Video Games' Challenge

Donovan Hohn interviews Tom Bissell, author of Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, which views games through an intellectual screen:

This is the great bugaboo of people opposed to video games as a workable art form: that interactivity sabotages narrative meaning. I can see how that argument works, and I agree with it insofar as an interactive Macbeth would not be Macbeth. The counterargument is that video game storytelling doesn’t really mean a Macbeth in which you can do whatever you feel like; the video game author has to give the player a limited number of choices and make it seem as though anything is possible. A video game Macbeth means a slightly more variable Macbeth, not an anything-goes Macbeth.

I think that a sensitive, thoughtful game designer could design any number of affecting scenarios to play out within a Macbeth-like plot structure. But this is all citrus and cider, obviously, since, as Clint Hocking says in the book, the nature of drama as it is currently understood is that it is authored. Period. No one designing a game, I think, would have any aspirations toward something like Macbeth, which is a work of art designed to plunge inward. Games don’t do that very well. And maybe they don’t have to, any more than novels need to have great action sequences.