On Stephen Bond on Player Freedom

Stephen Bond recently (very recently, I think) posted an essay on player freedom, essentially arguing that IF shouldn’t be about offering the player moral choice, and that not forcing the player to make a specific choice is a kind of artistic abdication, giving up the opportunity (or the responsibility) to Say Something.

Now I’m about to disagree with him, at some length.

I agree with many of the other aspects of the essay — I haven’t much interest in the simulate-everything, let-the-player-do-anything kind of IF. Games that are too wide-open often lose my interest, and I have to admit that I tend to roll my eyes when people suggest this kind of thing on RAIF: you could spend an eternity building the world-model to offer the player as much freedom as possible, and wind up with something utterly flaccid and dull when you were done, where no action is meaningful because all actions are possible.

Offering the player a moral choice in IF is not the same as offering the player co-authorship, though. It’s not even close. For one thing (and I am surprised more people haven’t pointed this out in criticism), the author is choosing the choice: in “Floatpoint”, I decided what the problem was (and that it was a problem) and I made up all the possible approaches the player-character might take. My authorial contribution is to determine the kind of universe the player character inhabits; it’s an assertion about the way the world works, even if it doesn’t come down in favor of doing one particular thing rather than another. Some players have reacted to this fact by complaining that they don’t think it’s fair (or desirable) that there’s no clearly winning ending. But, well, part of the point of the story is that there are some situations that don’t offer any victory — not even a victory at cost, not even a moral victory that is pragmatically disastrous; that there are situations where anything you do still feels partly wrong. You can dodge the choice entirely (and it’s possible to do that too, in “Floatpoint”, but I doubt anyone considered that a satisfying outcome). But you can’t get the choice right, because there is no right. Anything you might do contains some element of betrayal, some element of sin. If you’re lucky, some of the people affected might understand why you did what you did. They might forgive you. Then again, they might not. And either way, there’s still the wrong done, and the fact that you need forgiveness.

Offering the player a choice is a vital part of that statement. You have to be free to try to solve the problem, because otherwise the failure to solve it cleanly is meaningless.

Well, anyway. I didn’t do a good enough job of setting up the choice; the feedback on “Floatpoint” shows that it fails in some fundamental respects. A number of players have complained that they just went through all the possible outcomes in turn, not feeling especially committed to any one of them; and if they weren’t trying to get a positive result, then failing to get one can’t have distressed them much. This vitiates what I was trying to do. So this post is not a defense of “Floatpoint” as such.

All the same, Stephen’s conflating very different things: an unconstrained sandbox game is not the same as a game with a tightly-defined moral choice. It’s possible to write a piece with real choices for the player, where nonetheless a coherent worldview — even something approaching an argument — emerges from a) the options that the author chooses to make available and b) the results of those choices. More such works of IF exist than we generally think of. It’s just that some of them argue for a view of the world in which there are clear right answers, so the outcomes are schematized into winning and losing endings; this is what we expect from a game. Players most often question this arrangement if the author requires the player to do something morally repugnant to achieve a “winning” outcome. “1981″ comes to mind here. Likewise, propagandistic or evangelical IF (“Jarod’s Journey”, e.g.) quite explicitly requires the player to behave according to the author’s idea of “being good” in order to achieve a happy outcome. We could probably even read “One Week” as an interactive brochure about living a balanced life. Still, I think players tend to discount choices that lead to losing endings as not really being choices at all. There’s a big experiential difference between the game saying ‘You can’t do that!’ and ‘You do that, AND THEN ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE! *** You lose ***’. This fact rarely gets its due in critical analyses.

In any case, it’s not a coincidence that the IF most often identified as “IF about moral choices” is the pessimistic stuff — “Fate”, “The Baron”, “Floatpoint”, and to some extent “Slouching Towards Bedlam” all posit a negatively-rigged universe, or a universe in which negatively-rigged situations are possible.

A few games posit a positively-rigged universe, where choices exist but mostly lead to good outcomes. Kathleen Fischer’s “Masquerade” gives the player several routes to different positive endings, and there the endgame choice feels like a way to characterize the player character; the game as a whole supports the idea that women should be free to decide their own fates. Possibly not a very startling claim, but it’s still one that emerges more effectively from a game with an assortment of endings than from one with a single enforced route to success. This structure also fundamentally distinguishes “Masquerade” from print romance novels, though it otherwise belongs to a similar genre: romance novels have a contract with the player that the main characters will get together at the end, and they tend (as a result) to be conservative in many respects, even if the heroines are supposed to be spunky and liberated. A similar argument applies to several other games with multiple endings: often the ability to choose an outcome is a reward for the player and for the player character, where the story is about a struggle for freedom or self-determination. It is in this case not so important what the player chooses as that the player character can choose.

