ANNOTATED ARTICLES

The following articles were annotated by students from the Spring 2010 course of Writing for Interactive Media offered at Emerson College.


Greg Costikyan
I Have No Words & I Must Design

Russell Goldenberg
Jeremy Latour
3.17.10

Greg Costikyan’s “I Have No Words & I Must Design” begins with the author’s call to start a new critical vocabulary for games, rallying against the term “good gameplay,” a term he finds nebulous and useless. Costikyan regards “games” as plastic and adaptable to “every technology, from the neolithic to the high tech.” He calls for a greater understanding of “games” and therefore “gameplay.”

“Interaction” is an important aspect for Costikyan. For Costikyan, games require purposeful interaction. For him, this separates games from puzzles. “A puzzle is static. A game is interactive.” He also makes the distinction that the interactivity must be meaningful. A light switch, for example, is interactive. But it is not a game. The degree of meaningfulness is defined by the goals of the player, but implicit to the game and explicit. Some games have an ending that the player must reach, some, like SimCity have no defined ending, making goals user-defined. But goal alone is not enough.

Games must have some form of struggle. This struggle may be between players (competition) or with the mechanics of the game itself. He criticizes some games that have the appearance of struggle, but are working toward a predetermined ending, removing any meaningful struggle for the player. “A game without struggle is a game that’s dead.”

He goes on to discuss structure, and its importance. Even children playing make believe, Costikyan stresses, apply their own rules to the fantasy. Structure can be loose, or rigid. It just matters that there is some semblance of structure. He examines how structure can influence gameplay by bringing up the difference between EverQuest and UltimaOnline. In the first, players cannot kill each other. In the second, it’s almost understood that it will be part of the gameplay. This creates very different communities of players, coloring the experience of each game.

“Endogenous meaning” refers to the meaning created by the game’s own structure. For example, Monopoly money only has value when playing Monopoly. An EverQuest weapon can have real-world meaning, in the sense that it can be sold on eBay. However, were the EverQuest servers to shut down, the weapon would be rendered valueless. He uses the example of the stock market. Though it could be seen as a game, having properties normally associated with games, the stock market itself gives no endogenous meaning to the stocks being traded. Therefore, it is not a game.

He speaks briefly about the idea of interactive entertainment, simply stating that “interactive entertainment means games.”

He then covers Marc LeBlanc’s taxonomy of game pleasure. The taxonomy includes sensation, fantasy, narrative, challenge, fellowship, discovery, expression, and masochism. Costikyan agrees with most, applying these different concepts to bolster his own argument.

He ends with a brief note on the creation of games. To Costikyan, game design is among the most difficult disciplines, requiring a great deal of artistry on the part of the game designer. Games never achieve perfection. To Costikyan, “game design is ultimately a process of iterative refinement, continuous adjustment during testing, until, budget and schedule and management willing, we have a polished product that does indeed work beautifully, wonderfully, superbly.”

Jordan Salvatoriello, 3.17.10
Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace
Janet H. Murray
Chapter 4: IMMERSION

Immersion thru Participation: Not just drowning, but learning to swim
For my annotated article, I read Chapter 4 of Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. The chapter was entitled “Immersion” and began with a quote from Don Quixote to exemplify how the power of books can create a world “more real than reality,” reminding me of how, for some, their virtual identity is more real to them than real life.

But unlike books, according to Murray, “digital media takes us to a place where we can act out our fantasies,” (pg 98) and it is this participation in the media and the narrative that further immerses us in this other reality. So for Murray, when our whole perceptual apparatus is submerged (as in water) or “immersed,” it becomes not just about drowning certain other things out, but about “learning to swim.”

Murray describes narrative as a “threshold experience,” and we sustain our immersive trance by keeping the narrative gently balanced on this threshold between what is real and what is not there.

Examples of ways to do this include prohibiting participation, and creating a world that we wholly invent, but in this case we need to be wary of creating a world too real that we need constant reminders that it is only virtual (risking breaking the immersive trance). In addition, you could show the borders by removing the 4th wall, and regulating arousal so as not to make the user uncomfortable.

