topical media & game development

talk show tell print

print / present / tag(s)


towards an aesthetics for interaction

experience is determined by meaning

learning objectives

After reading this chapter you should have an understanding of the model underlying game playing, and the role of narratives in interaction. Furthermore, you might have an idea of how to define aesthetic meaning in a cultural context, and apply your understanding to the creative development of meaningful interactive systems.

As in music, the meaning of interactive applications is determined, not only by its sensory appearance, but to a high extent by the structure and functionality of the application. This observation may, also, explain, why narratives become more and more important in current video games, namely in providing a meaningful context for possible user actions.

In this chapter, we take an interactive game-model extended with narrative functionality as a starting point to explore the aesthetics of interactive applications. In section 12.1, we will introduce a model for interactive video games, and in section 12.2 we will present a variety of rules for the construction of narratives in a game context. Finally, in section 12.3, we will characterize the notion of meaning from a traditional semiotics perspective, which we will then apply in the context of games and interactive multimedia applications.






12. towards an aesthetics for interaction



projects & further reading

As a project, explore the ways narratives may be constructed from a collection of images. Deploy the various editing facilities for providing flashbacks, flashforwards, and other (temporal) relations within storytelling.

You may implement this using flash, VRML, or even try to embed such a narration facility in a game level developed with the Delta3D or the Source SDK.

For further reading I suggest you to take a look at more theoretical material from media theory, such as  [Bolter and Grusin (2000)]. Also there is a large collection of books from MIT Media Press that is of relevance for our new visual culture.

the artwork

  1. einzelganger -- walking man of Alberto Giacommeti, taken from an aanouncement of the Ives Ensemble, Amsterdam.
  2. game component framework, from  [Björk & Holopainen (2005)].
  3. diagram MIME
  4. diagram experience as meaning
  5. Roy Lichtenstein, 1962, (a) Kiss II, (b) Masterpiece, (c) Forget it, forget me.
  6. edgecodes -- showing George Lucas and his editoroid.
  7. El Lissitzky, suprematist works
  8. El Lissitzky, suprematist works
  9. Roy Lichtenstein, 1999, Still lifes with brushstrokes
  10. Les Demoisselles dAvignon, Picasso, 1908, regarded as the start of Cubism, and Le Goutier, Jean Metzinger, 1911, often referred to as the Mona Lisa of Cubism.
  11. poster for exhibition of dutch china work.
  12. signs -- abstract,  [ van Rooijen (2003)], p. 228, 229.
The walking man is one of my favorate sculptures, for over a long time. It is also associated to the motto of part iv: a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step . As an autobiographical note, the walking man, with einzelganger superposed (in translation loner), reflects the writing of topical media. In particular, the image put in sequence, reminds me of the repetitive complaints of my (former) superior at the faculty, who over and over again told me that I was always alone in my room, isolated, on an island. I must admit there is a truth in this, as I felt that the disciplines of software engineering and multimedia are widely divergent, and in that sense I was on my own. This book has undergone many rewritings, due partly to a clash between the expectations of others and my own vision on multimedia. And with a superior who emphasizes that he is "the boss", but has no intellectual authority nor any inspirational leadership whatsoever, at least not in the area of multimedia and gane development, there is really no other way than to go your own way. So I did it my way, indeed, quoting Paul Anka's song, made 'unforgettable' by Frank Sinatra.

In other words, after this brief autobiographical digression, the visual theme of this chapter on the aesthetics of interactive systems is on individual judgement, as exemplified among others by the suprematist works of El Lissitzky, the amplification of cartoons as art by Roy Lichtenstein, and the pioneers of Cubism. After all, individual judgement is what you need, when you wish to be involved in multimedia and/or game development.

(C) Æliens 04/09/2009

You may not copy or print any of this material without explicit permission of the author or the publisher. In case of other copyright issues, contact the author.