So player choice is not the same thing as player co-authorship. The author can parcel out choices to the player in a way that supports an agenda or an artistic vision, one way or another. Victor Gijsbers’ “The Baron” is exceptional, in that it gives the player moral choices and then also asks the player to determine what the outcome of these will be. I had very mixed feelings about the effects of that (and I won’t talk about it in more detail here, because to do so might spoil an interesting game; for those who have played it, there’s some discussion over at the intfiction forum). But “The Baron” is, to the best of my knowledge, unique in doing this. Picking what the player is going to be allowed to do is the essence of creating interactive art. If the player is to have no freedom at all, then there’s no reason not to produce a static work instead.

Stephen writes

The effort to maximise player freedom is misguided. Art is not about catering for your audience; it’s about taking sides, expressing an opinion, climbing the podium and shouting “Here I stand!” Art is not about holding a mirror up to nature, and IF is certainly not about holding a mirror up to the player.

The most open of my work is “Galatea”, and I suppose it does cater to some subset of players, in that there are different themes to focus on and different relationship goals to pursue. But there are also people who really hate the work — I mean, passionately hate it. I’ve received angry letters from men who saw in Galatea the embodiment of what they feel is wrong with women. Some have written tirades about how the game is worthless because it’s impossible to get involved with Galatea sexually and that’s the only goal they can imagine for interacting with her. (This claim is actually false — if you approach it just right, Galatea will eventually proposition you. But this is not an easy ending to get.) I’ve even gotten graphic descriptions of how they wanted to be able to rape her. These players also tend to conflate me somewhat with the character, which makes the letters extra-creepy. I understand where this comes from psychologically, but it makes me too uncomfortable to want to respond to these letters.

I think, on the whole, that these players are angry because they feel they’ve been offered freedom but have found their options constrained by a worldview unlike their own. The options in Galatea are all predicated on the idea that, if you want a positive interaction with another human being, you have to approach that person willing both to listen and to talk about yourself. Sometimes the simulation falls down. It’s not perfect. But that’s the idea. It didn’t even occur to me when I was writing it to account for sexual aggression, partly because (mercifully) I’ve no experience of rape and it’s not something that generally comes into my mind to write about, and partly because Galatea as I envision her is not physically vulnerable that way. On the contrary, she’s immensely strong relative to the player character, and if threatened could easily kill him. Indeed, though I often forget this fact myself, I originally meant the game to be ambiguous even about the gender of the player character. But pretty much everyone assumes it’s a man.

So choice in IF is not about catering to the player. It can be used to increase player involvement, by letting him customize the protagonist a little (though I am mostly bored by being allowed to pick my PC’s name and gender, unless that’s used to some significant effect later), or by letting him pursue different optional subthemes of the work. That might be seen as catering, I suppose, but it’s ultimately in service of the author’s ends. And anything that would qualify as a moral choice inherently articulates an authorial view of the world — one that accounts for the options the author considers viable, and the outcomes he has assigned to them. Sometimes that worldview can be so different from the player’s that it gives offense.

17 thoughts on “On Stephen Bond on Player Freedom

  1. Hmm… After reading the first few paragraphs I was not convinced, but after finishing the article I think you do make a good point. “Galatea” was the second IF I ever played, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. I think it illustrates your point well. I played through to at least a half dozen different endings, though the first one I got (after my recap stretched to over a page) is still my favorite. That game is a pinnacle of player customizability and highlights the power of meaningful user choices. (As a side note, I too get frustrated with PC’s for which one chooses name and gender, and then finds that these choices have little or no effect on the game. I find it much more interesting to take on the role of one of the author’s characters, even if he or she is unlike myself.)

    I do think it should be noted (and your post doesn’t necessarily conflict here) that while meaningful player choices can be useful devices, for me at least, they rarely effect the overall level of enjoyment (unless they are the primary focus of the game, such as in Galatea). I don’t know how familiar you are with console games, but a few years ago my roommate and I played a game called “Fate,” (on the XBox) that boasted it was the most highly-player-customizable game ever. Every action in the game affected your character, and thus the plot and even the way other characters reacted to you. Just for fun, we played the game through in an attempt to get as evil a character as possible. We succeeded to the point that villagers would run away screaming at the very sight of our character. This was entertaining to a degree, but Fate falls far from the top on my list of favorite games, despite making ample use of player choice. In an environment where you can save, reload, and create as many characters as you like, player choices tend to boil down to interesting sub-stories rather than adding to the overall experience.