And the more we are immersed in this other world, the more we want to engage and participate in them, to deepen the immersion. To feel like we are really there, we want to do more “than merely travel through” (pg 110), “endowing imaginary objects with life.”

Murray talks about the immersive power of the spectacle and donning a mask (a threshold maker) as a participatory act. In the digital world, Murray states, this can be an avatar that you can design however you please.

I greatly enjoyed reading Murray’s chapter on Immersion and found it very helpful in understanding the power of an immersive narrative and environment, the types that are out there in cyberspace, and how to best to create and sustain the immersive trance. Murray has a wonderfully simple and straight forward writing style, that is also engaging, and in itself, immersive. I enjoyed the way she broke down the arguments, from the printing press to movies to cyberspace (LARP and MUDs), from entrance to borders, to virtual identities and sustaining and deepening belief. I couldn’t help, but be reminded of our Interactive Fiction work as I read, as the power of the participation, and immersion through the use of objects that become more real through use.

In conclusion, I particularly like this quote from Murray: “When we enter a fictional world, we do not merely ‘suspend’ a critical faculty; we also exercise a creative faculty. We do not suspend disbelief so much as we actively create belief” (pg 110).

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Padriac Farma, 3.17.10

Murray, Janet H. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. New York: The Free Press, 1997. Print.

In Chapter 5 of Murray’s book, she discusses the topic of agency. Overall, she describes agency as, “the satisfying power to take meaningful action and see the results of our decisions and choices.” (126) Murray then goes into story telling and its historic pop-culture, connecting the idea of agency to gaming culture through reference to oral and literary traditions.

Murray discusses limited forms of agency with the example of Peter Pan. If an audience chooses not to clap to bring Tinkerbell to life, the performance would simply end. A more advanced example of agency in this case would be the role of the audience in participatory dinner theatres focusing on weddings and funerals. Even still, however, Murray states that, “When audience members are included in the story, they serve only as the butt of the joke.” (127) Even when the audience gets to interact with the characters, they have no real effect on the outcome of the piece; they merely play within a set of social rules, similar to improvisational jazz or folk dancing.

She continues to explain that activity or interactivity does not equal agency. In tabletop games, Murray states that actions have effect, but are not related to the players’ intentions. Rather, these decisions are based on a set given rules. Agency can be found in games like chess, however, due to higher autonomy from a larger range of possibilities.

Here, Murray begins to get into gaming by describing navigational gaming. The idea of agency is intensified by going beyond participation and activity, focusing more on aesthetic pleasure: “an experience to be savored for its own sake.” (128) Murray uses the World Wide Web and Zork as examples of navigational gaming due to the fact that “spatial navigation through virtual landscapes can be pleasurable in itself.” (129)

Games are then broken up into several categories: maze, rhizome, journey, contest, and constructivist. King Daedalus of Crete and the Minotaur is used to describe the concept of maze gaming, where the character must find his or her way through an open world. Zork is also used as an example of the maze game, creating a more immersive visit. Similarly, the rhizome creates an antithesis to platform gaming. The hypertext narrative is used to explain this category in which, “any point may be connected to any point.” (132)

When we enter into the journey story, we are reminded of oral traditions like The Odyssey, literary works like Huckleberry Finn, and electrate examples like Myst or The Seventh Guest. Here, we follow a group or individual through a series of feats or puzzles, which involve outsmarting non-player characters or correctly using inventory items. The contest story uses the journey story, but focuses on power struggles and dramatic conflicts. The “shoot-‘em-up” video game is used to describe the contest game, where there is a shallow storyline, but the win/lose situation is emphasized as in games like Pacman, Pong, and Mortal Kombat.

Murray finally describes the idea of constructivism, where the player is allowed to create within the game world through reassembling materials, combining inventory, adjusting appearance, or actually building objects/areas through options or programming. MUDs are highlighted in this gaming mode. In virtual environments, players can create their own regions, develop a series of events, or use expressive gestures.

