Games and Interaction design

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Terry Gilliam on Interactive Narrative

I've long been a fan of Terry Gilliam - I think there are few filmmakers that are able to create such vidid, fantastic, engrossing worlds on-screen. I've been reading the excellent "Gilliam on Gilliam" over the past few days, and came across a section where he discusses his opinion (in 1996 I believe) of the effect of interactivity on narrative:

"We visited Expo '67 in Montreal, where there were some wonderful film presentations, including Francis Thompson's six-screen 'We Are Young'. The Czech pavilion had a film in which you could vote on the way the story should go at the end of each scene. When we were making 'Twelve Monkeys', Bob Gale, who co-wrote 'Back to the Future' with Robert Zemeckis, made a film where every member of the audience was able to vote at key moments, and it was terrible. My daughters went to see it with me and it was us against two men behind us: we were outvoting them on every point. My daughters thought it would be a good game at home, but it's not why we go to the movies. Movies aren't about that kind of interactivity: the moment you do it you're pulled right out of the experience. My daughters understood that film is about storytelling, like sitting around a campfire at night, giving yourself over to the storyteller - he's the guide, not you."

Its interesting to see the differentiation that he makes between home entertainment and movies/campfire storytelling - clearly seeing home entertainment as being less involved but going to the theatre as much more engrossing. I wonder whether he would apply this to watching DVD versions at home? I definitely agree that going to see a good film at a theatre swallows you up - its so easy to forget where you are, but I'm not sure that I agree about interactivity pulling you out of the experience. Bad interactivity combined with bad content certainly, but belief that you are in some way responsibile for the action on-screen I would argue would make you feel more involved.

The movie he mentioned was called Mr. Payback: An Interactive Movie. The reviews are indeed very poor. I like the final comment though: "Perhaps the experience would have been more palatable had I been drunk. That's the only way I can imagine getting anything worthwhile out of this.


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