Wednesday, 5 April 2006

What makes a virtual world engaging?

Brian Eno was on the Culture Show tonight (is `culture television' an oxymoron?). He said that he thought that a new art form would emerge utilising DVDs, a true integration of music and image (rather than image-with-music as in a music video, or music-with-image, as in film music).

That might be right, but I beg to differ. I think the real challenge is exploiting interactivity in an engaging way. Mostly, let's face it, interactive DVDs have created virtual worlds that are less than compulsive. I like games as much as the next chap, but amusing though shooting aliens is, or driving around, or whatever, the Games Industry feels very much in its infancy. A lot of people might play massively multiplayer games, but much of their appeal relies on fantasy, not suspension of disbelief.

The Fine Art community has been more engaged in the problem of creating genuinely convincing worlds, especially folks like Blast Theory. They have, I think, succeeded in creating compulsive alternative realities such as Desert Rain, but only at the cost of specially built sets - integration of the game/ installation/ whatever into the world, in other words.

Another thread here is the alternative reality games (see ARGN if you haven't come across this before), where the game intervenes, sometimes quite delicately, in ordinary life. Such games tend to be episodic, allowing the game world more chances to leak into the real one.

Whether these related ideas will come together to create a new kind of game/art work/theatre is unclear, but I hope they do. The prospect of a much richer interactivity than we have at the moment would genuinely qualify as a new art form (or, given the context I suppose I should say Art Form).


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