We need a new paradigm

2 views
Skip to first unread message

Paul Oliveira

unread,
Jun 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/6/96
to

I've been reading the debates about whether the stuff that's talked about
around here is a "game" or "interactive fiction", and I don't understand
why it's necessary to see one as an antithesis of the other.

I think this genre needs a new paradigm for the nineties. Why is this
debate so restricted? There are problems with both terms. "Game" suggests
Space Invaders, and "Interactive Fiction" is being increasingly muddied by
tree-fiction, hypertext, and by straight fiction ported to the Web.

First of all, the obvious. Why not bust the debate and call the stuff "Game
Fiction" for now? Position it squarely at the intersection it obviously
occupies. A game is clearly interactive, but it's interactive at the
narrative level, not just at the operational level, like some "interactive"
works (a CD-ROM encyclopedia, for example). Whether the baddies are
defeated or not is up to you; whether the mystery is revealed or withheld
is up to you. That's narrative-level interactivity. All games share it.
"Game" is not in opposition to fiction, but rather a pretty precise
identifier for a certain type of fiction. Or, if you like, "fiction" is the
precise identifier for a certain type of game. It hardly matters. "Game"
gives the word "fiction" the right random exploratory flavour to suit it to
stuff like Zork, and "fiction" gives the word "game" the right literary
goals, without the pretentiousness of the word "fiction" alone.

But even this hybrid, I think, is too rooted in the early-80s computer
world, when "interactive fiction" was a novelty term. Why aren't we
thinking in terms of reinventing the genre? Many old ideas have won new
appeal from a simple paradigm shift reflected in terminology. Witness
"INTERNET (grassroots but techie) --> INFORMATION SUPERHIGHWAY (high-minded
and futurist) --> WORLD WIDE WEB (consumer-oriented)". I think "TEXT
ADVENTURE" was the genre at its grassroots stage, and "INTERACTIVE FICTION"
is the genre at its high-minded and futurist stage. It's not that the
terminology is that important, but it certainly represents an important
paradigm shift. Interactive fiction needs a paradigm shift that will bring
the idea of full-fledged character-based non-crippled digital storytelling
to the consumer level. Maybe that's it: "DIGITAL STORYTELLING."

Or maybe something weirder. The mistake, I think, is to think you have to
name the genre after your theory of how it works. "Movies" are called
"movies" because the pictures move, or they're called "films" because of
the material they're produced on. They're not called "visual fiction".
Actually, around 1910 there would have been plenty of people who disagreed
with that characterisation.

Name it after a concrete attribute, write it, and let the pundits decide
whether it's fiction. Pixelplays, bitplays, digital plays, chipworlds,
keytales, gameworks, bitties, byties, chippies, spaghetti. We don't even
have to agree. Names are cho

Whatever the terminology, I certainly think an interesting new paradigm for
today is the reintroduction of the richer text interface without eschewing
the proven pizzazz of sound and visuals: why shouldn't "multimedia
adventures" actually be what they claim, rather than wannabe movies?

Paul Oliveira


Nulldogma

unread,
Jun 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/6/96
to

In my listing for Lost New York on the Info-Mac CD, I just described it as
an "interactive-fiction text adventure". I figure that covers most of the
bases.

Neil

L.J. Wischik

unread,
Jun 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/7/96
to

Paul Oliveira <73023...@compuserve.com> wrote:
>First of all, the obvious. Why not bust the debate and call the stuff "Game
>Fiction" for now? Position it squarely at the intersection it obviously
>occupies.

Except I don't think it does clearly occupy this intersection. I'm trying
to write letters to friends as interactive 'fiction'. Imagine sending
them not a dull, flat description of things, of people, but an
interacting environment; imagine sending to them a proxy of yourself,
since you cannot be there in person.

--
Lucian

Paul Oliveira

unread,
Jun 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/8/96
to

In article <4p846i$5...@lyra.csx.cam.ac.uk>,
ljw...@thor.cam.ac.uk (L.J. Wischik) wrote:

>Except I don't think it does clearly occupy this intersection. I'm trying
>to write letters to friends as interactive 'fiction'. Imagine sending
>them not a dull, flat description of things, of people, but an
>interacting environment; imagine sending to them a proxy of yourself,
>since you cannot be there in person.

Your example is neither a game nor fiction, since presumably you're telling
your friends about your life. In fact, it only really fits one of the four
attributes represented in the name "rec.arts.int-fiction". "Novels" don't
include non-fiction. Neither do "movies" (although "films" do). So I don't
think it's a particularly big sticking point that your example not be
covered by whatever terms are used for the fiction.

But in the end, Gerry Kevin Wilson is probably right.

Paul.


Greg Ewing

unread,
Jun 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/10/96
to

Paul Oliveira wrote:
>
> Maybe that's it: "DIGITAL STORYTELLING."

Euuuch! No way! It sounds like something for putting
3-year-olds to sleep at night. "Storytelling" is
far too passive a word to even remotely capture
the idea of IF.

> The mistake, I think, is to think you have to
> name the genre after your theory of how it works. "Movies" are called
> "movies" because the pictures move,

And because it's a short, catchy word which sounds
sort of exciting somehow. Note that nobody *ever*
talks about a "moving picture" any more; "movie"
has become a word in its own right.

