Life is an interactive experience (anon.)

In the Disney animation production The Hunchback of Notredam (1996) a character makes the following observation “Life is not a spectator sport”. This is something of a philosophy perhaps but true to my experience. In my study of structure and level design of digital and interactive games I have come to understand the varied and numerous levels of interactivity and all of these levels can be applied to the processes of life. This is expounded below.

This philosophy is backed up scientifically by the work of Deci & Moller ( 2005) with regards to competence motivation. This may at first seem off topic but our engagement and interactions with objects (whether real or fictional) almost always can be traced to that sense of satisfaction achieved through attaining competence at something. If something in interactive then we have the capacity to decide the next step in some way. Human- technology interfacing could be as simple as a switch or button, a mouse or joystick, or as complex as motion tracking or sound triggers.

The levels of engagement and interaction are closely interrelated and seem to range from the point and click adventure, where you do little more than what the industry slang refers to as “quicktime events”* (which could equate to being an automated response to an alarm in the morning which engages a habitualised process called the morning routine), right up to high level engagement called agency of which, surprisingly enough, there is very little available in modern society**. Agency, in essence, with regards to interactivity, is the capacity for and variety of “meaningful choice” (Worch, 2014).

There has been studies into the functions of interactivity as a learning implement by Sweller (1994) which has been used extensively in the games industry (Bjork, 2004). And, more recently, is beginning to be seen in the art world (Alvarez, 1998) and more specifically in media arts (Reiser & Zapp, 2002, Graham & Cook, 2012). In such media interactivity can be used as part of the medium, the fact that the viewer/ user is making the choice and making affect upon what’s before them is part of the comminuique. This signified that interactivity in art is moving beyond mere engagement practices into the more experiential.


* “Quicktime event” in game industry slang is a derogatory term used to describe a point of interaction which only has a single outcome- generally initiating a pre-rendered video or action. It comments back to the early game building days of Macromedia Director which exported games as Quicktime executables.

* The observation of there being very little agency in modern life comes from previous studies I’ve made into the symbolism of the nuclear family and prescribed life path of, and this isn’t verbatim, get good grades, get a good job, find a good wife, have good children (based off the words of Kiyosaki, R in his seminar/lecture “Rich Dad Poor Dad”). We are led to believe that the biggest “choice” in life is the career path but the vast majority of us plebs must settle for what we can find, not what we want to do.



Álvarez, F. (1998). Waterfronts of Art Technologies of Information, Interactivity and Public Art.


Bernstein, D. (1997). Creating an Interactive Audio Environment. Gamasutra: http://www. gamasutra. com/features/19971114/bernstein_01. htm.


Bjork, S., & Holopainen, J. (2004). Patterns in game design (game development series).



Brandon, A. (1998). Interactive Music: Merging Quality with Effectiveness.


Deci, E. L., & Moller, A. C. (2005). The Concept of Competence: A Starting Place for Understanding Intrinsic Motivation and Self-Determined Extrinsic Motivation.


Graham, B., & Cook, S. (2010). Rethinking Curating: Art after New Media-Leonardo Books. The MIT Press.


Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2005). Role of guidance, reflection, and interactivity in an agent-based multimedia game. Journal of educational psychology, 97(1), 117.


Rieser, M., & Zapp, A. (Eds.). (2002). New screen media: cinema/art/narrative (p. 151). London: British film institute.


Vallino, J. R. (1998). Interactive augmented reality (Doctoral dissertation, University of Rochester).


Sweller, J. (1994). Cognitive load theory, learning difficulty, and instructional design. Learning and instruction, 4(4), 295-312.


Worch, M (2014) meaningful Choice in Game Level Design. Originally sourced from, now available at


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