause pieces of wood to become legs (chairs)... Pieces of metal to become hands (forks). Plastic to become ears (phones) and glasses to become eyes.
McCloud goes on to propose that just as in our mind's eye we see a simplified version of ourselves,"our biological selves are simplified conceptualised images"(15:39)
as to are our extensions simplified...all things we experience in life can be separated into two realms, the realm of the concept and the realm of the senses. This realm of the concept is a very similar place to our narrative environment as described in previous chapters. This world may be sensually (visually) stimulating- but never literally and much of the language- even visual characters are a very iconic 'concept' in our minds eye, in our 'immersed mind'.


"Our identities belong permanently to the conceptual world. They cannot be seen, heard, smelled, touched or tasted. They are merely ideas. "(15:39)

Through immersion and through interactive experience our self-perception can grow and be expanded as we are presented with our onscreen avatar- even as a Lara Croft! Or alternatively, we can have an invisible presence- naked apart from our onscreen mouse arrow. This self-perception in an iconic world can allow us to to participate in a new type of meaningful role-play.

"Mastery of any medium using minimal elements has long been considered a noble aspiration. The Art of comics is a subtractive art as it is additive and finding the balance between too much and too little is crucial to comics creators the world over."(15:83)

The human ability to read narratives into everything can be advantageous in designing interactive narratives. It is a well observed fact that if we offer an abstract / relatively blank environment we focus on the characters and the their status quo. Likewise, if we develop a thematic environment- a domain setting that sets the mood of the narrative - these can strengthen the narrative immersion (indeed in some games these are seen as the total of the narrative.)
Reader response theorist Iser Wolfganer confirms that,
"All texts leave silent spaces to be interpreted by the reader's imagination and irrespective of medium, there is no doubt that individual strands of literacy, temperament or cultural experience can contribute to the idiosyncratic nature of the reading process"

There is much debate over the aesthetics of these environments, non-pictorial icons (letters) have fixed and absolute meanings; in pictures the meaning can be fluid. Pictures are received information. We need very little formal education to understand them, and whereby writing is a perceived information, it takes time and a specialised knowledge to decode the abstract symbols of language, but as the pictures are more abstracted from reality, they require greater levels of perception. The same goes for the laws of logic in interactive environments, they can be given more abstract qualities, for example discovering that "peeling a banana that's floating above the fire will open a secret door..." requires you to perceive and work at understanding a more abstract logic. Similarly when words are made more direct, (shorter, in UPPERCASE) they require a lower level of perception, they are understood faster- more like a pictures. This is perhaps why the initial text adventures (very short simple descriptive words) were so successful in the minds of their players! See Fig 4. Much work and experimentation has to be done on the narrative and psychological differences in the aesthetics of narrative environments. At present, they are generally state of the art, highly detailed Virtual realities with a few more 'artistic' stylings offered (Silent Hills' graphic novel look).

Panels Frames Windows
Animation can be seen as visual Art in sequence: McCloud separates the difference between animation and comics as animations having sequential but equal distances of time separating the frame thus "Frames Per Second". Whereas comic sequences are seen spatially and not necessarily in equal distances apart (and mostly not). But I suggest in today's games and in most digital communication devices, we are presented with the concept of "Windows" which are very much like animated panels. Which can contain their own individual timelines and worlds, but are also subsidiary in a relationship to the parent window.

Fig 4. Early text adventure: Zork (1979).


Fig 5. Apple Macintosh desk layout, typical multi- tasking environment.

Fig 6. An Interactive Red RidingHood which utilises popup windows as split
frames See http://www.6amhoover.com/red.htm

These multifaceted timelines (if there is more than one window at play) can undoubtedly learn from the panelled closure techniques as employed in comics.
" (The) phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole has a name...Its called closure"(15:63)
Closure is such powerful and essential factor in interpreting our world. Closure can take many forms. Some complex, some simple.

In film and animation, closure takes place continuously...twenty-four times per second we transform a series of still pictures into a story of continuous motion. Content separated by panels (windows) can be categorised by different tricks of closure (relying on our natural ability to transform two or more distinctly different events into one coherent narrative). This works in the same way that we cannot help but see the illustration below as a somewhat sad looking head when it is in fact simply three circles and a line!

Fig. 7


Fig 8. (15:71)


These categories are broadly defined as (See Fig.8),
1. Moment-to-Moment, panel-to-panel, requiring very little closure.
2. Action to Action, a single distinct progression.
3. Subject to Subject, reader participation is required to make 'meaningful' closure.
4. Scene to Scene, deductive reasoning is required, often showing transitions over significant distances of time and space.
5. Aspect to Aspect, the wandering eye technique setting the mood and tone.
6. Non Sequitur, no logical relationship but related through perception of sequence.

The closure at work in the space between panels helps us feel meaning or resonance in even the most grating of combinations. Such transitions may not make sense in any 'traditional' (logical/expected) way but there is still a relationship of some sort. The very fact that it is presented in a sequence (even if it is non-linear) has us making the closure. We try our best to endow them with overriding identities, which forces the viewer to consider them as a whole. The overall "design" of the panels or windows has us thinking spatially as well as along the time lines as our eye, even though it is trained to read left to right, still scans over the design as a whole. This idea can certainly be utilised within the realms of Interactive Narratives.

McCloud talks about aspect-to-aspect wandering eye (cinematography (15:81)) in comics and how it has been much more utilised by Japanese artists. Curiously we can see this roving camera technique in games (but then the Japanese games houses are rated as the best in the world)- we often are shown "premonitional cuts scenes" which show us locations of importance, glimpses of the future, instilling a strange sense of dejavu. Traditionally Western Art and literature does not "wander" much, on the whole we are a goal-orientated culture, whereas in the east there is a richer tradition of multilayer works of art. The panels themselves are often overlooked even within comics, whereas they are almost iconic in themselves. These frames have no fixed or absolute meaning, they act as a sort of general indicator that time or space is being divided.
The creator and the reader are partners in the invisible, creating something out of nothing, time and again. (15:69) Can experimental interactive narratives thus be explained as a multifunctional subject to subject and sometimes (depending on the jarringness of the non-linear sequence) be nonsequitur? Without a doubt, part of this new medium's appeal has to be the fact that it insists that its readers work a lot harder at closure, at achieving narrative coherence.