There's already an analogy in the IF world: "adventure
game" or just "adventure". Like "movie", those who have
experienced it know what it means, even though the term
itself is something of an idiom in that it doesn't
fully describe what it refers to.

> Whatever the terminology, I certainly think an interesting new paradigm for
> today is the reintroduction of the richer text interface without eschewing
> the proven pizzazz of sound and visuals: why shouldn't "multimedia
> adventures" actually be what they claim, rather than wannabe movies?

A nice ideal, but it will take considerable genius to
find a really good way of pulling it off without
the seam between the text side and the sound & vision
side intruding upon the enjoyment.

When you're reading a novel, or playing a pure text
adventure, you can keep your eyes on the text (both
what you're reading and typing) while your mind's eye
is free to wander over the internal images your brain
is constructing.

When you're watching a movie, you can just sit there
and absorb the sights with your eyes and the sounds with
your ears and allow your mind to be absorbed in the
story.

But I don't know how to combine the two, because they
are competing for the same input channel (your eyes)
and trying to use it to do the same thing (implant
images in your mind) in different and seemingly
incompatible ways.

If I've read an evocative textual
description of something, I don't need to see a
picture of it as well (and would rather not, lest
it destroy my mental illusion). Or if I can see
a beautiful picture of a scene, I don't need a
textual description of the same thing.

Somehow the text and the pictures need to be used
in ways that complement rather than compete with
each other. Also, there's the technical problem
of how to present them both so that you don't
have to continually move your eyes from one
to the other.

I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's the sort
of thing that it's very easy to to badly (and
I've seen some very bad attempts at it!) and not
at all clear how to do well.

Any ideas, anyone?

> Paul Oliveira

Greg

Stuart Allen

unread,
Jun 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/11/96
to

How about "Cyber Story" or "Digital Text-Based Virtual Computerized
Interactive Environment" Well... maybe not. :)


Nulldogma

unread,
Jun 11, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/11/96
to

> Somehow the text and the pictures need to be used
> in ways that complement rather than compete with
> each other. Also, there's the technical problem
> of how to present them both so that you don't
> have to continually move your eyes from one
> to the other.

Voice input?

Marty Stoneman

unread,
Jun 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/12/96
to

Paul Oliveira (73023...@compuserve.com) wrote:

[SNIP]

I don't know if this is a proper place to post a short description of
some software inventions we made at our Anthrobotics project. We were
looking for feasibility of a new AI paradigm at the time and were not
thinking about "interactive fiction". Anyway, here goes.

We developed a general-purpose software platform on which a user could
quickly place in a visible "world" simulation a collection of things,
including intelligent entities like lions and humanoids, each of which
"behaves" in a proper simulated way (the "worlds" can be much larger than
a computer screen. When the world is "run", lots of interaction
happens. Exactly what might happen is of course a function of the nature
and initial placement of the denizens. The user can play God and stop
the world at will and "magically" move things or add things while the
world is stopped. The user may also (by joystick or whatever) BECOME any
entity in the world and take over that behavior.

Also, the humanoid in a world can tell "true" and "interesting" stories
(in a natural language, English in our demo) about its life experiences
(either real-time with world-stops during the tell parts or saving the
stories to be re-told later). And a user can stop the world at any time
to ask questions of the humanoid (about what's going on OR what interests
it OR its plans, goals, etc.).

Most of our project work was done in the '80's (before the project ran out
of energy) with the technology of that era (our demo runs realtime on a
286 PC) and with $50 voice equipment and selfmade pics for the animation,
2-dimensional worlds, etc. But there is no reason the technology can't be
upgraded for 3-D, slick animation, voice recognition, CD-ROM, etc.

As with all breakthroughs, we have had a difficult time being taken
seriously by academia as a new paradigm to look at for "strong AI". But
we have discussed being involved in a project to produce a "game" like our
demo (upgraded, of course) for the new and coming market of females and
males who don't like "shoot-em-ups".

Does anything we are involved with have any relevance to possible new
paradigms in int-fiction? I'm certainly a "newbie" in this group.

Also, I would appreciate an email from anyone in the group who has or can
find "energy" to partner the design and development of an entry market
product .....

Cheers,

Marty Stoneman
ma...@indirect.com


Paul Oliveira

unread,
Jun 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM6/12/96
to

In article <31BBAD...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz>,
Greg Ewing <gr...@cosc.canterbury.ac.nz> wrote:

>If I've read an evocative textual
>description of something, I don't need to see a
>picture of it as well (and would rather not, lest
>it destroy my mental illusion). Or if I can see
>a beautiful picture of a scene, I don't need a
>textual description of the same thing.

You're talking about the shotgun approach to multimedia, in which
everything is presented in all media. I'd say the most obvious way is to
present some things in some media, and others in others, depending on
what's most appropriate.

I would never describe actions that are also shown in the video. And there
might be characters who never appear in video. Entire areas that never
appear in video. Conversely, there might be characters who are never
described, only named, with a video clip attached. Multimedia is only a
good idea when it is used as an opportunity to present each story element
in the medium most appropriate to it.

Paul.


Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages