Interaction as Art

So I came across this wonderful flash composition, Soy tu Aire, and it got me to pondering once again about the relationship of interactivity and art. There are certain phenomena like this and (to provide another example) Auditorium that, for lack of a better term, come off as these kind of raw digital experiences. In both of these instances the template is music, which seems to penetrate pretty well on its own, but it’s now bolstered and repackaged through interactivity. I wonder if the mind absorbs that same data differently, if perhaps the added involvement (not in the creation of the music, but the direction and augmentation) deeply changes the experience. Marshall McLuhan always said the medium is the message, but I don’t think I ever appreciated the implications.

David Hellman wrote some time ago about how art in video games is not sequestered to the realm of cutscenes or graphics, but rather can be expressed in every facet, most notably (probably) in the controlling mechanism itself. He used two classic game examples: Doom and Mario 64. In doom, you only see what your character sees. Its controls are claustrophobic; you can turn, but only to advance or retreat, mimicking the atmosphere of the game and conditioning a mindset on the part of the player. You march on over the bodies of your enemies or else. Mario 64, conversely, is about exploration all-around optimism. Mario can turn, naturally, but he only moves forward, and he is almost always in fully view, at a distance, reinforcing the theme of freedom and the potential for adventure. I think these observations are pretty insightful, and so it came to surprise that Braid, the game Hellman’s been working on, is such a fantastic example of excellence in the medium.

I’m not sure I really have a point other than I feel like I’m not pushing the envelope enough with my comics. Maybe it’s nothing to worry about; most all the interactive comics I’ve seen are pretty awful and gimmicky (with a few exceptions). Maybe because there’s already a central visual element in comics, the move to interactivity isn’t as seamless as it is with music. Something to think about either way, I suppose.


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