Section7: Transforming "Meanings" <<<BACK

Interactive experiences can, and games certainly do, offer us structures of thought, they reorganise perception. This is no mean feat; probably no other medium achieves this so dramatically.

"The trance state experienced by many a computer user has become a staple of science-fiction film and cultural jokes...For us, imagination and in other practice machines can be prosthetic devices, intimate components, friendly selves..." (12)

As we enter the digital domain the world presented to us- FOR us to interact within, the environment contains its own rules of logic. Through interaction, we develop an awareness of these rules through the action = re-action equation and we develop a trust for the logic- the rules. Through this continual interaction loop we gain an understanding of the author's intentions as we feel out the direction she wants us to move in: the way she rewards us for interacting, the narrative order out of chaos.

The trust between controller/mouse and onscreen event and the response/consequence is a very fragile affair. Lots of the vertigo, panic and purposelessness associated with a bad interactive environment are created when initial interactions fail to have "meaning". When you the reader cannot see any form of reaction to your action, your role or position in the interactive environment is lost. I suggest that a good, interactive author should present a type of training ground, to establish the base rules of interactions and role for the interactor to utilise- even simply as a departure point. Then go on to confound the expectations and cognitively challenge the reader in the middle and later stages.

The hand of the author is perhaps not as literally visible as in traditional media (and also bearing in mind that the author could also be a team / 3D modellers /artists and writers). However I argue that interaction brings you much closer to the author - the coherence appearing at the metatextual level (that is, at the level where the reader perceives 'the pattern which connects.'...) You are placed within a completely authored kingdom (narrative environment). Where the author has not abdicated but could be viewed as a Queen (perhaps she is sitting in a remote tower surround by dark clouds, Lady of Shallot style), or perhaps tracing your every move, hidden by some cloaking device). She can be seen as the Overlord setting the taxes, the language (textual or non-verbal) of her subjects. You need to comprehend the author's mind, her driving forces, her character traits (serious, playful, mischievous, vindictive, and complex) to connect successfully with the environment at hand, to be able to get the maximum out of the narrative experience. We are all following the obscured path that the author has constructed or we plunge headlong to our death.
Of course good interactive authors should be able to offer various depths at which to be absorbed into the interactions, even default paths, for the lazy or the junior interactive readers, should offer interesting narrative experiences and similarly, intriguing non-predictable types of interactions and narrative twists for the more adventurous interactor.

This is the thing about interactive experiences- you can't simply do what you want- you could (in certain gaming formats) but you would not receive the full narrative experience as the author intended. So, like other narrative forms, say printed books, it needs the reader to have a command of language, a commitment to concentrate, follow the plot, not be distracted by external input. However, in games or interactive narratives you need to be engaged enough to explore, to search out the rules, the invisible structure, and then at even deeper level of interaction to decipher and understand the "meaning" of the rules. Our role of traditional reader is transformed from passive enjoyment to participatory re-action.
As Sherry Turkle so aptly puts it, -
" In Video games you soon realise that to learn to play you have to play to learn...you do not first read a rule book, or get your terms straight"(16)

 

Section8: Puzzle Solving <<<BACK
Goal orientated play, meaningful play.

"The thing about playing is always the precariousness of the interplay of personal psychic reality and control of actual objects" (17)

Games to philosopher Andre Lalande are seen as a 'kind of play' that results in a triumph or defeat. In games we normally have a clearly distinguishable main goal "save the world from nuclear devastation" (Konami's' Metal Gear Solid) which very identifiably translates into a feeling of 'winning' and 'losing'. Games also have lots of secondary goals (pick up enough ammo for the big end battle, find the lever to open the secret passage), which are all small 'wins' bringing you closer to the main goal. Another major games subgenre worth looking at in relation to goal achieving is 'Simulators'. Probably the most famous of these is Will Wrights' 'The Sims'. The normal premise of these types of games is extensive secondary goal achieving and you the player are free to set your own primary aim. In simulators, you can never 'win' (like in Adventure Role-playing games) but you can still lose. However setting your own rules can let you interact in the way you want. Having a strong realisation of failing is undoubtedly central to intensifying the emotional commitment. For hours at a time the player really does feel the responsibility of saving the planet, (if the game has been designed well) and this the main goal, drives us forwards through all the pitfalls and obstacles to reach the end (and even badly designed sections of the game). Gonzalo Frasca (18) discusses how games need to be solved in the correct sequence to 'win', and the failure comes from not completing or failing to find all the necessary puzzles, he suggests that ludus (games) sessions are structurally similar to narrative sequence (see diagrams next page

Fig 9. Gonzalo Frasca "the ludus process". (18)

However, there are many other rules that narratives have to follow to be recognised as narrative, like containing characters and plot.
And here is the main bone of contention between how we characterise what exactly the word 'narrative' can encompass: for in interactive narratives we don't have the same emphasis on characters/ different immersions, non predictable sequences but we still have authored experiences and narrative environments. Games normally have at least one complete/correct path you need to travel to win. If we transplant win for 'ending' and they often do in games: achieving the main goal often coincides with the end of the game. In interactive narratives we can see a conclusion /an authored closure to our narrative interaction. It is still a matter of succeeding (albeit understanding the way the author has written the narrative). However, it is more about uncovering the secret strands and paths until we get or have journeyed through various multifaceted narrative reaching (are we rewarded with?) a concrete ending (or endings). 'Winning' in this context of having a solidly authored beginning and ending would allow us to 'disengage' from the Interactive Narrative, and working backwards from the end, we could piece together prior events and commit closure. We write/complete/ understand the story in our head (reduce it back to a linear form). As idiosyncratic as our interacting and the paths we walked during our search for the end we would each interpret the 'whole' narrative.
An open-ended narrative, with no ending, no winning, would inevitably leads to the feeling of 'non-completion'- half a story. Whereby we can try guess/ write/predict our own endings which ever since the role of being a listener/reader/watcher, is unacceptable. We want closure (why do you think millions tune into the serial soap-opera such as Eastenders? -To see what happens next...) The effectiveness of the 'cliff-hanger' proves our need for closure: watching half a film is much worse than watching no film at all. It could even be argued that we as humans need to construct and immerse ourselves within a religion to have an understanding of our life's purpose and our ending! Both the puzzle solving/ goal achieving games format, and the concluding exploratory interactive narrative format require constant emergent thinking, and as discussed in Section 7 this is a way of immersing ourselves in the structures and fabulous new-authored worlds. Interactive, multi-linear narratives are moving away from being a set of chained actions to an exciting set of narrative possibilities.

The reading skills involved with interactive experiences are also continually in flux: the formulas and conventions in the gaming industry can be self referential to previous games (and it is not known whether this is tied with the emergent medium part of games development or whether it is part of "key" assets of the industry, the ever changing, continually striving to present even better gameplay and interactions). Each game environment presents a whole new set of structures and logic. So, unlike picking up a book and reading it from left to right, line by line, page by page, or watching a film on the one screen - interactions cause you, in a sense, to learn to read all over again, each and every time.

But as Steven Johns says,
"The process of mastering the system is not some kind of prelude but rather the core experience of interaction. It's a feature...Messing with our control expectations can be fun/addictive and stunning- these hostile beautiful (gaming) environments DO attract mass audiences- but the target audience has grown up on superfluous user manuals and joysticks- and degraded MTV graphics. They (we) easily accept that confusion is part of the show..."

Which ties us back to the readers ability to be able to successfully negotiate the post modernist confusion, which I believe is very much dependant on which narrative form you have been most involved in: Print, Film, D&D Role-playing, gaming, all part of our generationally led cultural conditioning.


Lisa Sainsbury in her essay "Tales from the Mouse House: Playing with reading on
CD-ROM", talks about research on adolescents (19) and their inclination or natural ability to traverse the "disorientating environment" of interactive landscapes. She goes on to say that "children frequently make use of Applebee's (20) sequence, which is a story containing a number of disparate events, 'linked together on the basis of an attribute shared with a common centre' (or in conclusion). Thus children's associative abilities can enable them to participate in meaningful play in flexible multilinear narratives up to a certain age and then the educational system puts emphasis on developing paradigmatic modes of thought. Logic and problem solving skills are developed to the detriment of previously instinctual narrative modes of thought. Comprehension exercises in school have traditionally been based on externally imposed questions, and often the responses have been limited to straightforward answers and categorised broadly as right or wrong. This approach tends to produce convergent thinking, and motivation to read for purposes other than answering questions may be stifled (21). Such practices which are governmentally instructed curriculum based promotes convergent and not divergent mental associations, which can lead to comprehension barriers in adulthood when it comes to interactive systems. It seems as though children and adolescents have better skills than adults in making these cognitive journeys as discussed above, but then the changing shift in generational entertainment, see the twentysomethings affording lots of time and money on the gaming industry, indicates that interaction for a generation is becoming completely second nature.

"People look at this (the games) as a niche market for adolescent boys, but the majority of those who play PC and Video games are Adults" (22

 

Conclusion<<<BACK

Returning to my initial question, "Does Interactivity destroy the story?" Of course, the answer is infuriatingly both yes and no. It very much depends on both the generation you find yourself in (this is not exclusive) and which narrative medium has most informed your relationship with text and image. I think as a concept it is very hard to destroy/ kill/remove the narrative from any artistic expression, especially if you accept the premise of some Narratologists who believe that even cooking recipes can contain a narrative!
If you are familiar simply (and I do not mean this as derogatory) with non-experimental printed books: say Tom Clancy or Anne Rice and mainstream film releases you have a happy but passive relationship with narrative. The mental and physical leap (dealing with new technology interfaces) to the interactive narrative experiences of the hypertext novel or adventure games, is hard. The interaction and modes of thought required would feel very much like the narrative you are accustomed to and enjoyed is being destroyed. The shift from a concrete narrative linear form to multi faceted interaction will feel alien and probably feel very much like bashing on a mindless arcade game.
And, conversely, if you grew up on some of the more sophisticated comics, and graphic novels, participated in dice led role-playing and got your hands and mind on an old school Commodore64 circa 1980s (as I unfortunately did), traversing the strange non-linear paths of an interactive narrative (we can still remember the first of the skeletol text adventures) takes a concentrated effort but the challenge and excitement with going head to head with these invisible authors is sublime. Interactions for this generation is simply not"scary"(23) - in no way destroys the story. For the story for them has at least temporarily (in their adolescence) been about the early forms of non-linear experience.
And I can only hazard a guess at the 12 year olds today, and when they reach purchasing power prowess, what mental gymnastics they will be capable of, what structures they will find immersive and touching and compulsive.
I will go as far as to suppose that even those generational differences and media dominance's which are important factors in our ability/ inability to participate in and what we get out of interactive narratives does not pose a insurmountable barrier. I feel that any generation, and any age can gain something good from these experiences. I think this comes down to our memories of 'childish' play and the unconstrained fantasy of our youth, which we have been culturally conditioned to grow out of ('juvenile' pursuits is still very much frowned upon in adult behaviour)- I would like to see us grow and return to exploring the importance of Play.

In 1999 the games industry had a turnover of $ 20bn and is growing at about 20% each year, as an industry it now turns over more money in America than box office Hollywood films. In the UK in 1998, the British spent more money on entertainment than food for the first time ever. (24)

There is no turning back, interactivity (at least in goal orientated gaming) as an issue is big business and as a medium it has already over taken Hollywood on cost of production, time taken in development (3-6 years to produce a top of the range games launch). For reasons known or unknown to us. interactive immersion, this cyborgic feedback loop is making parents (for their children) and the disposable income twenty something's part with large amounts of money to set themselves up with videogames, console, PC with fast processor, good internet connection, the gamut of gaming magazines and help publications, we are seeing players turn 'professional GAMERS'. Moreover, all this at the early stages or maybe adolescence of the industry and medium which has yet to develop exemplary Art pieces that might increase its cultural capital. At present the issues as described in this paper are being hidden by the slickness and brashness of the gaming industry, but underneath and in the field of textual and visual interactive narratives (mainly web or CDROM based) we will find these issues being experimented with. Unfortunately the amount of research or time being afforded (time is money even for the interactive author), if at all substantial, effectively means the works of narrative exploration are likely to be tied up in Doctoral or advanced media projects. There is nothing wrong with being wrapped in intellectualism and noble pursuits, but if good interactive experiences are to influence and push a narrative society at large, there needs to be commercial backing. The Web succeeds in offering the lone genius a platform and a potentially huge worldwide audience but the likelihood of being lost in the digital void, seen by a few friends is very real. Nasty as commercialism is in the face of Art, the marketing machine does actually get the work out there. Perhaps the web will develop such a tool to inform the audience that these brand new beautiful stories exist? Every narrative published, whether it be print, film or theatre has to have this backing. This will be tied up by licensing rights and new forms of publishing houses.

The technology is there (as it has been for a while now), but what there hasn't been is a group of new authors who can produce truly new forms of 'intellectual' interactive narrative. The key issues and positives in interactive experiences go very much against every grain that the organic print led "comfortable old hierarchy" has established -the Aristotelian order from chaos, the notion of esteemed high priest as author. Play and puzzle solving as childish... The fear of the new, the fear of these strange non-linear offerings that are making our brains throb as we feel ourselves desperately try to..."understand", to make sense out of the non-sequitur sequences as presented by our interactions. But, what there is, is the beginnings of the audience (Janet Murray believes that every narrative created by a human mind will subsequently have an audience), the adolescent and the adult gaming culture (and all those that come after) who demand ever need more sophisticated experiences, more challenges, more narrative emotion that will steal there breath and make them think for weeks after about the world and creatures they encountered.

"...Two generations of kids have grown up on five generation of video games. This is not a subculture. This is 50 million adults whose memory and imagination have been coloured by Atari, Nintendo and Sega, the same way that the memory and imagination of previous generations were tinted by television, cinema, and vinyl records." (25)

The industry needs some of those genius types who can push their medium; interactivity needs some Alfred Hitchcocks, some Derek Jarmans, some Dave McKeans, some Angela Carters, and some Philip K. Dicks. It's time for a game or game maker that radically breaks from the medium's precedents and rivals other entertainment.
Someone who can make the suspicious minds of the literacy circles sit up and notice the potential and depth which interactivity can bring to narrative. Only then will this 'media chauvinism' (26) and the high Art low Art battle become an exciting blur. Unfortunately the taint of gaming and role-play as being pulp is somewhat perpetuated by the pitching of the high end games releases at the male adolescent age group, which as an intellectual realm is regarded as lightweight and somewhat dim. It's a curious bridge that lies between public gaming perception and the highly academic interactive works as developed at MIT (27), will this gulf ever be closed? We need these new authors.

"We fear the computer as a distorting fun house Mirror of the human brain, but with the help of the narrative imagination it might become a cathedral in which to celebrate human consciousness as a function of our neurology." (28)

Technologically speaking, the stage is set.

 

Endnotes<<<BACK

1. Moulthrop, S (1999) Misadventure: Future Fiction and the New Networks
2. Apart from the online Eastgate Publishers that specialises in "Serious Hypertexts".
See www.eastgate.com.
3. See appendix for Lisa Sainsbury, Stuart Moulthrop, and the web artist Crankbunny.
4. Tuomola, M, Leskinen, H (1998) Daisy's Amazing Discoveries: Part1-The Production
Digital Creativity, Vol9 No.
5. Friedman.T (1995) Making Sense of Software: Computer games and
Interactive Textually
Essay in Cyber society edited by Steven G, Jones (Sage Publications).
6. Cassell, J & Smith, J, (1999) Space for Voice: Technologies to Support Children's' Fantasy and Story Telling MIT Media Lab. Cambridge, MA.
7. Worlds - Structures of thought. See Section 7.
8. James Naughtie (1998) AI "Teenage Passions" Daily Telegraph 18 July.
9. Ferguson, N. (1998) Immersion and emotion: the psychological impact of video games.
10. Mark Laidaw games designer.
11. Lisa Sainsbury believes so. See Interview in appendix.
12. Haraway, D.J (1991) Simians, Cyborgs, and Women:
The Reinvention of Nature. P161 London: Routledge.
13. Brown, G, Georgia Institute of technology.
14. As games designer Josh Randall aptly puts it-
15. McCloud, S (1993) Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art Kitchen Sink Press Inc.
16. Sherry Turkle (1996:70) Observes Life on Screen.
17. Winnicott, D.W (1971) Playing and RealityTravistock Publishing
18. Gonzalo Frasca' (1998)' Don't Play it Again, Sam: One-session and serial games
of narration'
19. Vygotsky, L.S (1978) Mind in Society: the Development of Higher Psychological Processes, Cambridge, MA/London: Harvard University Press
20. Applebee, A (1978:60) The Child's Concept of Story Chicago University Press.
21. Spode, P.J (1983) Comics: A Controversial Resource
Reading Vol. no.17 (2), 67-86 c.193 United Kingdom reading Association
22. Lowenstein, President of Interactive Digital Software association (1999)
23. Haraway, D. (1991) Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature
24. Sutherland, (2000) why we must play to win, The Herald, May 12.
25. Hertz, J.C (1997) Joystick Nation, how videogames gobbled our money, won our hearts and rewired our minds. Abacus, London.
26. Aarseth, Espen, argues that 'Where humanistic study used to be genre specific chauvinistic, it is now medium chauvinistic organised into empirical fields. Literature, Art history, theatre - mass communication."
Ergodic Literature: The Book and the Labyrinth
http://www.hf.uib.no/cybertext/Ergodic.html
27. MIT Affective Computing Lab is working on computers systems that can sense users' emotional states e.g. Earrings out o blood volume pressure sensors.
28. Murray, J (1998) Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace, MIT Press Books, MA.


