Saturday, August 9, 2008

Interactive

Some of you may have seen this video already:

That is part 1, part 2 is here:


For those of you who haven't, and don't want to spend 16 minutes watching it (I think you should; it's an encouraging look at the future of societal entertainment), the basic gist of it is this: People are no longer content to simply sit back and consume entertainment that has been produced by someone else; they are realising that they enjoy producing entertainment of their own.
YouTube is just one example. Most of what is posted on YouTube is mindless drivel, a bunch of spastic adolescents filming themselves chatting and then sticking it up for everyone to see, as if anyone aside from themselves cares about who Lucy's sleeping with this week. But there's some great stuff on there as well. Tony vs. Paul is just one example of the cool things that amateurs are doing now. Ping Pong Ball Manipulation is another. There are many more examples.

Anyway, the point is that people don't want to have only non-interactive entertainment any more. The speaker's new motto is: we're looking for the mouse (this comes from the story of a four year old girl who, while watching TV, starts rooting around in the cables behind the TV set looking for the mouse; as he puts it, "Four year olds know this: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken.") His prediction is that the future will be successful for those creators who find a way to locate all the places where the audience has been locked out and invite the audience in. No longer do you just sit back and watch the story, but you can participate in it as well!

Which brings me to my point: isn't that what Role-Playing Games are? Since the 70s, gamers have been enjoying interactive storytelling around the gaming table every week. Probably every night. Could it be that society is becoming more open to the idea that RPGs are worthwhile forms of entertainment? You're not just watching the story (or reading the story or listening to the story), you're involved in it! You affect the outcome! You control one (sometimes more) of the characters, and have power over where the story goes!

Granted, this depends on a lot of factors, not limited to what game you're playing, who you're playing with, and who the GM is, but still, that's what RPGs are, at the core: interactive storytelling.

Of course, the hobby has a lot to overcome before it can be accepted as a mainstream hobby. Besides the misconceptions and resulting negative stereotypes that have plagued gaming for years (the case of James Dallas Egbert III is just one example), there's the difficulties I mentioned in a previous post. Plus, there's the fact that by far the most common and popular RPG is still Dungeons and Dragons, which, while I'm not suggesting that it's not a good game, has problems of its own, not the least of which is that it's a fantasy game, and the general public still looks askance at anything from the fantasy genre. This is becoming less of an issue with the success of the Lord of the Rings film series, and maybe in time, fantasy will not be irrevocably tied in people's minds with socially inept nerds sitting around in their parents' basement on a Saturday night with their dice and their miniatures.

Perhaps gaming companies can use this as a new marketing strategy. We have a long way to go before this can be successful, but dare I hope, that as we enter the 21st century, we realise that this is our time?

Ah, I'm probably being overly idealistic. But it's a worthwhile thought, eh?

Anyway, that's what I was thinking about. Enjoy your games, and don't forget to

Game on!

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