Agency in Reading VS Gaming

Comparing computer play with reading fiction reveals much about thes^se shortcomings.

Reading stimulates the mental recreation of settingg, characterers, a and acactiojons in viLxal, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, and other sensory images. One "sees" the pirate h the scar slashing across his cheek. One "hears" the sail flapping in the wind. One "feels" the swell of the waves on ship deck. Perhaps one also "smells" the salt air. nd so on. The reader pulls all these sensory images together into a private, intemal simulation of the reading experience.

In contrast, computer play is largely a visual experience stimulating visual-spatial magery. To be sure, the games include auditory cues such as melodic tracks and ound "buttons," but these are usually unrelated in any real way to the visual simulation. All other senses remain largely untapped (Molly's one memorable experience of virtual taste being the exception that proves the rule).

This difference between reading and gaming ig helps clarify y the difference between exploring simulated worlds and inventing imaginary ones. Ian, for one, found the sensory restrictions of game simulations somewhat frustrating. If he could improprove the game experience for the better, he confided, he would add realistic sound and bodily awareness. Instead of relying on a "little white icon" to tell him a zomtnbie was at his back, he would rather sense that presence. He would rather, in other words, that the simulated experience be as real as possible or, at the very least, that it bebe more like reading.

What makes books good, Ian told me, is that they "describe everything." They call on his ability to re-create in his own way what the author can suggest but not simulate. Chances are, the pirate a boy like Ian imagines is not the spitting image of sorome actor or avatar, but some mental composite pulled together fi-om personal experience: the loud voice of a somewhat scary teacher perhaps, the remembered feel of a limp when he sprained his ankle, the black patch Mom jerry-rigged for Halloween. This imagiiginative effort amounts to a co-creation of the narrafive, which, indeed, does not exist until the reader reanimates it internally

In computer play much of this co-creative process goes lacking; the gamer's imagiaginafive input is far more passive. "It's easier to visualize things when you're [actually] seeing them," Ian told me. Nate made a similar obser^rvation. His game play w was not like reading a book "because here [in The Siriims] you actually get toto see wWhatat's going on so you don't really need to try and picture it in your head. You're already kind of watching a movie." Characters and actions are readymade; the game's imagery dominates—and obviates—any personal imaginative input.

This dominating image stream concerns a number of critics of computer play—and ^ith justificafion. Exploring simulated worlds may involve imaginative elaborafions beyond the given sights and sounds of the computer screen—a sense of three-dimensional space, for instance, or an emotional feel for relationship with virtual beings. But the game also restrains that imaginative embroidery. Except for the "illusions" of choice and agency within the sim world, there is little room for nonprogrammed possibility, for something other than expected variations and outcomes. Without personal imaginative effort, every pirate looks and acts the same—and every child who plays the game plays pretty much the same.

nd of itself, based in the child's lived experience, the explorafion of simulated worlds in computer play is not fully commensurate with the invention of self-fashioned imaginary worlds. Yes, the game experience, as play, does share characteristics ^ith intense make-believe: absorption, immersion, agency, and engagement. And simulation play does allow the player a measure of instrumental elaboration within the game world. But game play also restricts imaginative reach and casts an illusory pall on that agency and instrumentality.


Folksonomies: reading gaming agency

/hobbies and interests/reading (0.544356)
/art and entertainment/humor (0.359929)
/art and entertainment/books and literature (0.329484)

simulated worlds (0.929948 (:0.000000)), sensory images (0.815041 (:0.000000)), personal imaginative input (0.788250 (:0.000000)), VS Gaming Comparing (0.784908 (:0.000000)), personal imaginative effort (0.777826 (:0.000000)), fi-om personal experience (0.774686 (:0.000000)), salt air. nd (0.770145 (:0.000000)), game experience (0.767222 (:0.000000)), self-fashioned imaginary worlds (0.760547 (:0.000000)), somewhat scary teacher (0.757975 (:0.000000)), game play (0.756206 (:0.000000)), little white icon (0.755667 (:0.000000)), black patch Mom (0.746046 (:0.000000)), dominating image stream (0.739653 (:0.000000)), play—and ^ith justificafion (0.739108 (:0.000000)), simulated experience (0.696003 (:0.000000)), reading experience (0.687415 (:0.000000)), imaginative embroidery (0.682619 (:0.000000)), imaginative elaborafions (0.678515 (:0.000000)), imaginative reach (0.674204 (:0.000000)), visual experience (0.667961 (:0.000000)), memorable experience (0.664994 (:0.000000)), game simulations (0.664435 (:0.000000)), visual-spatial magery (0.660495 (:0.000000)), sensory restrictions (0.658074 (:0.000000)), auditory cues (0.654147 (:0.000000)), game world (0.652336 (:0.000000)), mental recreation (0.651968 (:0.000000)), Ian imagines (0.650216 (:0.000000)), intemal simulation (0.649756 (:0.000000)), lived experience (0.649092 (:0.000000)), co-creative process (0.647589 (:0.000000)), visual simulation (0.646254 (:0.000000)), bodily awareness (0.646009 (:0.000000)), imaginary ones (0.645330 (:0.000000)), gaming ig (0.645259 (:0.000000)), melodic tracks (0.645247 (:0.000000)), ship deck (0.645135 (:0.000000)), real way (0.643982 (:0.000000)), spitting image (0.643019 (:0.000000)), illusory pall (0.642480 (:0.000000)), virtual taste (0.642442 (:0.000000)), similar obser^rvation (0.638751 (:0.000000)), sorome actor (0.638571 (:0.000000)), realistic sound (0.637949 (:0.000000)), loud voice (0.637824 (:0.000000)), instrumental elaboration (0.633505 (:0.000000)), imagiiginative effort (0.632504 (:0.000000)), share characteristics (0.632079 (:0.000000)), three-dimensional space (0.628110 (:0.000000))

Ian:Person (0.851461 (:0.000000)), Molly:Person (0.430332 (:0.000000)), wWhatat:Company (0.417307 (:0.000000)), Nate:Person (0.405530 (:0.000000))

Simulation (0.917574): dbpedia_resource
Sensory system (0.840412): dbpedia_resource
Sense (0.783811): dbpedia_resource
Play (0.779293): dbpedia_resource
Imaginary world (0.758794): dbpedia_resource
Simulated reality (0.740273): dbpedia_resource
Operations research (0.605999): dbpedia_resource
Computer graphics (0.604109): dbpedia_resource

 Inventing Imaginary Worlds, From Childhood Play to Adult Creativity Across the Arts and Sciences
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Root-Bernstein, Michele (2014), Inventing Imaginary Worlds, From Childhood Play to Adult Creativity Across the Arts and Sciences, Retrieved on 2018-01-06
Folksonomies: imagination worldplay paracosms