In the first chapter of The Art of Interactive Design, Crawford goes through the various differences between interaction and reaction. He explains that reaction is the equivalent of a one-sided conversation. One person is just saying things, but the other isn’t really enhancing the conversation. This occurs for at least one of three reasons:
- One person doesn’t listen to the other.
- One person doesn’t think about what the other person said.
- One person doesn’t respond at all.
This makes a lot of sense with technology as well. To have interactivity, it’s essential that both people fully participate in the conversation. In the case of computers, people can speak to machines through various commands. Computers will “listen” to these commands, think about how to perform them, and ultimately carry them out.
However, Crawford’s definition of interactivity actually makes me wonder about video games. Are they really that interactive? Video games have often been cited as one of the most interactive mediums of our time, and yet many of them just tell a story. Sure players can influence the way a their character(s) move or act within the game, but many games don’t “listen” to the players actions. This creates a reactive situation for the player, much like a movie or book.
There are exceptions to this when games have multiple endings, of course. Many of the titles by BioWare and Bethesda Studios will change the events and/or endings of the narrative based on a player’s choices. But even in those situations, the exact scripts of those endings are predetermined and cannot be fully influenced by the player.