So far I have argued for a distinction between narrative and interactivity, or stories and games, which is based on the different way each represents time, leading on to differing modes of spectatorship. However, as Max Whitby points out, games and stories also have very different cultural values attached to them. The game is frivolous whereas narrative is serious - the form of the game is agonistic and ephemeral, dealing in a form of transient athletic display. The game is an exercise which can exist only in the present (if it persists in memory then it does so as an account).
There is a general assumption here that narrative representation - literature, history, cinema and so on, has a deep and lasting significance which the game lacks. In the end Shakespeare or Proust or Pasolini seem to have more to offer than a game of football or Sonic. The game is outside of history, unworthy of serious remembrance. At the M.I.T. multimedia conference in Dublin in 1993 a speaker bemoaned the fact that his son spent too much time playing computer games and not enough time reading books. Thinking of my own child, I found myself nodding in agreement. Yet when a woman asked from the floor why reading a book was better than playing a computer game, he couldn’t explain his assumption and neither could I. Two other speakers gave a fascinating account of an elastic movie. This was a multi-screen installation constructed as part of a student workshop at M.I.T. which the spectator moved through and interacted with. The speakers called it an interactive media environment, an installation, a transformational space, fine art circumlocutions for the obvious term game which they managed to avoid entirely throughout their paper. Then they showed a video of their undergraduate students discussing the design of the project and the word game cropped up over and over again. Finally, throughout the whole 2 day conference on interactivity, discussion of console and TV computer games was almost entirely absent, in spite of the astounding commercial success of Nintendo and Sega in the youth market, in spite of CD-i, in spite of 3DO...
In my class in interactive media at the University of Westminster I encourage the students to play computer games in order to give them a sense of the possiblities - and limitations - of the crossover between interactive representations and the story. This did not initially meet with the approval of the department and there is still a lingering suspicion that those students who take the module in interactivity just want to play computer games. Yet nobody accuses the film students of just wanting to watch films. Many college computer rooms have a notice on the wall warning that the playing of games is banned. The game is not work but a diversion from work, nor is it a proper object of serious study. The game is something which, although tolerated, the law must seek to repress, to keep to its proper place.