Murray spends more time explaining different styles of gaming, and often spends whole pages describing the storylines of her examples. She finally formulates a definition of gaming agency in the final pages of the chapter. She distinguishes the difference between procedural authorship (writing the rules and texts) from interactive involvement (playing the game). She finally summarizes gaming agency as, “the thrill of exerting power over enticing and plastic materials.” (153)

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Tim Carson
3/18/10
Janet Murray - Hamlet on the Holodeck – Ch. 5 – Agency
This chapter explores the application of interactor ‘agency’ and its direct correlation with enjoyable engagement of a piece / text / event (specifically narrative). Agency is defined as the extent to which the interactor feels like they are visibly affecting the environment of the piece.
This article reaches out to several types of media to illustrate the different ways of creating agency, but focuses thematically on creating an immersive electronic narrative. Agency is easily created in simple computer games, but once narrative enters the equation, special considerations must be made to effectively barter between the fatalistic nature of narrative and the conditions necessary to create authentic user interactivity (agency). Murray effectively identifies the interactive archetypes that a user is likely to encounter.

There are several categotically separate examples that seem to need a point of convergence if we are to create an ideal interactive electronic narrative environment. The first is a Myst type game, with lush puzzle environments that call on problem solving. The second is a more free-flowing exploration type game with twitch mechanics like Doom. The last is the constructivist MUD, prized for its ‘interactor - authorship’ and reliance of the user’s social behavior.

The impression that I get is that if one was to forge these archetypes into a single game environment, it would be an immense project, primarily because of all the alternative plot stems that would need to be created, and perhaps never reached. It is hard to determine exactly WHAT a user will try to do, but it seems most games that are prized for their agency have managed to predict and account for popular choices within their given environments. Perhaps the most useful aspect of this chapter is that Murray has deliberately separated and thereby acknowledged these different types of interactive modes. Distinguishing these different types of encounters is useful in as far as we are challenged to theoretically cross-breed them for their strengths.

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Nathaniel Hansen
Annotated Article
Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace
Janet H. Murray
Chapter 4: IMMERSION

DISCLAIMER: This is a terrific chapter, and I’ll be searching out the rest of the book as it clearly will be worth the effort. The writing style is extremely accessible despite covering a wide range of theoretically advanced subjects pulling from literature, anthropology, sociology, theatre studies, new media theory, etc.

Chapter 4 of Janet Murray’s book Hamlet on the Holodeck is a rumination on audience and reader immersive behaviors within various media. What she successfully demonstrates in the chapter is how we have, for all of recorded history, desired to live out a wide variety of fantasies. Folktales, myths, stories, literature, theater, cinema, online virtual environments are all various attempts at the same objective: total immersion in a fictitious environment.

Murray brings in a variety of terms to the article, which help to underscore her point that immersion is universal, and multiple academic fields have sought to understand the phenomenon in their own terms. Liminal space; participatory narrative; the 4th wall; illusory space; spectacle. Each of these terms has a long history in academic disciplines that might not be looking at interactive environments such as MUDs (Multi User Domain) or LARPs (Live Action Role Playing) games, but the terms are perfectly appropriate and in many cases really help to provide a vocabulary for understanding and discussing interactivity and immersion in digital art.

Murray follows the movement of the participant (reader/audience/viewer) through various media (story telling, book reading, theatre going, virtual gaming), and concludes with the notion that we are all actors learning our parts in an increasingly virtual world. I’m surprised she didn’t invoke Jacques’ monologue in As You Like It:

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages …

She concludes:

We are all gradually becoming part of a worldwide repertory company, available to assume roles in ever more complex participatory stories. Little by little we are discovering the conventions of participation that will constitute the fourth wall of this virtual theater, the expressive gestures that will deepen and preserve the enchantment of immersion.

Jesse Harris
Replay: Game Design & Game Culture
Module 3: Games as Narrative

Oh boy.

