"RPS: One of my favourite scenes was the Russian laboratory. You can see her drawings. That’s such a powerful scene, and such an excellent use of adventure gaming. The first time you go into that room you explore, and you look at everything, and you get these very dry, very analytical responses. Then you see the recorded footage of the girl’s death, and then if you go back into that room – I don’t know why I’m telling you, because you made it…"
"The scene we discuss above in the Russian laboratory – that’s uniquely game. That moment of exploring the scene, then learning of the child’s death, then re-exploring the scene. There’s no other medium that could do that. In a film it would be some tragically corner reprise of what we’ve seen before with the weight of knowledge, and smug, swooshy noises. Being able to re-examine – that’s something only games can do, and Dreamfall uses it to wonderful effect. Also, something like Wonkers. You could have that character in a movie, certainly. It would be the fun, cartoon character who would make cheery, or profound remarks, and be very likeable. But to interact with it, to nick its battery, to put it back together and talk again – it’s a deeper connection, and a valuable one."
"But the level of interactivity in a game, even if the level of meaningful decision making is low, does let the player control the pacing. It lets the player interface with the story. Not interact; whether the story changes because of the player is another issue. But interface: connect with, and draw information from. Find out what happens next, and look at what people are doing in the environment, and watch the characters. Forget interactivity: simply putting those methods of information-gathering in the player’s hands helps them interface better, and brings them so much closer to the story.
I finished reading House of Leaves a month or two ago, and there’s a part in the book – a rather tense, suspenseful part – where there is only a sentence or a phrase on each page. This sounds like a gimmick, but what it does is it keeps you turning the pages; it has you manually going through each step of finding out what happens next. Eventually it gets down to a single word on each page and you’re just feverishly turning the pages. The tension is immense. The tension is immense because of the pacing choices, the rationing of narrative . . . but what makes it work is that it involves the reader actively in the process. If it was a movie, or a comic, it would be a sort of subdued, introspective moment: drawing the narrative out would just give it time to be pondered over, time to sink in.
But when you give the reader control over things, put the reader – or the player – in charge of gathering information, of advancing the story, the story can become more powerful. House of Leaves does this in other ways: halfway through the book, I became convinced that the narrator was pulling anecdotes out of his ass. I became actively searching through the story, trying to find contradictions and signs of subterfuge. Large sections of the book are structured like a critical essay; large stretches of text punctuated with references and footnotes. Reading through the book felt like research. It felt like I was uncovering something.
This is a powerful thing, and I don’t think it’s something that game designers have quite figured out, yet."