Aug. 22nd, 2014

i've attended two theater pieces this year (thanks to [ profile] _tove alerting me to them) in the category of "immersive theater," i.e. theater where the audience shares the "stage" with the actors, and multiple concurrent things are happening:

Her Things:
Her Things is an immersive theater and art piece -- a live video game, really. Participants will be invited to rifle through the objects and papers of "Poor Willa," a recently deceased turn-of-the-century recluse, to discover her story and more about her fate. Participants will be allowed to fully explore the space, touch and read artifacts in search of clues, interact with actors, as well as bid on certain objects by sharing their own memories as currency.

The barrier between spectator and actor is dissolved. TAMARA has been described like an elaborate movie set, with each audience member poised as a camera. The audience certainly has choices to make, journeying from room to room in Rodef Shalom Congregation, a magnificent stand-in for Il Vittoriale degli Italiani. As characters leave a room, which will you follow? Or will you wait and see who shows up? As in life, each is the star of his own story and the stories intersect (think Downton Abbey) with the audience free to drop in on their most dramatic moments.

the approach Her Things took to storytelling reminded me of Gone Home's: allow intimate interaction with the physical space to uncover a story piece-by-piece. it also included and encouraged interacting with the characters, meaning there was a lot of improvisational dialogue. this approach made sense for the "single room" stage, where all participants could observe all action simultaneously.

Tamara, on the other hand, took an approach to storytelling which seems like it should be possible in digital games, but i haven't really seen it. i think it's because what it did was, to put it controversially, anti-interaction. it wasn't about giving the viewer control over the course of the story -- it was just offering a finite choice at each character exit: stay or follow? so you could tailor your individual perspective on the story, but the play had a static script. it was a concurrent program, but not a reactive one.

i believe i've seen interactive fiction authors discuss the desire to make, if not the actual existence of, games that work this way, more or less -- at least following the general idea of "the player can switch between the perspectives of different characters throughout."

incidentally, i liked the experience of Tamara much, much more.



August 2014

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