The section of replay that Matt and I had was kind of interesting and very tough to read; if you didn’t look at it (and if you aren’t Matthew or myself, why would you), it’s a series of emails from various creators and theorists from within the gaming/new media community, or as I have deemed them, Nerd Emails.

The Nerd Emails seem to go out to a large number of these commentators, and they add feedback as they feel necessary, stemming from the topic of interactivity in gaming and narrative storytelling. The nerds have varying views on what the limitations and need of interactivity in storytelling; essentially, to gaming.

Throughout, multiple writers (Laurel, Jenkins) note that there is a need for limited interactivity in storytelling, with the point being that a good storytelling is more important than a good story. Jenkins notes that a Hitchcock film would not be in better hands if the viewer were able to manipulate the story; you’d likely get a lesser story. And as many of the writers note, the main people read literature and play video games is for entertainment; if it is less entertaining, then the story has been lessened as an art form. So total interactivity would be bad.

Poole notes that the whole point of narrative is to involve/engage the audience, not simply spell out the meaning of the story. He brings this up after Crawford and Castikyan get in a pillow fight over “abstraction” versus “details.”

It goes on and on and the nerds begin to discuss the best way to be interactive and provide a proper narrative, and they seem to settle on MUDs and MMOs as the best way to do find the proper, most entertaining, balance. However, during this time it just devolves into everyone plugging his or her own individual product.

It ends with Nerd Kings, Manovich and Crawford, discussing the effectiveness of storytelling in gaming, and whether you can have a game without a story. The decision: no, you cannot.



Matthew Hashiguchi
Games as Narrative
 


For my annotated article, I read Games As Narrative: Module 3. The article is a collection of essays and responses addressing the nature of interactive fiction and storytelling. What constitutes as interactive fiction and how is it different from the basic structure of narrative that we have known for centuries? There are a plethora of opposing and parallel views amongst the numerous authors, but I will highlight the few that stood out to me.

Brenda Laurel immediately brought attention to the fact that “all narrative is interactive in the sense that there is active construction going on by the reader” (pg160). This very true, when reading a book we, as viewers are inserting meanings and constructing our own frame of reference. Though we cannot change the order of events, each individual reader draws a different conclusion from their own independent interaction and personal relevance.

Personal relevance, Laurel states, involves “projective construction,” which projects aspects of the readers life and identity onto the text (pg 161). To paraphrase, the reader is interacting by inserting their own personal feelings and situations onto the characters or circumstances of the story.

In a response, Chris Crawford argues with Brenda, stating that projective construction is a reaction, not an interaction (pg 164). His argument is based around the notion that the software (book) speaks with the user, the user reacts in reponse to the book, but the book does not respond. It is a one-way conversation where all the talking is being done by the software and all the listening being done by the reader.

Brenda goes on to address the educational contribution of interactive media. “Computer games,” she says, “have grown up in the category of ‘recreation.’ Yet other forms of narrative-epic, dramatic, novel, film and maybe even television programs can engage culture at deeper levels. Can interactive media have the same cultural depth” (pg 182)?

Chris Crawford reassures Brenda’s question by stating that interactive media has so much more potential than we are currently tapping (pg183). It’s the term “games” that lessens interactive fictions possible contributions towards education and cuture. He likens it to comics, which have the ability to contain strong social and cultural messages, but are wrapped up in the comic tradition, which lessens its impact as a societal comment (pg 183).

Adriene Jenik agrees with Crawford in the sense that there is potential, only we are still trying to figure it out. She goes onto suggest that the problem is not in production, but in distribution, stating, “Networks need to be developed that can support other models of gaming” (pg 184).

The article is concluded by a question from McKenzie Wark; can there be games without stories? Chris Crawford answers this question with two letters; no.

