Interactivity is all about users being able to put something towards the media they consume and having something come from it. Traditional media often had call in or letter to the editor sections for audiences to have an input but this was almost specifically restricted to these sections alone. New media is often described as bringing interactivity into the mainstream and normalising it. Unfortunately, being a fairly new concept we are sometimes faced with issues when studying new media and how we interact with it.
A fairly unknown example of interactive new media is the interactive web comic Prequal. Prequal has classic comic and novel characteristics but is distinguished by the way it takes suggestions on where the story will go next from readers comments. By allowing readers to directly interact with it’s content, Prequal has garnered quite a large hardcore fanbase over four years. Where as classic comics and narratives may take time to write and publish and fans may be left disappointed, Prequal transcends these boundaries by being written as it is published independently online almost immediately. The readers aren’t waiting to experience something they are writing it themselves.
Saying Games Are Bad Is Bad
This goes the same for video games, the users are creating the story within pre-built environment as they play the game. One question seems to dominate the discourse around video games, and that’s, does video game immersion and interactivity with violent mechanics instil violent behaviour in users. Sparked by cases were youth have claimed or others have suggested that crimes were commited because they saw/did it in a videogame, Politicians, parents and academics began asking “What effect is violent video games having on our youth?” but as Schreier points out, researching this has not been easy. It’s fairly easy to say that if someone does something violent in a game and is rewarded for it they can be conditioned to think violence is ‘good’ but then just as fair to say that people of sound mind are capable of dissociating virtual reality and reality and if a non violent person does something violent in a game they most likely won’t respond to it. Schreier asks, “Competition is just one factor that must be considered when studying the effects of violent video games on aggression. What about gender? Boys are more aggressive than girls. How about home life? Income level? Previous cases of bullying or being bullied?“, this is significant as it outlines the main problem with researching the ‘effects’ of interactive media; that the audience is a primary component of what makes up interactive media. Instead of thinking that interactive media is ‘injecting’ violent behaviour into the youth, perhaps it is allowing previously violent youth or those with a tendency for violent behaviour to explore these darker thoughts.
What I’d like to see is a change in how we perceive interactivity and immersion in interactive media. Stop the witch hunt for ‘corrupting media’ and instead focus on informing and educating youth on the reality of violence and violent crime.
Disclaimer: I do not own this cover image ‘Link to cover image‘