On electronic games as art

by look i have opinions

Reading a book is not just a one-way experience. It feels a lot like a conversation—not necessarily a conversation between the reader and the author, though that can happen too, but a conversation between the reader and the book itself. What a pleasure it is, when reading, to have one’s expectations met—met in a strikingly unexpected way—overturned in favor of something better—overturned and then met after all.

It seems obvious that an interactive book—or rather, a game—could offer the same experience, only richer, because the reader/player can talk back. But here things become difficult. Whereas a book can easily present a continuous illusion, the illusion a game creates is more fragile. To the extent that a game welcomes the player’s unpredictable input, it has to be able to keep up. It’s easy to break the illusion by trying to explore past the edge of the map or by typing the wrong word in a text parser (“You can’t do that,” “I didn’t understand that command”). It’s easy to keep talking to non-player characters until they start to repeat themselves like the robots they are.