Brenda Laurel believes that story is constructed in most interactive games whether they have or don’t have narrative content or structure (pg 185). The narrative is constructed from the player’s experience, ie; “I’m getting better at this” (pg 185).
Bernie Yee believes that it is critical for the success of a games success to include a story that contains “emotional resonance” (pg 187). Finally, McKenzie Wark believes that every game includes at least a minimal amount of narrative that supplies this “emotional resonance.” Most games contain “getting things or losing things; fighting something or losing the fight with someone” (pg 187).

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Evan Leek
Megan Trinrud
Marie-Laure Ryan "Immersion and Interactivity: Virtual Reality and Literary Theory"

The primary concern within Marie-Laure Ryan’s article, “Immersion vs. Interactivity: Virtual Reality and Literary Theory,” are the ways we can examine mediums and texts, outside that which is typically considered appropriate, as models of virtual reality. To begin with, Ryan points out that virtual reality is frequently defined as an “immersive and interactive experience generated by a computer” (111). She tests these limitations, stating that “reality” is basically when one feels immersed and surrounded by an atmosphere that can be modified or interacted with, and within which a person can experience telepresence, or the feeling of being present in any given environment. She discusses this further in the paper as “a function of the vividness of the representation -- which leads to immersion -- and of interactive involvement with the electronic display” (111).

Immersion and Interactivity are central in understanding Ryan’s greater argument regarding Virtual Reality. Reading a novel and becoming immersed in a text is a Virtual Reality experience, according to Ryan. This is achieved through a combination of immersion, interactivity and simulation. Through immersion, Ryan argues, one can become as intensely connected to the story of a fiction novel or short story as to a computer game. Many authors throughout history have attempted to bring the reader into the world of the story and captivate them on personal levels through prose and dialogue. Ryan gives the example of a person reading a book in which something frightening happens, and they physically react out of fear. This fear, which exists within the VR of the text and is totally illusion, has successfully immersed the reader, eliciting an emotional, and even physical reaction. There comes a point where the reader can become inundated with too much information. "The reader's sense of immersion and empathy is a function of the depth of information ... depth of information may reach the point of saturation and create an alienating effect"(118). That point of saturation creates a countering feeling of distance between text and reader.

This is further illustrated when considering the importance of the “virtual reality effect,” often experienced in computer-based VR, where the computer screen and the mechanics of the system disappear, leaving only the consciousness of the player to experience the world. This is also possible in literature when language (or the mnemonic codes of words and sentences) disappear as a construction and gives way to only the experience. This is where the distinction is made between “real” worlds and “non-actual possible” worlds, or, a world in which one is immersed and able to act and comprehend, versus a world looked into or at from the outside and affirmed by the reader’s suspension of disbelief, respectively. Ryan states that “This indexical definition explains why fictional characters regard themselves as real human beings, and not as the products of a writer’s imagination” (115). Whichever approach one takes, it is the purpose and intent of much literature to provide that VR, immersive experience - one in which the reader can see, smell, hear and experience the events and images conjured by the words of a text. Ryan quotes Fischlin and Taylor, who sum this up by saying “...a book is ‘cinema in your head’” (119). Literature, like computer-based VR allow the user to “transcend the boundaries of human perception” (119).

Ryan does not ignore the criticisms attached to full immersion, stating that true VR must create an atmosphere which responds to the user/reader’s actions. Arguably, the text is unchanged and unaffected by the presence of the reader. It is also important to consider that, as Ryan states, “One of the factors mentioned above is the projection of a three-dimensional environment. The literary equivalent of three-dimensionality is a narrative universe possessing some hidden depth, and populated by characters perceived as round rather than flat” (118). This is limited, again, by the fact that the reader is privileged only to the sights, sounds and experiences laid out by the narrator. Ryan uses Don Quixote as an example of a victim of immersion, saying that, “As Cervantes writes: ‘In short, he so immersed himself in those romances that he spent whole days and nights over his books; and thus with little sleeping and much reading, his brains dried up to such a degree that he lost the use of his reason’” (120). Many critics of VR immersion see it as a "passive subjection of the authority of the world-designer"(120). Continuing, Ryan states, tourists who wish to lose themselves within an immersive world, willingly subject themselves to the whims of the world-creator. It forces the reader to lose critical capabilities and, in so doing, disarms them of important intellectual recognition.

