Links Between Prose Literature and Gaming

Video games share obvious resemblances with a peculiar subgenre of literature, the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. These books are separated from traditional novels because they offer their consumer some degree of choice over their narrative, just as games almost universally possess some amount of choice: Even linear games such as Tetris and Pong offer options in the form of multiple valid inputs and strategies. The few truly linear games, including the rare non-interactive visual novels, are often not included under the game category. Yet I would argue that digital interactive media possesses more similarities to non-interactive text-based media such as literature than they do with mediums such as film and television.

This is because, like games, literature absolutely requires audience interaction in order to function. Film and television can operate on their own without any creative thought on behalf of the audience. They show the same mixture of sounds and images every time they are viewed, regardless of the audience, and even when there is no audience present. Games obviously function differently, requiring user input to function. Literature does so as well, requiring an active creative mind to physically construct the settings and events described by its prose. Without an active mind, the novel is merely ink on a page, portraying no events and holding no creative value. It is for this reason that even non-interactive novels and totally linear games possess similarities at their basic level to choice-driven games such as The Elder Scrolls and Knights of the Old Republic.

0 thoughts on “Links Between Prose Literature and Gaming

  1. I agree that games and literature require audience participation, but I believe films do too! For example, films with not clear endings (like Inception) have multiple possible interpretations. And sometimes when you watch those kind of movies for the second time you notice things you didn’t before and your experience changes. For films like The Usual Suspects watching for a second time is a totally different experience (for me at least) because you already know the truth.

  2. I would like to expand a bit on the previous comment. I think that saying that film and television “can operate on their own without any creative thought on behalf of the audience” is being a little unfair to these forms of media. Sure, some films may just be eye candy with no perceivable message or value(such as every movie in the Fast and Furious series), but others definitely provoke questions among their audience.

    In addition, saying that movies show the same mixture of sounds and images every time is akin to saying that a piece of literature is always the same combination of letters. In both cases, the reader or viewer’s mind plays a huge part in one’s comprehension and visualization of the narrative. I do agree that one’s past experiences affect one’s perception and understanding of a novel, but I also believe that this applies to movies.

    In terms of how video games relate to this idea, I’m not too sure. Digital interactive games are similar to film and television because one processes both visual and audial cues in each case. They are not similar, however, because one cannot choose the plot of a movie or television show, while this is possible in many games. I think that these are different types of interactivity: in one case the viewer is interpreting a series of images or events that one was predestined to see, while in the other, one is interacting with the flow of the narrative itself.

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