Videogames as Literature – ENGL255B
March 24th, 2017
Interactivity in Videogames
Interactivity in video games is the relationship between the game and the player. It allows the player to be in a position of power in terms of dictating or deciding the direction the game will take. The difference from video games to films is the interactive narrative that games offer. Players have the option of making decisions that will affect the events that follow, whereas in films, you can shout until you are blue in the face, but the protagonist will never hear you.
Video games may not be voice activated, however, a player will ultimately decide the outcome of the game based on their decisions unlike a movie. “Because video games are typically divided into segments of action and spectacle, players are essentially “forced to oscillate between the roles of viewer and user, shifting between perceiving and acting, between following the story and actively participating in it”. (Garite, 7). Players must be attentive in following the interactive narrative in order to understand the scenario or situation of the game. This engages the brain as well as the body when playing. By staying alert, it will entice players to the game while being cautious of the choices they make and the actions they take.
Video games are designed to keep a player constantly engaged, mentally and physically. This is all done by the developers programming because players are being forced to react to the mechanics of the game. “Every moment is a direct imperative, an attack that demands a response. As the game unfolds, the player’s body is silently inscribed with and encoded by the command lines of the program.” (Garite, 8). It provides a complete adrenalin rush. The player becomes lost in play, never realizing he is being manipulated into certain reactions, rather always believing he is in control.
An example of interactive narrative can be seen in the game “Gods Will Be Watching”. The player is in charge of the survival of a group of people. He is in charge of getting the radio transmission repaired, food rations, medicine and group therapy for a limited amount of days. The interaction occurs as the player must be aware of how each character is feeling. Depending on certain actions the player takes and challenges that are put in his path, it will change the outcome of the game. It may either anger characters which will make them separate from the group or if the player is not attentive enough, they can die. Morality is brought into the game as certain decisions can cost a group member their life, in order to save the others. How far will the player go for the greater good?
Another game where interactive narrative can be seen is the horror-puzzle game, Catherine developed by Atlus. In this game, you play as Vincent who finds himself in a love triangle between two girls who share the same name Katherine and Catherine. Katherine is his girlfriend and Catherine is the new mysterious mistress that suddenly appeared in his life. The player progresses through daytime and nighttime hours that culminate by going through a series of nightmares that contribute to the development of Vincent’s character. Before each level they go through a confession booth. In this booth they answer a question and depending on the answer it will lead them down a certain path. If the player decides to be truthful and live a controlled life, it will keep Vincent on the right track and remain faithful to Katherine. If the player decides to live a more free and dangerous life, then Vincent will lean towards being with Catherine whom he is having an affair with and leave his old life behind. Depending on the choices the player makes will determine the ending of the game and which path Vincent follows. The end of the game results from the moral choices made by Vincent through the game’s progression.
Ultimately although an illusion,manipulated through encoding or not, it does not deter from the excitement generated in video games. Players are constantly immersed in the act of play and always have a sense of being in control. It offers a different environment from the one we live in, an alternate universe, where one can lose himself for the duration of the game. Video games are seen as something competitive, compelling, and an escape from reality.
Garite, Matt. “The Ideology of Interactivity (or Video Games and Taylorization of Leisure).” Level Up Conference Proceedings, Utrecht: University of Utrecht, November, 2003.
Gods Will Be Watching (Deconstructeam, 2014)
Catherine (Atlus, 2011)