A response: ‘From work to play’

I didn’t understand much of this article, but I did understand some parts. I don’t play video games and don’t know much about them. One concept that caught my attention is the malleable definition of fiction and the changing aspects of storytelling. This applies not just to video games but to storytelling of all modes and methods.

I found interesting the argument that some video games are not fiction or storytelling in the traditional sense. The argument centers on the idea that users/players control the action — the structure — by pushing buttons and joggling sticks and such. It doesn’t even matter if the game has a singular ending reached regardless of the users’/players’ actions. Such games diminish the elements of shared experience and standardization — two staples of traditional pieces of fiction.

But at the same time, this argument can be made for even traditional pieces of fiction if the users/readers consume the material in unique ways. While more traditional pieces might not allow consumers to control the action with buttons and sticks, they do allow consumers to decide certain aspects of how the story unfolds: speed (all at once or piece by piece), time of day and environment (which could affect how the piece grips the consumer and emotion (how the consumer is feeling or thinking at the time he or she consumes the piece). Among these factors there is room for interpretation and variation across experiences with a single story. In this way, traditional stories and modern video games might not differ so strongly.

I also found interesting the idea that players of video games might play out the stories but not read the plots. There are arguments that work both to support and disprove this. Players of video games might play simply because it is fun or stimulating, paying little attention to how their actions relate to the broader plot. This might be because some early games had few detectable plot points; PAC-MAN, for instance, is about a yellow guy eating dots, but do players feel a connection, a responsibility to the plot?

On the other hand, the very act of playing a video game essentially requires some sort of connection or adherence to plot. Even playing PAC-MAN involves users assuming a similar mindset to that of the yellow guy, with eating the dots and avoiding the ghosts of critical importance.  A user might play more for fun than to provide impetus for the plot, but he or she still agrees to enter the fictional world and its conditions, which include plot. In this way, the act of playing is inseparable from the notion of plot.


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