Interactive Entertainment


Isaac Victor Kerlow, Chair, Interactive Entertainment

SIGGRAPH 95 Interactive Entertainment projects represent current trends, outstanding work, and original points of view in location-based entertainment, games, and interactive television. They demonstrate new levels of both creative and technical sophistication in a variety of ways. Some of the imagery, for example, is exquisite in its rendering. Several graphical interfaces go well beyond pointing and clicking. Some of the technology used is simpler than one would have imagined, yet the results are impressive.

Interactive Entertainment does not present a unified vision of the field. Some projects are slick products that are meant to be successful in the mainstream market. Other projects are explorations into new forms of entertainment that are not yet ready for commercialization. This apparent contradiction between creative directions is the engine of Interactive Entertainment.

Interactive entertainment means different things to different people. For some, conversing interactively over tea and cookies is entertaining. For others, this kind of activity can be boring and perhaps too interactive. Competing with imaginary opponents and defeating them through violent virtual destruction or scoring more goals is a satisfying interaction for many, and also their ticket to first-class entertainment. Others may find this kind of competition horrifying. And there is always good-old movie-watching, which is exciting for some and sleep-inducing for others.

The fact that there are so many ways of interacting and entertaining is an important issue for professionals and entrepreneurs of interactive entertainment. As we rush to produce the perfect game or the most stimulating entertainment, we can learn a lot by analyzing traditional forms of interaction and entertainment.

There are clearly many different concepts of what is truly entertaining and what is true interaction. This is an obvious point. What is less obvious is which of these concepts has the right combination of technology, imagery, plot, and pricing to be successful with the various potential audiences for interactive entertainment.

So far we seem to have focused most of our energies on the variety of interactivity that is based on quick reflexes and limited dialog. This has led to creation of very sophisticated action games for distribution in both public areas (arcades) and private environments (homes). In these games, searching for and destroying the enemy is invariably the main priority, and impeccable hand-eye coordination is a condition for survival. But increasingly, as technology improves and as game plots get more ambitious, many action games are trying to incorporate more realistic imagery and motion. These improvements are based on technological developments like faster and more powerful hardware, more efficient software, enhanced character development, and improved plots that allow a multitude of story lines.

There is also an increasing selection of successful games that require more analytical skills. Many recent examples in this genre also include stunning imagery. More ambitious plots are emerging, and the creative potential is limitless. How about more games based on history, or real murder cases? How about crashing the stock market for fun? Or rescuing the World Trade Center in Manhattan from terrorists who have taken it over? How about playing with our cultural myths? What if we have, for example, been charged by Zeus to stop Hera's jealous attacks on his mortal girlfriends? Or what if we have been called by the desperate members of a neighborhood watch to assist in eradicating drug dealers from their neighborhood, but one of our team is corrupted and sabotages our plans? How about the trials and tribulations of the slaves escaping through the underground railroad? What if the American Indians had defeated their attackers? What if male players in a game could only play female roles?

It is essential to keep in mind that the goal, from the audience's point of view, is not about technology at all. It is about being entertained, about being captivated by a story, or challenged by a mystery, or about fooling our senses and being transported to worlds of fantasy. That's Interactive Entertainment.


Isaac Victor Kerlow
SIGGRAPH 95 Interactive Entertainment Chair
Chairperson, Department of Computer Graphics and Interactive Media
Pratt Institute
200 Willoughby Avenue, PS21
Brooklyn, New York 11205 USA


Red Burns
New York University

Clark Dodsworth
Osage Associates
Terrence Masson
Digital Fauxtography

Celia Pearce
Bruce Sinclair
Wavefront Technologies, Inc.

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