Mike Thal – Chapter 1 Reading Response

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.

One response to “Mike Thal – Chapter 1 Reading Response

  1. I had a similar reaction about digital games when I first read this book. I felt there was an illusion of control and that the predetermined pathways make for a not terribly interactive experience. However, I think that by looking at the framework of a game as a whole, it leaves out all the choices inside that are meaningful at the actual moment of interaction, and in that regard, I think digital games have lots of potential. There are multiple dimensions as well, there’s the interaction of directly controlling an avatar, possibly emotional interaction due to the narrative, intellectual interaction as part of a puzzle, etc.