Bibliography<<<BACK

Special note: As previously talked about, the hierarchical notion of intellectually valid media- is highlighted here by the required proper format for the bibliography.
Denoting books as the most important sources, and the online, (and if I used them) video and television sources as the least important! Whereas for this paper the online forums and papers were undoubtedly the most importance sources.

Books

Haraway, D.J
(1991) Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature.
London: Routledge

Hertz, J.C
(1997) Joystick Nation.how videogames gobbled our money, won our hearts and rewired our minds. Abacus, London.

McCloud, S
(1993) Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
Kitchen Sink Press Inc. MA

McLuhan, Marshall:
(1964) Understanding Media
New York; mc Graw-Hill Book Co.

Vygotsky,L.S
(1978) Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes,
Cambridge, MA/London: Harvard University Press

Winnicott, D.W
(1971) Playing and Reality
Travistock Publishing

Magazines and Journals

Cassell, J & Ryoki, K
(1999) Space for Voice: Technologies to Support Children's' Fantasy and Story Telling
MIT Media Lab, Cambridge, MA

Cassell, J & Smith, J
(1998?) The Victorian Laptop: Narrative Engagement through Place and Time
MIT Media Lab, Cambridge, MA

De Certeau, M
(1984) Heterologies: A Discourse on the Other
Translated by Brian Massuni. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press

Digital Creativity Vol10 p122- Iconic Communication Revisited

Ferguson, N
(1998) Immersion and emotion: the psychological impact of video games
3rd year psychology Literature review

Friedman.T
(1995) Making Sense of Software: Computer games and Interactive Textuality
Essay in Cyber society edited by Steven G, Jones (Sage Publications)

Friedman.T
(1998) Civilization and Its Discontents: Simulation, Subjectivity, and Space
From Discovering Discs: Transforming Space and Genre on CD-ROM edited by Greg Smith (New York University Press)

Helmore Edward
(1999) Hollywood Hits the Net: Looks at movies coming to a screen near you now
The Guardian Thurs Nov 11 1999

Laurel, B
(1993) Computers as Theatre
New York; Addison-Wesley

Lewis.D
Pop-up and fingle-fangles: the history of the picture book

Lalande, A
(1928) Vocabulaire technique et critque de la philosophie.
Paris: Libraririe Felix Alcan

Poole, Steven
(2000) Crash course:
Hollywood may be borrowing heavily from the videogame industry... the full interactive movie will never get off the ground.
The Guardian Frid May 19 2000


Russo, Francine
(2000) Broadband for the Masses: Vermont Puts New York to Shame
Village Voice Sept 5 2000

Sainsbury, L
(2000) Tales from The mouse House.
Playing with reading on CD-ROM; From Bearne, E and Watson, U. Eds
Where Texts and Children Meet, London: Routledge.

Spode, P.J
(1983) Comics: A Controversial Resource
Reading Vol no.17 (2), 67-86-c.193 United Kingdom reading Association

Sutherland, John
(2000) Why we must play to win
The Herald Frid May 12 2000

Tuomola, M, Leskinen, H
(1998) Daisy's Amazing Discoveries: Part1-The Production
Digital Creativity, Vol9 No.2 pp75-90

Watson, V
The left-handed reader- linear sentences and unmapped pictures
see David B

Wright
(Aug.2000) The Sims
Art Byte Wired Women: Gender x Technology=The Future


Online resources

Crawford, C
(1992) The Art of Computer Game Design
www.vancouver.wsu.edu/fac/peabody/game-book/Coverpage.html
Also see
www.erasmatazz.com/overview.html

McDaid, J
(2000) Narrative in the information society
http://users.rcn.com/jmcdaid/paper.html
jmcdaid@torvex.com

Frasca
(1998) Don't Play it Again, Sam: One-session and serial games of narration
www.jacaranda.org/frasca/publications.htm

Hippolyte, M (check other writings)
A Plot Beyond A Line: New Ways to Be Nonlinear
http://www.users.interport.net/~mash/nonlin.html

Jarvinen, Aki "Questions of Game Archeologies"
http://www.uta.fi/~tlakja/GA/

Koskimaa, R
(1998) Visual Structuring of Hyperfiction Narratives
http://www.altx.com/ebr/ebr6/6koskimaa/6koski.htm

Montfort, N.A
(1995) Interfacing with Computer Narratives: Literary Possibilities for Interactive Fiction
www.nickm.www.media.mit.edu/people/nickm/srthesis/srth1.html

Moulthrop, S
(1999) Misadventure: Future Fiction and the New Networks
http:/raven.ubalt.edu/taff/moulthrop/essays/misadeventure/index.htm

Websites Online Forums

http://www.popimage.com/ (Critical look at comics)
http://cmc.uib.no/dac98/papers/jarvinen.html
http://cmc.uib.no/%7Edac/
www.aaai.org (-19995 Conference from Digital creativity Daisy's...)
www.eyebeam.org/replay/html/forum.html
www.gamecenter.com/Xpert/Developer/123198
www.wired.com/news/news/culture/story/18039.html
www.feedmag.com/vgs/intro.html
www.vancouver.wsu.edu/fac/peabody/game-book/Coverpage www.altx.com/ebr/ebr7/ebr7.htm (Image + narrative, part two summer 98)
www.altx.com/ebr/ebr7/index.html
www.altx.com/ebr/ebr9/index.htm
www.abbedon.com/Philo/narrative-paper.html
www.nyu.edu/classes/blais
www.idonline.com/IMDR99/RESULTS/IMDR99_4.0/WINNERS1999.html
www.idonline.com
www.bbc.co.uk/education/laac
www.suck.com/daily/99/05/13
www.nytimes.com/circuits/
www.bornmag.com
www.secondstory.com
www.eastgate.com
www.crankbunny.com
www.bullseyeart.com
www.angrymonkey.com
www.goultralightsgo.com
www.funnygarbage.com
www.atomfilms.com
www.dreamless.org

Informal discussions

Paul Jackman, CEO at Codename, interactive web specialists for the BBC.
John McDaid, Hypertext author newmedia theorist, NYU doctoral candidate.
Adrianne Wortzel, web artist, newmedia lecturer Cooper Union NYC.
Nick Cogan and Josh Kimberg CEOs at Bullseyeart Production house.
Interview Monday 8th May Roehampton Institute 2.30pm

 

Interviews: A Foreword

I would like to offer a small foreword to accompany the following interviews, which were conducted, by phone, in person and by email. They were primarily conducted to complement (by way of being in the first person) my other forms of research, which were for the most part diverse online journals, books on literacy, and advanced research papers discussing the merits of the gaming industry. In particular my 3hour interview with Stuart Moulthrop was very much about validating some of my conclusive ideas in this thesis, and testing my arguments. He is a much respected and now quoted hypertext author, lecturer and researcher.
See http:/raven.ubalt.edu/staff/moulthrop/essays/misadeventure/index.htm.