    It’s usually pretty obvious when you have a choice to make in a game, and that makes it easy to save, try one path, reload, and then try the other. I generally walk away from moments like those thinking “Oh, that was neat,” but nothing more. Conversely, my favorite games, especially in the adventure genera, have been lacking if not devoid of choices. I usually don’t mind subscribing to an imposed system of right and wrong, because when I play IF, I try to play as the character rather than as myself. Perhaps that is why I nevertheless enjoyed Galatea… I felt more like I was playing as myself rather than a character from the game.

    That said (and I apologize for the long post), I think that “meaningless” character choices can be just as powerful if not more so than “meaningful” ones. One common feature of many games is to present the player with one final choice at the very end of the game: one that is obviously selfish and one that is obviously selfless, both leading to different endings. At this point in the game, the choice is more “meaningless” than most because it is past the climax of the story and obviously won’t affect anything past the immediate future. The player already has the feeling of satisfaction from finishing the game–has already won–and now has a very simple choice of endings. Despite the “meaninglessness” of such a choice, I really do enjoy this sort of thing. I’ll get to why in just a moment.

    Another example of “meaningless” choices would be from a PC game called Baldur’s Gate II. This was a fantasy RPG with a set plot and cast, but offered countless tiny, mostly-non-game-affecting freedoms along the way. For example (unlike most RPG’s) you were free to fight with anyone in the game–from store owners to enemies. So if someone insulted you in a bar, you could start a brawl that ultimately wouldn’t affect the plot, but was still very satisfying. Also, since you had this freedom, it made every time you didn’t start a brawl more meaningful… not because it changed the plot at all, but because you felt like the “bigger man or woman.”

    I think it’s the very fact that choices like those don’t have much effect on the game that makes them so powerful. The choice you make depends totally upon you (or rather the character you are trying to cultivate in the game). The game doesn’t care one way or the other, so there is no pressure to pick one over the other and no stress that you might be missing part of the story. If I am playing a rough-and-tumble barbarian, I might start fights with anyone who looks at me sideways just for the sheer chance to immerse myself in the character. If I’m playing a noble knight, I ignore the insults and walk away feeling dignified. In those cases it’s all about me and my character and not about the game, and that can really add to the player experience.

  2. That was an interesting comment, Stephen. There’s quite a lot to be said for the subjective meaning attributed by the player to his/her choices in lieu of any meaning provided by the game designer.

    I found Bond’s essay to be unusually vapid. Although it begins firmly enough as a response to ultra-freedom design hawks, it took a wrong turn towards the end. That’s a shame, since I began reading it sympathetically; I felt a strong and slightly disturbed reaction to Victor Gijsbers’s essay proposing what he calls co-authorship, and Bond, I suspect, is expressing my feeling when he defiantly states his “preference” for seeing IF as an art form. I would have stayed on that track, however, while he went off and… I’m not sure what happened after that part, really, even after rereading twice.

    I think the central intuition here is that it is important to preserve the distinction between authoring and reading an IF work. Although the only absolute defining feature of any interactive fiction, as with videogames at large, is its interactivity, we are all pretty well used to the idea of an auteur responsible for our films and books, and this force remains important in this new medium as well.

    Furthermore, I believe a conception of the player as a counterpoint to the author inasmuch as s/he performs the author’s work is important for understanding interactive media. The author designs the parameters and content for the reader’s interactions, and in doing so creates art that does not differ fundamentally from the way in which a painter creates art in preparation for the viewer’s interactions. Emily, I couldn’t agree more when you explain the nature of design as artistic statement in a title like Floatpoint.

    When you have as much freedom as Gijsbers’s co-authorship suggests, you no longer have a work of interactive fiction, but rather a textual version of Little Big Planet or Second Life, in which all of the content is user-created. It would be like a MUD that is archived as an alternate build whenever a user adds to it. After all, interactive fiction is first and foremost literature. While there may be interesting ways to alter the normal author -> reader communication process, having the reader take the role of author in this direct manner does not seem to be one of them.

