Narrative, Interactivity, Play, and Games:
Four naughty concepts in need of discipline
My goal is to frame these concepts in ways that bring insight to their interrelations, with the larger aim of providing critical tools for others who are attempting to create or study the conundrum of the game-story.
Play. Games. Narrative. Interactivity. What a motley bunch. Honestly, have you ever seen such a suspicious set of slippery and ambiguous, overused and ill-defined terms?
I commend Zimmerman’s writing style with its refreshing honesty and word play. The essay successfully explained the concepts and steered away from the conventional debate of whether games are or can be narratives.
The idea of a narrative is that it has an initial state and it undergoes changes like a particular series of events. One good example of a narrative based on Miller’s definition of the term is chess where chess is a stylised representation of a war narrative.
The essay goes on further to describe different ways something can be interactive. Perhaps the more applicable types of interactivity would be explicit interactivity (which we are quite familiar with) and meta-interactivity. I found the idea of meta-interactivity quite interesting as people can create a collective narrative space just by responding to linear media. One example is the remake of Man with a Movie Camera.
Play and Games
Play is also further categorised into formal play, ludic activities and a playful state of being. Games is then even more narrowly defined to differentiate itself from ludic activities with more structured elements like rules, conflict and an outcome.
With all these concepts in mind, it is important as a creative person to think of new ways of presenting game stories and the essay charges us to do so.