Ryan then moves to a discussion of interactivity and its essential place within VR. Interactivity is, in fact, the basic element that makes virtual reality special - it is the added ability of being able to interact with and actively affect the atmosphere with which you are dealing. She further defines this through the example of interactive theater. Members of the audience are encouraged to be a part of the play, either by physically moving up to the stage and working with the actors or supplying suggestions and information that changes the course of the story before them. She qualifies this by stating that, even in a situation such as this, a set of rules must be put in place to manage this interaction. This avoids potential chaos, allowing the VR experience to be more pleasant and complete. The "degree of interactivity" of a Virtual World is dependent upon any number of factors, the main being speed, range, and mapping. The boundaries of immersion and interactivity are dictated by the world-creator. Active participants in a Virtual Reality experience operate within the prescribed framework. "Success of failure depends on the user's understanding of the laws of the Virtual World" (120). The user is given the impression that they are having an effect on the world before them. In reality they are merely selecting from a myriad of predetermined pathways through the experience.

Finally, Ryan details the ways in which Figural Interactivity and Weak Interactivity are correlated. Figural interactivity details the ways in which the text and reader collaborate to derive meaning from any given narrative. It is complicated, though, by the fact that we as readers of fiction take for granted the collaboration at work, and forget to consider the interactive elements at work in fiction, helping to create a VR. Weak Interactivity, Ryan states, is best illustrated by hypertext, where a reader selects a demarcated path, they can determine the sequence of the reading, allowing each reading to garner new results. In opposition to this, the reading of a non-electronic text “highlights different episodes, links different images, and creates a different web of meaning” (127). “Weak” as used by Ryan does not necessarily mean “lesser,” simply that there are quantitative differences between the physical interactivity of clicking and choosing and sorting out a path than there are with less technologically dynamic texts. It also places less emphasis on plot, and more emphasis on exploring a text, creating a non-traditional reading experience. Ryan defines a third sort of interactivity, called Strong Literal Interactivity, that is defined as an interactivity that allows for the presence of signs -
Fia world where the reader not only read and explore, but can add lasting contributions to as a creator.

In the final paragraphs, Ryan details the debate between Immersion and Interactivity, noting each theories strengths and weaknesses. Ryan admits that regarding interactivity and immersion are more compatible in VR than in literature, that this does not mean one is more superior as far as artistic credibility goes. It simply means they are different mediums offering different experiences, and that both should be considered important in understanding the experiences of interactivity.

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Brad Glanden
Jenkins, Henry. "Game Design as Narrative Architecture."
Pearce, Celia. “Towards a Game Theory of Game.”

Henry Jenkins attempts in "Game Design as Narrative Architecture" to resolve some of the arguments that have arisen out of the branding of games as narrative structures. Games are not so much stories as spaces, he writes, and basing a theory of games on other storytelling-based forms like cinema limits an understanding of what games can do. One possible solution he suggests is the schooling of game designers in the language of narrative theory.

Jenkins goes on to write about other types of narrative besides traditional linear storytelling. He introduces the "spatial story," in which a space provides narrative context, citing works by J.R.R. Tolkien, Jules Verne, Homer, L. Frank Baum, and Jack London as literary precedents. He suggests that game designers seek inspiration in the "environmental storytelling" of Disney's amusement park attractions; such spaces may evoke familiar, previously existing narratives.

Jenkins then links Sergei Eisenstein's notion of the "attraction" to the "memorable moments," or micronarratives, of the game medium. These are moments that intensify the game's emotional impact on the player, namely by creating tension between player participation and narrative exposition. Following the example of film noir, Jenkins explains how a game can consist of two narratives--one controlled by the player, and one that is "embedded" and waiting to be discovered. Lastly, he references The Sims as an "emergent narrative" in which an environment is mapped out, but in which the player has control over much of his or her character's goals and conflicts.