    This may be too tangential, but as a further point: I have written elsewhere on the experience of realizing the godlike hand of the designer while playing a videogame, which is especially interesting when the nature of the title separates the player from the player character or otherwise subverts the player’s relationship to the media. It is hard to explain how this is a meaningful or useful form of metacontent in general. In truth, this is probably an entirely different subject that I should not have brought up here; nonetheless, without a designed work to interact with, the player cannot have any experience of this kind.

    In general, I get the impression from what I’ve just read that the constraints placed upon freedom has not received much attention as a universally central design point. This seems odd to me since I’ve been reading and participating in videogame theory on that subject for years.

    Emily, one thought occurs to me regarding an apparant lack of appreciation for situations in which multiple endings or outcomes are possible in IF, especially when these cannot be obviously labeled good and bad: while those different results, as well as the choice itself, may be very important to the player character, they may not matter at all to the player, whose clearest goal is to “win” the game. This is part of a deeply entrenched problem inherent to all interactive media. It is often discussed as being a part of GNS theory, but, to my mind at least, it remains unclear whether the contradiction between gamist and narrativist goals is a very dark design problem or essential to the nature of interactive storytelling.

  3. My article isn’t essentially about moral choice in IF — it’s about the drive towards greater player freedom in general, and various implications
    of this (some of which may indeed follow the line of rhetoric into vapid territory). The freedom to decide on the game’s morality is just a special case.

    I didn’t mean to imply that the player of Floatpoint can entirely decide on the game’s morality. Floatpoint is unquestionably the work of an author, and there is a singular moral worldview underlying all the possible outcomes. But I still think too much was left in the hands of the player. Before taking my big choice, I was already aware that there was no “right” or “wrong” solution; whatever I did was clearly going to hurt some people. I don’t learn anything by taking one particular choice. The game seemed to be saying “given this situation, where every choice is bound to do some evil, choose the outcome you’re most
    satisfied with.” The game didn’t seem to have a preference, which implied that I was supposed to have a preference. And the various codas all seemed to reassure me of my decision, whatever it was, while reminding me of the obvious downsides.
    So in this way Floatpoint, while clearly the work of you, also tries to hold a mirror up to me.

    (This is how it seems to me. Perhaps there are some players who find the basic morality underlying Floatpoint so alien to them that they couldn’t
    bring themselves to choose any of the available options, or imagine that any of them could reflect their own morals. But that doesn’t affect my point. There is obviously no game with absolute player freedom.)

    People could argue that this also happens in regular fiction. The reader is free to judge the morals of different characters and different situations, and his or her judgments might well be different from the author’s. Maybe my reaction to
    a particular story says a lot about my morality. But there’s a big difference between this and allowing the reader’s morals to affect the course of the story in the way the reader wants. There’s a difference between challenging the reader’s morals and confirming the reader’s morals.

    I wouldn’t absolutely rule out this this kind of moral choice as an interesting artistic device, but I do think it has never been done convincingly (I found Slouching, Fate and The Baron much weaker than Floatpoint), and I suspect there are some properties of the medium that work against it. I only mention it in the article as a kind of perceived step towards the ideal of absolute player freedom. I’ve seen some comments taking the “moral choice” idea further, into advocating
    hypothetical games that adapt themselves to the player’s morality. For example, a comment posted to this blog a while ago:

    “The game could offer multiple puzzle solutions or dialogue choices, some of them resonating with a particular theme, while others tend to counterpoint or undermine it. If the player’s choices point towards, say, an angelic interpretation of the homeless man, then the ending or perhaps a few incidental details could change to support that.”

    I’m not arguing for no player freedom either — just against the kind of “freedom” that lets the player barge in on the author’s territory. This
    still leaves the freedom to discover a author’s world, the freedom to explore it at will, the freedom to have a better artistic experience through interaction. In fact, I think the word “interaction” is the key. Instead of trying to maximise player freedom, authors and theorists would do better thinking about maximising the effect of player interaction.

  4. Stephen Bond wrote:

    “My article isn’t essentially about moral choice in IF — it’s about the drive towards greater player freedom in general, and various implications
    of this (some of which may indeed follow the line of rhetoric into vapid territory). The freedom to decide on the game’s morality is just a special case.”

    Yes, I realize, but I don’t think it deserves to be lumped in with the others; and as you say at the end, “I’m not arguing for no player freedom either — just against the kind of “freedom” that lets the player barge in on the author’s territory.” Well, fine: but doesn’t this reduce your argument to the admittedly less entertaining thesis “here are some types of player freedom which I think run counter to the production of art”? So I disagree which freedoms belong on this list.

