The Missing Link Between Video Games and Books

            I started playing Bronze on Thursday, and I didn’t get too far. Like several classmates mentioned earlier, it can be really frustrating, even with that command guide page, to work through the IF game. However, one thing I noticed about the IF game was how similar the format is to some of the RPG games I used to play growing up. One in particular was Sierra’s Quest for Glory. Like in Bronze, the player had to choose which direction to go, whether it was East, West, North, and South. Then, once a player entered a new “room,” he could observe or examine the objects, perhaps open doors, or even talk to characters within that section. There are two differences between my old favorite RPG and Bronze. One, instead of an old graphics card powering the spaces or “rooms” in the game, Bronze describes the scene with paragraphs. The other difference is that instead of typing commands, the player could use their mouse pad and a cursor that changed icons to look like an eye for examining, a mouth for talking to characters, a hand for grabbing or picking up objects, and another icon for moving North, East, West, or South. In Quest for Glory, the player still had to use the same type of strategies and critical thinking that is in Bronze. The gamer also still had read an extensive amount text to understand their objectives, to communicate with characters, to ask questions, and to familiarize themselves with the given setting. Frankly even the speed of Quest for Glory’s game play was very similar to Bronze.

            I noticed Jon had mentioned “I find it hard to believe that there could be a market for Interactive Fiction which would be a considerable downgrade from the games that Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Wii now offer.” In a way, Interactive Fiction is already somewhat represented in the video games played on consoles like the X-box 360 or Playstation 3. Games like L.A. Noire provide a more narrative and text influence format to gamers. Another example would be the old P.C. game Myst, which was also released on the 32-bit consoles. But, I agree with what Jon says about how graphics have been consuming society. And lately I have been steering clear of most video games. Graphics are substituting for a lot of the text that we would see in the older IF games, but the narration and dialogue still play a stronger role in certain strategy or RPG style games. What I’m proposing is that there is still an audience out there that is reminiscent of the gamers who were playing more text based strategy games. I was talking to David Kennedy, and we both agree that there is still an untouched market out there for Interactive Fiction. Games like L.A. Noire or even the original Resident Evil will emerge, with stimulating eye candy graphics; however, it will be the text within the games that really drives the gamer to want to keep playing and finish the game.

            I also read Lauren Walker’s post; she mentions, “The word ‘interactive’ seems to suggest that experiencing other forms of fiction is a purely passive experience, which we all know it is not.” While I agree that other forms of fiction are certainly not passive, I don’t think that the word “interactive” in Interactive Fiction” is really being used to suggest passivity in other forms of fiction. I would like to think back to what Manovich says about the theory of syntagm and paradigm dimensions. I think that Interactive Fiction, rather than other text based fiction, falls more into the paradigmatic dimension because gamers have to imagine the choices they make before they can carry on. And, I agree with Lauren that House of Leaves could be as close to an IF as any other book because it is less syntagmatic than most other books. I think that House of Leaves on an E-Reader is even less syntagmatic because you have to imagine and choice your path rather than just look at all the choices on one page. Perhaps, one variable that separates House of Leaves from IF games, or at least some IF games, is that there technically only one ending to House of Leaves. No matter where you decide to go or what sections you read first, the fate of each character in the novel ends the same way…

…or does it? Externally or explicitly, yes the same things happen to the characters, but readers certainly imagine new ways to interpret the meaning behind the ending of the book by choosing different paths.

            What I am trying to get at here is that House of leaves is closer to an IF game than most books, AND text-based Interactive Fiction is as close to a video game than most books as far as their interactivity, their ability to choose. Oddly enough, one problem with video games becoming more interactive is that they are beginning to lose more of the options or aspects that let the players imagine more ideas or choices, so games are losing a little of the paradigmatic dimension. Once again, this is why I think there is a market for gamers who would enjoy the more imaginative aspects of Interactive Fiction implemented into these new games that look like they are on graphic steroids.