In “Towards a Game Theory of Game”, Celia Pearce argues that the computer game medium deserves more attention in academia than it has received thus far. Like Jenkins, Pearce dismisses attempts to theorize about games by repurposing theory from other disciplines, such as film and literature. Games, Pearce says, take an approach to narrative that is different from, and in some ways diametrically opposed to, other narrative-based media.

In contrast to film and literature’s emphasis on story, games are centered on play. The function of narrative is to make play more interesting. Pearce identifies six narrative “operators” that are commonly found in games: Experiential, Performative, Augmentary, Descriptive, Metastory, and Story System. These elements help to create a framework for structured play; only the experiential is common to all games, since it develops from the player’s experience.

Elements that are central to traditional narratives, such as characters, dialogue, and a strict delineation of good and evil, are often missing from game narratives. A higher level of abstraction allows the player greater freedom. Pearce details two computer game genres that she feels illustrate her “play-centric” model: the multiplayer online role-playing game, in which players improvise narratives in real time; and the Sims game, a genre unto itself, which grants the player with the authorial control to drive the story experience and simulate human behavior using semi-autonomous characters.

Pearce explains that game-to-movie adaptations have been largely unsuccessful because characters perform a different function for each medium, and notes that movie-to-game adaptations have been more successful because they eschew character development in favor of action, and because many of the movies being adapted are world-based narratives.

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Shaun Clarke
Murray, Janet. "From Game-Story to Cyberdrama."
Perlin, Ken. "Can There Be a Form between a Game and a Story?"
Montfort, Nick. "Interactive Fiction as..."

These three essays from "First Person: New Media as Story, Performance and Game" debate the various language and theories used to define Interactive Media.

Janet Murray, in her essay "From Game-Story to Cyberdrama", defines how games and stories relate and coexist with each other. She says that they both have two common structures: contest (the meeting of opponents in pursuit of mutually exclusive aims) and puzzle (a contest between the reader/player and the author/designer). Murray states that both games and stories are distanced from the real world, but that everyday reality is becoming increasingly more game like. The computer is the tool that allows us to incorporate this new game theory into our lives, and to better explore the overlap between story and game, i.e. cyberdrama. She uses "The Sims" as an example of this new form. She uses the Ford Motor Company's interactive commercials as another example of how the narrative can meet interactivity. Ultimately, Murray argues, that imploring more 'agency' into cyberdrama will produce better cyberdrama.

In Ken Perlin's "Can There Be a Form between a Game and a Story?" establishes a dialectic between novels and games. Novels provide no agency to the reader, but instead relies on the characters agency to drive the narrative forward. The reader, therefore, submits complete emotional control to the author. Conversely, games provide the user with totally agency over the progression of the story, and user in fact becomes the character. Perlin also uses "The Sims" as an example of a current game: where the user has fully control over the characters, but the characters do not have any real agency themselves. Therefore, "The Sims" can be thought of as a world building game, and not a narrative driven game. Perlin argues that future of Interactive Media lays in the convergence of simultaneous user and character agency.

Nick Montfort, in his essay "Interactive Fiction as...", attempts to define Interactive Fiction pieces through various terms that have long been associated with the form. Monfort states that Interactive Media is a new form that cannot be define through old terms, but instead borrows from these old forms. These terms are: Story (producing narratives as a result of sessions of interaction), Game (a broadly defined contest), Storygame (both story and game intertwined), Novel (due to the length of some pieces), World (seeing as character and plot are expendable, but the world/setting is not), Literature (use of literary devices), Puzzle (engaging the reader), Problem (questions raised for solution), Riddle (a didactic form of poetry), and Machine (use engages with a machine). Interactive Fiction programs simulate worlds, but understands text input from an interactor and provides a textual reply based on events in the world. Interactive Fiction is neither a story or a game, but instead a riddle that is central to understanding how the world functions as both literature and puzzle.