FMS85C Week 3: The Pleasure of ‘Agency’ for the Artist

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The world of gaming has always been a mysterious and mystifying art form that has found its appeal to the interest of men and some women. But, as the idea of interactivity and immersing oneself in the realm of a spatial location has found an incredibly subjective appeal in the arts, the satisfaction of agency found in gaming has moved beyond the participation and activity, allowing one to navigate through story lines, narratives, and actions as users put themselves in the shoes of another, bringing themselves to another world to actively engage—sometimes, both mentally and physically—in that world.

I think that there is a beauty in the narrative structure of gaming because it can really satisfy one’s craving to explore an “infinitely expandable space” while being highly expressive, causing users to feel anxiety, guilt, or satisfaction for the outcomes of choices and decisions made in a game. The world of gaming has gone to great lengths to really transform the digital arts through immersing people into the world of a game—and feeling as if they are a part of that reality.

As all art can beautifully be a depiction and representation of reality itself, the pleasure of agency is through shaping that reality in a game, and being a part of, and responsible for, that reality. I think what I find most endearing about narratives in games is its ability to tell a story and perhaps have a lesson learned through its direct consequences of actions a user decides to take part of in a game. In this, the user (or interactor) becomes the author, in a way. As Janet Murray writes,

“In electronic narrative the procedural author is like a choreographer who supplies the rhythms, the context, and the set of steps that will be performed. The interactor, whether as navigator, protagonist, explorer, or builder, makes use of this repertoire of possible steps and rhythms to improvise a particular dance among the many, many possible dances the author has enabled.”

I find this quote particularly compelling and beautiful because it states what exactly is the kind of art that can be found in the digital and electronic narrative of gaming. Although the writers and authors of a game ultimately limit the possibilities of a gamer, the gamer him/herself has the ability to maneuver through those choices. Much like in the art of dance or music or print medium, the reality of the art is found through the individual viewer/performer/audience’s own subjective interpretation of the given art or reality. The ability to ‘make something one’s own’ has always been an important interpretive rule in the creation, adaptation, and understanding of art and, as gamers, the ability to explore the possibilities in the narrative of a game allows him/her to be the audience and artist of a game, both experiencing that reality and creating it.

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