    However, re: “I don’t learn anything by taking one particular choice.”

    That’s fair, and perhaps it goes some way to explaining the game’s deficiencies.

    In “Slouching”, I felt I did learn something at the moment when I started taking steps to prevent the ultimate disaster. At the time, I thought: “From the outside, my actions would like look psychotic; how can I tell they’re not?” This is hardly new territory intellectually — the problem of subjective experience vs. reality has been around for a long time — but there was still some emotional discovery in acting it out this way. I can also easily imagine that other people did not respond to it in the same way that I did.

    “In fact, I think the word “interaction” is the key. Instead of trying to maximise player freedom, authors and theorists would do better thinking about maximising the effect of player interaction.”

    I may agree with you here, but I’m not sure, because it’s a bit nebulous.

  5. Stephen, this sounds to me as though the issue is not whether the player is offered a moral choice, but rather whether the game is actually communicating a moral standard in the context surrounding that choice (including the consequences). Does that sound accurate?

    If it’s not clear what I mean, maybe take a look at something I wrote last year which elaborates on what I’m thinking of using the game Black and White as the example.
    http://faithgames.wordpress.com/2006/02/09/morality-as-fashion/
    (Yes, that was in fact a shameless plug.)

    It’s funny, I only played through Floatpoint once, and I thought that my choice was in fact the “right” one. But I suppose I was bringing my own ideology along with me.

  6. What Stephen meant to say in his article, I think, was that artists want to be loved, and they try to achieve that by exposing themselves (pun intended). It’s like making friends. Some people make friends by being like the one in front wants them to be. They adapt to each person they meet. But artists are not like that. They don’t want to lie, they want to be themselves and be loved and understood as such. That’s why when they write a song, they write it the way they feel like it; and when they write a novel, they do it the way they need to. But some people tend to think that IF is different. That the feelings, ideas, humour, style of the author don’t matter because the medium is interactive. They don’t see that all art is interactive. That’s why when you see a painting, you like it or not, just like when you meet soomeone, you like her or not. In both cases there’s been an interaction between individuals (even if one of them has been dead for centuries). I agree with Stephen completely. You are the author, you are the one who’s trying to show, to open yourself to others. Player freedom, the way we both understand it, is like lying. To the player and to yourself.

    What does “exposing yourself” mean in this context? It just means to share your knowledge, or your intuitions or your experience about the world with others in an aesthetic and entertaining way. The best IF has always been like that. Take Ad Verbum. That’s Nick Montfort’s way of telling us: I love language, its beauty and its richness. And I’d love it if you would appreciate it, too. Take Photopia. That’s Adam Cadre’s way of telling us: You’re not loved because you’re lovely; you’re lovely because you’re loved. Take The Cabal. That’s Stephen Bond’s secret message to all of us free men in the world warning us against the dangers of the… Err. No, just kidding.

  7. “Well, fine: but doesn’t this reduce your argument to the admittedly less entertaining thesis ‘here are some types of player freedom which I think run counter to the production of art’?”

    Not really. It’s not my intention to list different player freedoms and say “this
    freedom good, that freedom bad”. My argument is only that the desire for absolute player freedom runs counter to the production of art. It’s not unreasonable to see the drive towards greater “moral freedom” as an imagined step towards that goal: Victor Gijsbers, writer of two of the most prominent “moral freedom” games, has specifically cited it as an example of the kind of freedom players will have in his idealised co-authored universe. I don’t think moral freedom necessarily runs counter to the production of art; as you say, a lot of existing games invite the player to make moral decisions, and the player is always free to pick, and prefer, the “wrong” one. But I do think that some games have pushed this freedom far enough to diminish the artistic results.

    “I may agree with you here, but I’m not sure, because it’s a bit nebulous.”

    ‘Maximising the effect of player interaction’ is a deliberately nebulous way of describing something I don’t think is easy, or particularly desirable, to
    pin down and classify. It’s certainly something most of my favourite games do,
    often in quite different ways, about which I’ve written in various places.

  8. The various effects of player interaction may, in the end, be that which most essentially matters in an interactive medium, and cataloguing these may be analogous to classing different types of painting in different movements.

  9. “‘Maximising the effect of player interaction’ is a deliberately nebulous way of describing something I don’t think is easy, or particularly desirable, to
    pin down and classify. It’s certainly something most of my favourite games do,
    often in quite different ways, about which I’ve written in various places.”