Dr Lisa Sainsbury, an active writer and researcher, was able to discuss the issues in this paper from the standpoint of an educationalist and literacy specialist from the National Centre for Research in Children's Literature. Similarly, Norma V. Toyara (Crankbunny) was able to offer her perspective as, not only a practising Interactive Author (rare beast that they are), but as a technologically proficient newmedia designer. Although from diverse backgrounds they all shared some common beliefs: in that they all have in my opinion a notable respect of games design and the way in which games designers perceive and offer us new relationships and forms of behaviours with narrative form. They also believe in the necessity of developing new methods and structures (moving artistic expression forward) which can challenge the interactive audience. Also obvious was the optimism and belief that interactive authors already exist and will continue developing as a artistic and commercial category, who will produce exciting new works (many papers spend a lot of their energies discussing if this will be even possible as an industry). As Lisa Sainsbury notes authors can now be categorised as a 'team', and similarly Stuart Moulthrop believes all authorship has started off and will continue to evolve in a narcissistic way. Authors always create work firstly on the premise that they themselves are the intended readers...something they want to be interacting with. Therefore, that leaves us with 50million plus(25) potential interactive virtuosos with IMAC in hand!
I hope you will find the interviews an interesting insight into their personalities. I have decided to leave the interviews untranscribed as a truthful representation of the conversation and the vernacular language used. The lack of formal prose and technical jargon is an interesting note on the types of minds who do discuss and use a high level of theoretical content in their 'own ideas' and in their own works but do not converse and communicate in formalist ways. Perhaps this is because they (interactive practitioners) do feel disgruntled or suspicious of the academic world, and thus deny the structures and methods of academia, but I think its more likely that their world -the interactive circuit, is young and vibrant with no set highbrow terminology to match their intellectual aspirations (at present anyway) . Now whether this freedom of expression is another reason why literary circles underrate or cannot see the cultural capital of this media, they certainly will not be able to deny the cultural significance ( weight as a commercial commodity, the mass audiences involved) and the potential of this new medium.

Interviews<<<BACK

Phone Interview
Dr Sainsbury, L
Bio: Lecturer National Centre for Research in Children's Literature, University of Surrey Roehampton. (2000) Tales from The mouse House. Playing with reading on CD-ROM; From Bearne, E and Watson, U. eds. Where Texts and Children Meet, London: Routledge.
www.roehampton.ac.uk/artshum/english/ncrcl/staff.htm contact:L.Sainsbury@roehamapton.ac.uk

Posed Questions:
Q. Why do you think people denigrate non-traditional forms of narrative?

A. It's a cultural Conditioning (conditioning of a generation). Whereby various forms (of children's literature) is marginalised. I believe every narrative has primary assets,
And it is here cross medium narratives can fall down.

Q. Sequences alongside narratives characters and plot/environment are seen as the foundations of a narrative. A fairly high level of interactivity with a narrative demands either loss of "correct sequences" or a large web of narrative strands through which the interactor can negotiate. The first Option- the loss of narrative sequence means the reliance on strong mental closure and abstract forms of associations---I believe that this format will result in quite a radical new narrative structures whereby the author must simply lay down the "potentials" for narrative experience.

Do you think this would work or do you think it will cut off certain users?

A. No I don't. I'd like to see a lot more branching off in adventure games/ CD Roms playing with sequence. Teenagers can constitutes conventional narratives having learnt to do so, without confusion (even if the narrative structures are disorientating)- this can be so (in adults too) apart from the very young.

Q. The second option of offering multi-linear (as simple or as complex as the level of the user interacting demands) can still be seen as being "authored" unless (as you discuss) some of the paths contain PLAY elements- which by their very nature are hard to feedback into the main narrative. Multi-linear Weblike narratives) like adventure games) still rely on sequence albeit a looser order of sequences which leads the interactor to the intended conclusions (or conclusion)

Do you think this method is preferable to the first? Plus the two generations of gameplayers and under will be familiar with this format (through games)- But the negative is the expectancy of "goal" achievement and the win/lose format.

A. Incorporating games and puzzles has been the way- but it doesn't necessarily have to!

Q. As an adult /teenager/ I can still remember liking "stories" for the opportunity to see the world, situation and characters through the author's eyes. And even now I still don't know if I really want to be a co-author with narratives.

Do you think this is an adult trait (reading for leisure- not just curriculum based)? What do you perceive to be the difference in narrative urges between adults/teenagers and the child?
Do we all have the potential to return to narratives by abstract association?
A. It's essentially a cultural condition which ties in with each generations social development/cognitive development, our children think different than we do.
Only problem is that we sometimes need leads/prompts.
New mediums won't make the others fades away!

Q. I feel that perhaps part of the problem with the few forms of Interactive Narratives being produced today, is the authoring experience.
As you mention if these interactive narratives are based on previously existing texts, they in effect get authored twice, first by the original author who has normally the printed book in mind, second by the designer/programmer who is responsible for implementing the interaction---They tend to fail.

The lucky Interactive narratives that get authored by creative designers who 'add' to the narrative, often look better (with the application of sound and motion). Do you think existing authors can turn their skills into interactive experiences or does a new type of "author" need to evolve?

A. A bit of both- a lot of Interactive Narratives are reductions of original texts. Film direction employs a different kind of authoring- they say that novelist don't necessarily make good screenplay writers. Authors can also be a "team", with interactive mediums the "Ivory tower of authors are blown out the window"
Also being turned upside down is the emphasis from "writerly " to "readerly".

