In Sarah Stang’s “This Action Will have Consequence” – Interactivity and Player Agency, the interactivity of video games is discussed and two case studies are used to show how agency and interactivity can change based on the game.
The article begins by discussing how there have been recent challenges to the assumption that video games are interactive experiences. It was often argued that users had control and “agency” over the game, but it was stated in this article that this illusion of agency is highly problematic. Chris Crawford defined interaction as “a conversation: a cyclic process in which two actors alternatively listen, think, and speak.” From this definition, many critics came forward to say that the interactivity in video games is illusory and player input is merely reactive to the said game. Agency is a concept that is a little harder to define, for it can take on multiple meanings such as autonomy, control, or freedom, or as an agent, representative of another.
As previously mentioned, there are two case studies considered in this article: BioShock and the Walking Dead. BioShock is a game that offered players a “moral-choice:” to “save or harvest genetically altered little-girls.” It was stated that BioShock “embodies the worst of late capitalist logic: it offers you the ambiguity of moral agency when the real technical, social, and structural decisions have already been decided.” This quote shows the lack of moral choice that is represented in this article and this game merely has a reactive component. The Walking Dead shows a little more agency and rather than just violence, the player can make decisions, mediate conflicts, and manage relationships. This specific game is tailored to how you play and the consequences are usually reminded of.
Stang’s article was really captivating and I chose it because of how obsessed my brothers are with video games. I agree with Stang’s point in that there is some autonomy and interactiveness to video games, but oftentimes the storyline is already written and decided for the player. It is interesting to consider the term “scriptable text” that is used to describe video games and I think Stand makes really valid points.