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Fiction 2001

Written by Luisito Caleon, Leslie Becker, and Kristina Bennett

Imagine playing a game where there are no rules. No more set endings and tired story plots. No more repetitive scenic backdrops and buxom blondes. Well, the eight speakers during the Fiction 2001 special session believe in such a fiction-based game. Somehow the most interesting session I've attended during the SIGGRAPH conference was also the least crowded. The Fiction 2001 special session was held at 12:30 pm in Ballroom A/B. The session featured eight speakers, each involved in the development of what is termed "interactive fiction." Each presented a different argument in support of the revolution of the fiction-based game. The first speaker, Andrew Glassner, spoke of the need for direct audience participation in game creation. He posed two questions that must be asked in order to gauge the effectiveness of an interactive piece:

Does this improve communication between author and audience?

Does this improve the experience for the author or audience?

Espen Aarseth spoke second. He emphasized the excess of storytelling and narrative in fiction-based games. He believes there should be less story and plot, allowing the player to serve as co-creator of meaningful content. Aarseth also juxtaposed the story and the game. A story is told "top down" and embodies linear time. A game is told "bottom up" and embodies space, allowing the player to create worlds.

The third speaker, Jesse Schells, is employed with Walt Disney Imagineering. He argues that the video game is the "most exciting media of our time." Compared to movies, whose revenue increased a mere 6% last year, video games increased by whopping 11%. In addition, the video game is the only medium that allows you to do what other mediums can only pretend to do. The video game is the only medium that allows the audience to participate in the story and action. Watching a movie limits the audience to experiencing what was filmed.

The fourth speaker, Phoebe Sengers, mentioned the extremes of video game design. On one extreme, mega-corporations create 3D visual heavy games with tired plotlines. On the other are non-traditional intellectually intense games. Each is unique in concept but difficult to play. She believes in a middle ground at which a game supports the need and desire for the player to understand the world and allow him or her to express itself.

Ana Serrano spoke next and argued that there should be an individual compelling experience for the player. The player should have an experience that allows him or her to participate actively in the "viewing - creating - sharing" involved during a game. A player should be able to meander and create new paths and obstacle for future players. Thus allowing the game to constantly be a new experience.

The last three speakers, most importantly Brian Loyall from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, argued that an interactive fiction game must mimic real life. In real life humans possess complete freedom in choices and actions. If a game was to recreate this, the experience for each player would always be unique.

As the world continues to evolve and as new ground is broken, technology progresses further and further. What was once a bland gaming experience is bound to become life in a whole new world all at your very fingertips.



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