Q. Are you aware of any narratives being developed purely for interactions amongst your peers are else where/?

A. NO.

(Observation/ Contrasts from my primary sources, that neither the two should meet- academia is quite happy to theorise and discuss the failures, problems of IN authoring etc... But they fail to take up the challenge and get their minds and hands dirty with actually attempting to create new IN. On the flipside, commercial INs that are being created are still stuck (in budget-client demands) in the quagmire of gaming- goal orientated narrative structures. (Not much abstract association trails seen in practical "hitting the shelves' design- still seen as the bastion of solo experimental "arty" pieces.)

Q. Do you think that IN may be the intellectual raft, which helps float 'Play's' importance as a narrative/ as well as developmental activity?
LA. Do you mean validate it? (Yes DA.)
I hope so, play is often belittled -seen as only being constructive for young children.


Q. And finally can you define what a 'narrative" constitutes for you?

A. That's really hard to try getting across to you now over the phone. But in my paper, I've been thinking a lot about the comparison between 'Elective' and 'Compulsive' narratives. Both make you respond to the text in different ways- the differences between user and reader. In Elective narratives I am interested in developing systems that allow you to choose and act within an interactive process that is best for you! D.D. Thank You Doctor Sainsbury.

In Person Interview
Stuart Moulthrop,
University of Baltimore. Sat9th Sept.

Bio: Hypertext Writer, digital theoretician, Associate Professor at University of Baltimore School of Communications
Selected Works
Hegirascope, Published on CD-ROM, (1995/1997) The Color of Television (1996)
A hypertext fiction, Dreamtime (1992) Fiction. It's Not What You Think (1995) Written in HyperCard, Victory Garden (1995) Watching the Detectives (1994 and continuing) The Shadow of an Informand (1993/1994) Hyperbola, Hypertext essay, (1989) forking paths (1987)
http://raven.ubalt.edu/staff/moulthrop/hypertexts/

Posed Questions:
As I took on my masters project I found myself having to analyse the nature of authorship authoring, the reciprocants relationship with the "narrative" and what needs to be there for the reader to STAY - for the feeling of being involved in a story adamant not to use the goal orientated games method...

Q. Being a "hypertext Author"
What extra processes do you feel the interactive author needs to go through?

A."I find it hard to answer, if I remember back when I first wrote Victory Garden (one of his most notable and most famous hypertexts), I can remember just going in blind, very limited by what could be achieved by the software we had available to use, very limited interface capabilities (discussion: problem of using obscure hypertext scripting packages is that it heavily excludes your audience...) But then I never really consider my audience, as readers as they actually exist . Apart from more recently I have never had direct feedback from any audience I have... in a sense I write as an experiment, and I write something I imagine to interest me.

"There shouldn't be rules/ hints of how to "write "
Essentially authoring (or for me is) narcissistic in origin, "thinks of their "ideal readers" as themselves, not much empirical research in the cultural process of acquiring new "Reading skills" from generally distinct formative media "mass entertainment, gameplay"

Q. "High Mystery of Authorship"
The fall in mainstream fiction- response to the fact that interactive "gaming" experiences offer ---or lends themselves, better more involved form of fiction.

Q. Do you feel the author is present, hidden, or simply placed behind their "prose" moving image/structures of Interaction//. Games systems = own ecology

Q. How do you feel the "play" aspect works along side narrative immersion

A. The next serious issue- cognitive uses of PLAY

Stuart mentioned up and coming events I would be interested in such as the games conference England spring 2000 and submitting a DACC paper.

further, research ideas from Stuart.
RED PARC/ CANON, Rich Gold
Apart from what you can learn from platform/ interface constraints "Screen space"...can get lost in Interface problems and let the "narrative" slide.
Aarseth, Espen "interactivity doesn't come out of Literacy"
John Mc Daid HyperCard word "Uncle Buddy" + " Buddy" See
Jesyr Juul"Flow"
Jane Douglas" the End of Books or Books without end"

Email Interview
Norma V. Toraya a.k.a Crankbunny, Thurs 27 Oct

Bio: sculpture artist, comic artist, video editor, web artist, and newmedia designer.
See. www.crankbunny.com

Posed Questions:
Q. Storytelling through music...multimedia and the importance of audio narration. Lots of inaudible speech (telephone section) character requires silence, do you have music in your head first of the words or the images.

Alrighty Donna. It's late.
A.I find allot of ideas within music n also find it helps tie in a story or the idea behind it all nicely. Its really needed I think in anything I do.sometimes I don't even know if what I'm trying to convey will work and a good loop at least helps set a tone which will get the viewers eyes n ears n head at least pointing in the right direction. On rare times, sound isn't needed though. But what I find personally works is there needs to be created a space.. Don't know if you'd call it a visual space.. And audio is the first thing you can use to set up that space.

The inaudible speech comes from that sometimes its not even important what a person is saying, or within the situation, it's so not important that it becomes dribble. Words or audio that contains someone speaking is so powerful, too powerful. Its a magnet for someone who's watching. Its the first thing they cling on cause they are trying to grasp n understand. Its too easy.

Within that one part where the telephone rings and you hear allot of blabber has allot more to do with the character and her situation, when you're not listening its cause you don't care or have something on your mind and it all becomes muffled and jumbled.

Usually images come last for me. What I start off with is either a phrase, a melody that to me is automatically a feeling, or a concept. It would be hard for me to say that a set of words doesn't trigger me into thinking about a story, or an idea cause it happens allot. Usually though its a set of
Words I take out of context and it sticks and I think its great. Its not something totally. Its almost as theres this concept and I need the words and suddenly I come across four words which perfectly sum up that concept, the catching is random. but where I start off is intentional.

Q. In your authoring, do you think of closure (as exemplified in panel to panel in comics)...? Marquette has quite demanding closure (abstract association, images, distorted audio) so do you think an audience are gonna'get' it. I think authors need to kick the audience up from passive e mental and literal relationships.

