Feedback On Article On Non-Interactivity In Games


#1

I just wrote an article on how there is no reason to be against non-interactivity in video games and I’d like some feedback before I publish it widely.

http://www.whynotgames.in/blog/articles/noninteractivity

I really want to know if:

  • There are any arguments that I missed.
  • The arguments that I make feel too much like strawmen
  • The arguments that I make are coherent.

#2

Hi,
very well written article and an interesting read. A couple of things which would probably help get your point across would be examples of games you feel were unfairly criticised as uninteractive and ‘non games’. I can’t think of a lot of examples of these off the top of my head, maybe because I mostly play well the more popular indie non games.

I don’t agree that a game has to have major narrative branches to avoid the label of ‘non interactive’. Half life for example is a single narrative game that is not considered uninteractive. It’s called linear but that isn’t a criticism, merely a descriptor. Tell-tale games on the other hand seem to have at least some narrative branches and are still considered ‘non interactive’ due to the sparse gameplay elements interwoven into what is essentially a choose your own adventure.

I agree with your conclusion on the whole. However I think you should touch on immersion and how games as a medium can be more or less immersive than books or video when guiding a player through a narrative, especially with VR supposedly on the horizon.

A few games that I believe are relevant to your post:

Her Story: Didn’t work for everyone but worked for me. Being able to experience a single narrative in a sort of randomised way was strange and enjoyable. However it WAS a linear story told through a game where the player had no autonomy with changing the outcome, merely experienced it.

Life is Strange: Lots of production value in a well told narrative. Major arcs are linear, minor arcs are what you make of them. End of game stats tell you how similar your choices were to other players similar to Telltale games.

The Stanley Parable: Almost a parody of linear games? No gameplay elements to speak off, mostly an experience and a bit of a hunt to find out all the endings.

Thanks for the article


#3

Thanks for writing and sharing the article. It’s indeed well written one.

I’d share my thoughts on this as I’m working on experimenting with narrative heavy games. Last year I did a small social experiment with such a game called ‘Missing’, with my limited abilities and hope to continue to make more games like that.

At the onset of this discussion, let’s put aside the success factor. As long as a game gets user acceptance, anything goes. User is the king. If you can get their vote, whatever product you make will find it’s place on the shelf. It’s the same for everything, from games to politics. If you can win user support, you are the king.

So, yes, why not. Feel free to try your thing. There are games of every kind. There’s nothing you are prevented to do in games or any other media.

But, as a student of this media, it’s your choice to learn game designing or not. And you can’t do that by making non-interactive games. As a subject, game design have nothing to do with non-interactivity and to discover it’s way of doing things you have to cross the borders and immigrate into this territory.

This territory very different. In a nutshell, the difference between games and other non-interactive media is like watching the cricket match and playing the cricket match. While watching a cricket match can be charming, tell that to Tendulkar.

Binding a player to the audience seat is like a torture. By making games like that, you can win support from the audience sector of the society, but not the player sector. Then again the society is not black and white, rather a spectrum. I myself don’t like games without the toppings of stories.

I’m into learning game design in-spite of having a strong urge of doing non-interactive games and large cutscenes. I’m fighting against it. It’s a hard struggle as stories were part of my upbringing rather than games. It’s an uphill trek.

But so far, I’m enjoying this hard trek. The scenery is so rewarding. :slight_smile:


#4

I’ll add in a couple of examples, such as Gone Home and Dear Esther, to make things clearer.

My point wasn’t that you needed both a system and branching narrative to be considered interactive, it was that you needed at least one of them. Half-Life has the underlying FPS system to very clearly make it a traditional game. I don’t often see CYOAs criticized as not being games actually. Games like 80 Days and Sorcery! seemed to avoid that criticism. With Telltale specifically, I think that people feel like their choices never have the impact that Telltale promises they will and so falls foul of this. I’ll clarify this point a little.

I don’t actually have a statement on the relative ability of different forms of media to achieve immersion. I’ve been deeply immersed in media of all forms and don’t even know if I can say that it’s more common in one or the other.

I think that Her Story is too interactive to fall under the purview of this article. The act of entering terms in the search bar and seeing those videos is fundamental to the experience. Life Is Strange also feels more interactive than what I was talking about because of how puzzle-heavy it was. The later chapters did take away from that, but it feels like I spent most of my time performing classic point-and-click activities in a 3D space. The Stanley Parable actually also afforded you a great deal of autonomy in how you responded to the narrator’s directives. The Beginner’s Guide, on the other hand, is more what I’m talking about.