    I think I agree; though I tend to think of it as maximizing the degree to which the interaction reflects the purpose of the work. But my sense is that we’re talking about the same thing.

  10. you could spend an eternity building the world-model to offer the player as much freedom as possible, and wind up with something utterly flaccid and dull when you were done, where no action is meaningful because all actions are possible.

    More or less what I was going for with A New Life. I was definitely trying to say, “Here’s some stuff, take what you like from it,” rather than, “Here’s my story. Behold the work of art!” And the unfocused nature of it mostly led to people not figuring out what they were supposed to do.

    Incidentally, there’s an “evil” plot path in ANL, which I didn’t advertise, mostly because I hadn’t had a chance to test it thoroughly, and I assumed most players wouldn’t try to go there. It’s not an alternate branch like most of the examples given here, but mostly orthogonal to the “good” path, although there are points where either can be cut off in favor of the other.

  11. I admit I was thinking a little of my experiences with “A New Life” — I respected the effort that had gone into it, and there was a lot of cool stuff there, but I kept not feeling as though I had a strong investment in the story, so when I got stuck, I stopped playing. I’m not sure that that is a universal reaction, though.

  12. This may be a trite point, but I find that IF is not so great at making moral points by offering choices to the player. I have two reasons.

    1) There’s a genre convention of trying every possible option. Moral choices are less meaningful when you know full well that you’re going to go back and try immorality the moment you finish with morality.

    2) Because players of games have been railroaded into playing anti-heroes so many times (in IF and other genres), when they see an obvious immoral course of action, they may assume that its the only one implemented and proceed with it. The less obvious moral choice will be ignored.

    The second can be ameliorated by a skilled player. The first is kind of intrinsic to the genre.

  13. “2) Because players of games have been railroaded into playing anti-heroes so many times (in IF and other genres), when they see an obvious immoral course of action, they may assume that its the only one implemented and proceed with it. The less obvious moral choice will be ignored.”

    I think this depends very heavily on how the game is framed: it’s often possible to make it clear to the player whether there is another option or not, even if he hasn’t figured out how to act on it.

    Also, I’m less thinking of asking the player to choose between Good and Evil, but between courses of action where there might be some ambiguity.

    (1) is partly addressable if you make the range of options large enough that trying all of them is impossible. I certainly did not play every ending in “Fate”.

  14. I’m too late to really chime into the discussion, I’m afraid, but that won’t stop me from making a short comment.

    I am afraid that the bombastic “abandon the player/author dichotomy” message in my essay has deafened some readers to the more subtle melodies that are present as well. It especially seems as if the sections about the community were not read as well, or not taken as seriously, as the earlier sections. How else could Stephen accuse me of a ‘lonely’ artistic vision? (And is not his own romantic conception of art the conception of art as made by the ultimate loner?) I was not talking about holding up a mirror to the player, but about letting the player’s artistic contributions enter the realm of criticism; I explicitly think of IF as dialogical.

    Interactive fiction has *already* abandoned the dichotomy between the author and the reader. This has not jeopardised its potential for art, as far as I can see. Why would abandoning the dichotomy further lead to the impossibility of art?

  15. Interactive fiction has *already* abandoned the dichotomy between the author and the reader.

    I’m not sure I agree with this: IF has changed the nature of that dichotomy, but there continues to be one, and it is important to the meaning of the work.

    I was not talking about holding up a mirror to the player, but about letting the player’s artistic contributions enter the realm of criticism; I explicitly think of IF as dialogical.

    Hmm, interesting. What did you think (assuming you ran into it) of the recent essay “Greatly Exaggerated” ( http://docs.google.com/View?docid=dfvkg5hn_0chf632 ) ?

    For myself, I am not sure what I think about the idea of criticism becoming part of the work; though I was really very interested in the annotated IF project a few years ago. I don’t think this is working any more, but at one time someone had set up an online z-machine with games that one could play and add comments to; subsequent players would then see not only the game text but also the marginalia added by the author or by other players. This is not quite the same as changing the substance of the game itself, obviously, but it added another dialogical layer, especially if an author chose to comment or respond to posted player questions.

    Unfortunately, that project didn’t get huge/persistent use, so the amount of marginal content to read was small. I somewhat suspect that given the size of the community, other kinds of communally annotated games might suffer the same fate; which raises the question of what critical mass is required for this kind of idea to work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s