Where is the story?

As grand an idea as it once seemed, the delivery of a truly meaningful impact from our choices still mostly feels like an unrealized dream.

Source: Tina Amini, Video game stories still don’t belong to you, Mashable.

This article caught my eye. I’m sure it had a tag-line along the lines of ‘your choices in games don’t matter’ when I saw it; I was incensed, certain I was going to read this article and disagree with its argument on the basis that it had misunderstood / overlooked that the story you tell in a game is not only about the narrative action that unfolds within the gameworld but also the impact of your choices on your broader experience which, in turn, may twist or shape how you then interpret the action of the game.

Turns out the article, in some ways, reaches a similar conclusion. It’s an interesting read (though I skipped much of it towards the end because I wanted to avoid the Prey spoilers – just in case).

‘what they see and what they skip’

“In an immersive theatre production, the audience in some way plays a role, whether that is the role of witness or the role of an actual character. They may be allowed to roam and explore the performance space as the performance happens around them, allowing them to decide what they see and what they skip.”

via The Space » What is Immersive Theatre?.

This description highlights, for me, one of the central tensions that exists between the way we often talk about immersive theatre and the way it is actually experienced. In many cases (possibly most cases) an audience member does not decide “what they see or what they skip” because they do not  have access to sufficient information to be able to make that choice. Certainly this is the case for many first-time visitors to an immersive theatre production such as Sleep No More. In other cases an audience member may have the information about the full range of choices but lack the ability or opportunity to access them for reasons that are outside of their control.

“Who has agency?”

“If people move beyond simple tasks into more complex tasks that require a greater investment of time and learning, then issues of agency – participants’ ability to make choices about what they’re working on and why – start to become more important. Would Wikipedia have succeeded if it dictated what contributors had to write about? We shouldn’t mistake volunteers for a workforce just because they can be impressively dedicated contributors.”

via Sharing is caring keynote ‘Enriching cultural heritage collections through a Participatory Commons’ – Open Objects.

Don’t give me permission – just let me take it instead?

Recently I read a (not-so-recent) post on the Open Objects blog in which the author was reflecting on a visit to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)  in Hobart, Tasmania. The comments in the post about the experience of using the “O” device in particular prompted me to reflect on my own preference for avoiding the device and exploring the museum’s space and collection unchaperoned.

On my first visit to MONA, shortly after its public opening, I collected and engaged with “O”. It appeared, at that point in time, to be an essential part of the visitor experience. However, on every visit since then, including visits to new exhibitions, I’ve felt as though the “O” would restrict rather than enhance my experience.

Continue reading “Don’t give me permission – just let me take it instead?”