October 26 – Interactivity

//October 26 – Interactivity
October 26 – Interactivity 2018-01-07T15:01:49-04:00


Interactive Fiction Resources

iFiction – Resource with list of playable text adventure classics

  • Classics (including Adventure, Dungeon (the original Zork), Eliza, Oregon Trail)
  • All the Zorks from Infocom

Internet Archive


Twine – open source nonlinear, interactive authoring tool

Inklewriter – hosted nonlinear authoring tool

Phaser – game design framework

Unity – high-level, very challenging game design

Theory and Commentary

Janet H. Murray, Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2012.

  • Introduction, Chaps. 1-3 (pp. 1-103)

Carrie Heeter, “Interactivity in the Context of Designed Experiences”. Journal of Interactive Advertising, Vol. 1, No. 1., 2000.

Neil C. M. Brown, Timothy S. Barker, and Dennis Del Favero, “Performing Digital Aesthetics: The Framework for a Theory of the Formation of Interactive Narratives,” Leonardo 44, no. 3 (June 2011): 212–19.



  1. Sigrid von wendel October 23, 2016 at 7:00 pm - Reply

    something happened to the link for the Murray readings… can anyone fix it?

  2. Johnathan McCauley October 26, 2016 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    I think it’s right for Murray to argue for a new space to be carved out for the “digital medium”. When considering the amount of digital media created and added to the medium every minute, it seems right to gather up all the computational creations under one roof. Is the digital medium the largest medium we can talk about nowadays? It has already gobbled up most of the literary medium and assimilated it.

    On p. 16, Murray claims that the advent of the computer may impact our culture with a magnitude akin to that of language, writing, or print. I think this is right. The lag Murray mentions on p.2 (about how innovation is surpassing design, leaving us humans frustrated and confused and not taking advantage of all the technology has to offer) suggests that we are on the cusp of one of these impressive, world-changing moments. If one thinks about how sophisticated our devices have become over the last decade, one becomes astonished at the progress we’ve made within this new digital medium. Yes, we are innovating faster than we can catch up to. But, this type of reckless innovation might be necessary in order to discover the true potential of the new digital age.

    We just experience our first exploding phone epidemic (RIP Samsung 7 note). In my opinion, setbacks are necessary for purposeful advancement. Like an arrow sitting in a bowstring, in order to truly propel forward, it must first be pulled back.

  3. Sam October 26, 2016 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    1. What is the difference between what Heeter refers to as “presence” and what Murray refers to as “immersion?” Presence to Heeter is “the sensation of being spatially and temporally located within a mediated experience.” (p.8)Murray stresses that immersion comes from receiving the expected response from a computer or system. “Immersion is the experience produced by the pleasurable exploration of a limitless, consistent, familiar yet surprising environment.” (p. 102) In Murray’s writing, one can be immersed while using Wikipedia. Could one also be “present,”or is the imagined absence of a mediating technology a necessity for that state?

    2. How can we apply the principles from “Performing Digital Aesthetics,” to “digital artifacts” outside of performance spaces? Do we construct Polychronic and Transcriptive narratives through digital means already? Is the timeline on our course website an example of a Transcriptive narrative? What is a Co-Evolutionary narrative in practice? Are Google search results Co-Evolutionary, as they reflect user preferences and website creators’ conscious SEO practices through an algorithm? Is Zork? What would a working model look like? How useful are these categories in games?

    3. Heeter and Murray have different ideas of affordances. To Heeter, affordances are “the possible interactions with the element for the organism,” (p.7) which is vast and somewhat limitless. While Murray breaks down the affordances for digital media into four categories. Are these four affordances sufficient when talking about games? Does one or more get eliminated? Are there more possibilities for a game than for another form of digital media?

  4. Sigrid von Wendel October 26, 2016 at 3:24 pm - Reply

    how does the way and places our memories are stored (in a photo album, in a thought, in a facebook page) change the memories themselves? and then in turn change how we perceive ourselves in the world?

    how much of design is anticipating desires vs. creating desires? Murray talks about the responsibility of designers to not unconsciously play into or perpetuate implicit social biases… but aren’t designers sometimes also hired to do exactly that in order to sell a product?

    a lot of “nonlinear” narratives or experiences still seem pretty linear to me: in a video game, there is still an end goal that the user is working towards in discernible steps. whereas an emotional or physical state, taken out of its context, seems more truly nonlinear?

    is a pen and paper any more or less interactive than a word document on a computer?

    Right now, the designer feels more present to me in digital medium because I’m aware of the medium as a newly created interactive space. But a pencil was also designed by someone and increasingly we seem to not think about who and how are digital mediums were constructed. What the pros and cons of this? Do they differ from the pros and cons of not thinking about the pencil designer?

  5. Matthew Dischner October 26, 2016 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    1) Ahh Dune 2. I grew up on Westwood made strategy games, and fondly remember the first Command and Conquer for Windows 95. I can see the blueprints for the later, successful RTS model, but find myself too frustrated by the controls to play it. How much is lost in computer interactivity when you take away the mouse? Or how much is gained?

    2) How does interactive fiction relate to some of the games we are seeing surge in popularity on Steam? Do we consider “walking simulators” like “Firewatch” to be in a similar category? What about more “cinematic” games that focus less on gameplay on more on storytelling, or modern day adventure games like the ones developed by Telltale Games? Where does the line between interactive fiction and games fall?

    3) Murray suggests thats its easier to innovate in an established medium. This both makes sense an yet seems counterintuitive. Certainly if a medium is not already established, than everyone you do is innovation? Or am I misunderstanding the concept of innovation in this context?