I think closure is important. But the sense of closure I try to use isn't standard I would think. Closure in my head is not only an end where an idea/story becomes whole. It can also be an idea/story left totally wide open, because by ending that story with an open end, you are still creating an end. In storytelling, I'm sick of people being fed one ending, and one point of closure. allot of times audiences expect the author to tidy up the end and force-feed them with a spoon. I love multiple endings though I think for allot of people its too much. But its too much for them though because that's what they are so use to.

Allot of times I've tried creating a story which was all closures. Marquette was a comicbook where I threw out the story and just showed you three closures. You might have gotten the impression that there was something going on before with the two main characters, but I completely disregarded it. It was important. but still that's a hard concept to grasp, even for me. Or where closure was snap in the middle of the whole story and you couldn't tell that was the closure. Its fun to play around with, but its not a concern personally for myself that people "get it."

I personally think theres too many set standards of storytelling out there. People get into this mode where they expect the hero; they expect the martyr, the archetype, etc. They expect the setting, plot, climax, and ending. It's all this standard stuff which is a good test, a good basis for experimenting upon. Its not so important that people understand perfectly what's going on, if I can test out something (a different way of presenting) that might actually help a concept I think would be hard to communicate well through standard methods of storytelling...that's just it for me.

Q. Fragmenting/strobbing, flashback memory feel the keyboard very Cronenburgesque like typifying the futility of the number crunching jobs in the digital age?

A.Hmm, that whole area was actually based on a dream I always have where I am stuck punching in numbers, or remembering a set of numbers correctly and in the dream it always getting fragmented. I'll find myself at a phone trying to call someone and dialling the first 4 numbers and not remembering if I dialled 4 or 3 or if I got them correctly and then I'll start over again. Its a very frustrating dream but I like the idea behind it so much cause its so lost n not natural. It's a constant flashback and the present becomes an automatic memory you can't really remember too well. It also has a cycling motion to it, its constant and looping.

Q. Very plain legible type, short emotive words, any conscious decision making behind that (they of more picture like words received a lot easier if they are uppercase and direct,) styling?

A.I decided early on to use one font and only that one font in everything.why? Cause I hate font freaks. I like classic fonts that seem to resist time. They are clean, legible, and when looked give authenticity to it. It should like a manuscript. It should look like documentation. Timelessness. There shouldn't be anything fussy about it, and I just also love this font. I want visual text to be clear just because it should look like it's important and cut into stone and easy to read. To me this is a style. It's a very formal style true, but it also emphasises a type of craft and intentionally. Those two things are so lost today and it's sad. People can shmack things together and play it off as cool. And that is very pop and goes within its own world, but that's not how I'm comfortable communicating what I'd like say or tell. Id like people to look at the stories and see that what I made is grounded, and there is a purpose and backing for it even though they might not understand what it is.

Q. Interaction, the cookies, the grass, especially the latter is very tranquil, and a strange interaction if you think about what your doing,'stroking' and intimate action but via the physical interface of a mouse/ Monitor...
A. The interaction in those two movies are minimal and strong for me. Sometimes less is more. You feel very tiny when you are stroking grass and when you choose a final cookie instant moment. Its also very ackward. Those two movies had different purposes though for me, the one of grass me liking more. I feel it was more effective in placing a person in an ackward position and giving them tools (this comb) to feel. and they fall for it always and attempt to comb this land of grass. And all they get is a feeling of frustration and blank computer mouse surface. And all the while your hearing the sound of skin. Why? Cause people aren't feeling anymore. People are accepting these odd notions of touch and reality that we are surrounded by. This Internet, the chatting, the TV, the advertising, the porn sites (even though porns been around forever). No one knows what's real anymore or understands what they are feeling, and its really exciting. Also I wanted to do something about natural n machine. You've got flesh and you've got something cold.

Q.U don't really do way into the motion graphics thing (apart from the gothic style wind text) / The idea...theory about needing a blankness of immerse the power of achieving maximum interest using minimum technologies...


A.Hmm... blankness of space is interesting. I like minimal things and I've been thinking more n more lately how sometimes nothing or presenting nothing can be so important. Its a very good tool, but I think it has to be used correctly. But I like it. Presenting a blank area creates a space but it also screams out "hey hey, what's going on, where the stuff, what am I waiting for". It can ask allot from the viewer. It asks for patience and time and some stress. Instead of inundating the view with a bunch of stuff, you can be subtle and slight. Its basically just one form of communication. I don't know where you might stick the medium is the message marshal mccullen type shit in there... but that guys always bugged the crap out of me

Q. Do you see it as a fable, a fairy tale, the beginning of...


A.Its a tale, but not its hard for me to call it a "post-modern" fairy tale (makes my face cringe) but its very close to one. The stories are science fiction in a sense that they fall in the future, but they aren't based on
Facts and couldn't be true in detail. Its more of a dream to me, or the inside inside of what's going on.

Q. Overriding theme seems to be about emotion, / which is a key concern about the types and level of interaction with continual interaction with computer games. Emotion enhances mental immersion.

A.Emotion and mental states. I think its amazing how much people can get into their machines. It almost becomes a nipple at times for people who's lives aren't going the way they should or nothing going on. Its kinda odd, but people make their own mental worlds up in interacting with computer and technology. Its like daydreaming enhancement to the 100th power. Its very slight and tiny what happens to us everyday with using the tv and the computer and the atm machine, but that to make an impression of how we are feeling and how we like to feel. this is my basic concern. I like this sort of wonder. to examine how we are dealing with these new ways of playing games and interacting with our machines for pleasure or comfort, its wonderful. And its not about desensitising like allot of people claim. if anything its the opposite in some cases I would think. There are parts of us that we are reaching emotionally with all this technology. There are all
these channels which our heads n souls are using now to deal with life and they are new channels. Channels very different than to our moms n dads and ancestors. Whether they are bad or good isn't really the question for me, I really could care less. I do sometimes make it seem sad, but to me all of this is amazing, beautiful, and incomprehensible.

norma

http://www.crankbunny.com
"dark, sweet, small. crankbunny has bunnies that want your attention. wander
a bit. and feel uncomfortable. its okay."
aim&msn:crankbunny

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Copyright Donna Leishman 2000