The Whole Action: Videogames vs. Movies

In case this is shocking to anyone, I’ll put this up front: my spouse and I are gamers. Granted, our enthusiasm has waned over the years, especially since having children. We also tend to enjoy different types of videogames now than in the past. While I might have delighted in solving complex and sometimes nonsensical puzzles in the past, my patience for them is now greatly reduced when I have maybe 90 minutes between the kids’ bedtime and my own of free time.

I have to toss this canned juice down a garbage chute to dislodge the Old Man Coin in Silent Hill 2? Kay…

So, I’m more likely to enjoy, say, Legend of Zelda: Windwaker (a game with an immersive, cinematic world with multiple discrete tasks) than Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past (complex dungeons, difficult-to-beat bosses, and you can’t save any half-completed dungeons—if you quit, you have to start the dungeon all over).

Link to the Past: Get the chickens!!!
Windwaker: Immersive world

Which brings me to my next point: rather than playing any game at all, Eric and I are MOST likely to just watch a movie or TV show, and the reason is what Aristotle (and Laurel, in my reading for this week) defined as the magnitude of the “whole action,” or plot. If one is forced by circumstance to devote only 90 minutes per day to a game that might take more than 10 hours to complete (20 hours and up for the kind of games Eric used to favor, role-playing games or RPGs), and there are constant interruptions like parent-teacher night or gymnastics lessons, than the narrative thread of a videogame is easily lost. Many times I’ve started up and thought, Now what was I doing again? Where am I supposed to go next? What is happening here? This doesn’t happen to me with movies or most TV shows (though Boyhood, at nearly 3 hours, did start to make me ask those kinds of questions; The Wire, with its complex multidimensional plot, is an exception to the TV rule).

So for me, the answer to this week’s query is the magnitude of the whole action is most critical for me, as far as enjoyment of a human-computer (or human-media) interaction is concerned. And whether or not the controls are simplistic enough to let me eat popcorn whilst slaying monsters.

The Whole Action: Videogames vs. Movies

3 thoughts on “The Whole Action: Videogames vs. Movies

  1. […] This is a tall order, in part because we must keep in mind that “the whole action must have a beginning, a middle, and an end” for it to be a satisfying plot.  Video games, TV, and movies all have this notion, as sovink77 has written about in her post. […]


  2. frisardm says:

    Love this post!! it is so true (at least for me anyway). We are not gamers, but even with movies and TV, by the time we sit down after work, dinner, bath… yadda yadda yadda, my husband says, “do you want to watch a movie?” I’m thinking, “there is no way I can make it through even a movie, how about a TV show?” Yes, I was really struggling with that question, but I agree that I think magnitude is probably the most important for me (at least right now).


  3. Yes – and the TV show needs to be the 42-minute variety without commercials! (She says, longing for the days when she had time and could stay awake for a feature-length film….and yet I can always find time and energy to binge watch Homeland. Hmmmmm) I love this gamers / no gamers confession! But I’m not sure about the game / Television comparison using “magnitude.” I think I would say that television, wonderful as it is, does not have the interactive elements necessary for enactment and the “computers as theater” model Laurel proposes?


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