Thanks for all of the feedback. I’ll update the article accordingly.


#5

I’m not calling for people to make more non-interactive games. I’m not working on one myself. I’m saying that there is no actual reason to be against them. When you say that game design has nothing to do with non-interactivity, that’s an assertion that I think lacks a logical underpinning, and that’s what my article goes over. What I’m looking for here is an actual, logical reason for the exact statement that you just made, that game design has nothing to do with non-interactivity, and the corollary that games should be interactive. My article goes over a few of the common arguments and why I think they are not convincing and I would love to hear any arguments that I missed.


#6

I think you missed my point. I’ll try to be more direct this time.

What I missed in the article is a proper logic for making non-interactive fiction using the knowledge of making games. You have gone to the extent of stating something like - a thing that doesn’t exist doesn’t prove that it can’t exist. Where’s the logic in that? You must analyze why it doesn’t exist, to strengthen your argument.

I’ll tell you why it doesn’t exist. It’s because it’s in the far end of the spectrum. Once a game becomes fully non-interactive, it ceases to become a game. All the games we see exist in this ‘band’ between a perfect game and a non-interactive fiction.

That’s my humble opinion. And I stand by my statement that as a subject game design has nothing to do with non-interactivity. They are absolute opposite. More you remove non-interactivity from a game, more it will play like a game.

But don’t confuse that with video games as a product. Like I said, they can be almost anything.

I hope I’ve made myself clear this time.

PS : Please use my counter-arguments to strengthen your defense against gamers who like more ‘game like’ games rather than ‘story like’ games. You will indeed receive some bashing from them. So, acknowledging the fact that games and stories despite being bang opposite can coexist in a spectrum may help.


#7

The reason that there is no logical argument here pushing for making non-interactive fiction using the knowledge of games is because that is not what the article is about. At no point in the article does it push for that statement and I’m really not sure where you got it from. I also am not arguing against gamers who like more “game like” games than story-like games. I do not even believe that is a meaningful dichotomy. Perhaps you could point out the places in the article that led you to believe that’s what it is about so that I can make them clearer for future readers?

I’ll add examples to the article to make this clearer, but for now take the example of Gone Home. People have criticized it by saying that it would be convey its story better if it were a short movie. I merely say that there is no logical argument behind this statement.

Tangential to this, but not completely unrelated, is the idea that the more interactive a game is, the closer it is to the platonic ideal of a game, which is what you seem to state as your humble opinion. This is however merely an assertion, not a counter-argument. Why do you believe a platonic ideal exists for video game, and why do you believe that is completely interactive? What is the equivalent for a novel or a movie? I’ve never heard of the idea of an ideal in any other art form. The idea that making a game fully non-interactive causes the work to cease becoming a game doesn’t imply that making a game more interactive makes it more of a game. A statement does not automatically imply the inverse. Similarly, the idea that interactivity is what differentiates us from traditional media does not imply that what makes this medium is the interactivity. Defining a medium by opposing it to other mediums is limiting.


#8

This is to say that the idea that games are better at interactive stories doesn’t imply that they are worse at non-interactive stories. It is also possible for them to be equal to or better than other media at these stories.

This was the statement which led me to believe that you are advocating using games to tell non-interactive stories.

Also, I’m not advocating a platonic game without any narrative as the perfect game. This ideal game doesn’t exist. Even abstract games like ‘Go’ has some narrative elements. To materialize a game you have to use some narratives using story, art, sound etc.

I’ll repeat my point…

all the games we see exist in this ‘band’ between a perfect game and a non-interactive fiction.

You see, using narratives adds to the experience. Makes it relatable, tangible. But, then again use too much of it and dilute your gameplay, it can become a stale non-interactive thingy. Interactivity between the systems and the player is what intrinsic of a game. It defines the media. Lose it, you lose the identity of the experience as a game.


#9

The paragraph is

The reasoning goes that if games are better at communicating interactive stories then more linear media, such as books, movies or television, are better at communicating non-interactive stories, and so games with a low degree of interactivity would be better done in a different medium. The problem however is that the inversion of the statement requires its own, separate proof. This is to say that the idea that games are better at interactive stories doesn’t imply that they are worse at non-interactive stories. It is also possible for them to be equal to or better than other media at these stories. An additional argument is necessary if one is to make a comparison.

To go from there to

making non-interactive fiction using the knowledge of making games

is a stretch that I admit I did not expect people to make. Could someone else tell me if they came to a similar conclusion so that I can know if I should change the article?