Response to Two Selections by Brenda Laurel
Right after I read the article, I thought about Chris Crawford’s The Art of Interactive Design, our first Physical Computing reading assignment. We discussed about ‘What is interaction’ based on the first 2 chapters of that book. (I didn’t know who Chris Crawford was at that time but after reading this article, I Googled him, and it turned out that he is one of the notable pioneers in the early days of Atari, and is known for his approach to interaction in games. What a coincidence!)
The reason why this article reminds me of Crawford’s book is because Star Raiders is a really good example of interactive digital technology. Crawford’s definition of interactivity is a key point: “A cyclic process between two or more active agents in which each agent alternately listens, thinks, and speaks.” This definition is actually somewhat subtle, but it can be applied to Star Raiders if replace the word, “see” instead of “listen” and “act or execute” instead of “speak”. The key is not the extent of any one of these three phases, but rather how integrated they are. In terms of successfully integrating these phases in human-computer interaction, Star Raiders is fascinating because it is a new form of storytelling. Although it has a traditional dramatic structure and with maneuvering skill and planning and execution of strategies, there is no single way to reach the end. I couldn’t believe that the game which has so many options of letting users make their own outcome was made almost 35 years ago.
Before ITP, I had not thought about the meaning of interaction deeply, because it is really common word these days and somewhat overused. Moreover, from doing our Physical computing assignments, it has been really hard for me to define what interaction is. However, what I have been thinking so far is that, in terms of making human-computer interaction, it is a good way to provide very specific options in every direction to lead users think that they choose in a way that they would like to pursue. It would make users feel like they actually interact with it and think that they are “co-creators of an interactive work”. In that sense, what “Interlude” is doing has something in common with Star Raiders.
I can imagine how much Neubauer contemplated when he developed this game including those visual modes, the galactic chart, docking for refueling, sound effects, etc. I think he is the person “who understands human beings, human interaction, communication, pleasure, and pain.” How is it awesome that elevate the ability of understanding human affairs into letting people make their own story?