  6. Ivan! October 26, 2016 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    You teachers bought the Eternaut? I’m buying Inventing the Medium, this book is awesome! How refreshing to read about our real experience of modernity, to talk about Iphones, computers, and internet, the real objects that dominate our lives. And such enlightening prose too, both in content and deliverance. Alright, let’s get to the questions, I have to play more old games:

    Reading Murray is pretty disenchanting, huh? Kind of takes the magic out of games and computers… Some games like the Journey Home felt like a magical journey to me, but now I feel like this stuff is all just mechanical (the Zorks we’re very much an interface struggle that drew attention to the design process from the get-go). But it is incredible how far we’ve come, (speaking of journeys) I heard rumors that the game “Journey” by Thatgamecompany (no typo, that’s what it is) is a masterpiece of innovative digital design. I have to buy it and, hum, call the delivery number.. BUT TO THE POINT: Murray lays out the challenges of designing new media, this gives us the liberty to take our creations in many directions (affordances in Heeter’s terms), however we only exploit so many directions. We saw a number of them today, many games are objective-based: to pick up girls, shoot spaceships, or to save the girl from becoming a demon and come back home, from what I heard journey has only the objective of “reaching the top of the mountain”, but the value of the game is in the process itself and not so much on accomplishing the task. Which designs are we already accustomed to? Which strike us as innovative? How can we disrupt existing currents within the design of digital media? Are there affordances which we are not exploiting? I think there’s much to be discovered, for once, the medium is fresh for us to shape.

    Astray comments:
    Murray called my project proposal idea “Poor design” (p.88) 🙁
    I was going to bring up last class that once, a long time ago, I played a great game a lot like the softporn Zork game where you have to pickup girls (but with an actual graphic interface). I didn’t bring it up because the game was straight up hentai porn, and I was aware of the instant stigmatization that such comment would cause, but HEY! that game was GREAT!, and it needn’t be weird, I played it for hours with my friends without doing anything weird, the game was 99% hard work, 1% porn gratification, which honestly, was needed in order to get some kind of catharsis because chasing those girls around was a hell of a chase. There were like 6 different girls you could pursue, and if they caught you flirting with another one then you could kiss all your effort goodbye.
    Browsing through the interactive fiction games I ran into a subsection of cat games. I’m still laughing at the situations I encountered. Now that’s some creative use of affordances!

  7. Sophie October 26, 2016 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    1. According to Janet H. Murray’s “Inventing the Medium: Principles of Interaction Design as a Cultural Practice,” what are the key benefits of interactive narratives, and how do they affect our attention span?

    2. “Performing Digital Aesthetics: The Framework for a Theory of the Formation of Interactive Narratives” by Neil C. M. Brown, Timothy S. Barker, and Dennis Del Favero defines three different types of interactive modalities -polychronic, transcriptive, and co-evolutionary. In which one of these narratives do we, the recipient of such activities, have the most control in determining the outcome?

    3. Additionally, in what way does the creator of these interactive narrative relinquish control and become merely a spectator in what he/she creates (specifically in co-evolutionary narratives)?

  8. Charlie Peterson October 26, 2016 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    1. I am very interested in the concept of medium and technology as a medium. Specifically, does the creation of new medium itself constitute an evolutionary leap? Take language as an example, the creation of language gave us a greater ability to express meaning, but we are found in our language to be culturally bound. Can the same case be made for technology? Maybe technology is itself not evolutionary but rather cultural. What are the ways that technology is cultural and not evolutionary?

    2. If Murray defines medium as an conduit of meaning, and design is itself a medium of meaning, what is the ontological status of meaning? Is meaning independent of medium or is it necessarily tied to it. We are exploring the cultural implications of changing meaning through examples like the War of the Worlds. But we have yet to see an explicit example of a same culture-different medium analysis. It seems that changing medium affects meaning, but meaning seems to have an independent substance of its own. What can interactivity contribute to the conversation about the ontological status of meaning.

    3. Affordances are defined as related to Heidegger’s concept of handiness or ready-at-handness. Heeter introduces the notion that different individuals will engage with the exact same object with different affordances. But Heeter also introduces mental affordances. I am having trouble conceptualizing the notion of a ready-at-hand idea in the interactive space. Could users be presented with multiple ideas and choose them? How could the machine know which concept the person was interacting with if it were conceptual and not physical? Is this the way that written text is interactive? Mental affordances?

  9. Stacy Shirk October 26, 2016 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    I had a really hard time trying to play the games, perhaps it was my computer, or the lack of controls, I’m not sure. Maybe I’m just inept. Are interactive narratives/games/activities more limited than a medium like say, a book, because it requires more to participate? Or are they similarly limiting, just in different ways? How significant is it that our brains are changing to work better with digital media and mediums, and do you think our bodies will change as well? The quote at the top of the Murray got me thinking about that.

    Do you agree with Murray that “all things made with electronic bits and computer code belong to a single new medium, the digital medium, with its own unique affordances”? The essay was written in 2012, but I feel that even since then digital media has changed significantly – we stream television shows on our computers, so we have this intersection of digital and television mediums. But I’m also not entirely sure I understand how the digital medium (in general) works in these bits of criticism, so I admit I feel a little lost. I’m really interested to hear what others have to say.

  10. Jane Excell October 27, 2016 at 4:11 pm - Reply

    Whoa- I just stumbled upon this: http://www.thatdragoncancer.com/#home (see more about it here)
    It’s a video game created by a husband and wife based on the experience of discovering that their one-year old son had terminal cancer. “The game is designed to have the player experience the low and high moments of this period in the style of a point-and-click adventure game, using the medium’s interactivity and immersion to relate the tale in ways that a film cannot.” Intense! A documentary film was also made about it, called “Thank you for playing” (NYU just bought it, but only as a physical copy, and sadly destined for the library in Abu Dhabi…)

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