In the last several months, much has been said about the coming explosion of multimedia cd ROMS which will use the large storage data capabilities of cd's to incorporate nonlinear plot development into traditional linear stories. Nonlinear has become *the* hot topic in many multimedia circles. Not surprisingly, The video on demand crowd is one of the loudest promoters of the widespread introduction of nonlinear story lines into the new generation of movie/video entertainment which they hope to sell to a rabid audience. Hmm.
I've been using cdroms on my computer at home for a little less than two months now. I have to admit that the titles which I prefer the most, the ones which hold my interest the longest and which seem to be pushing the envelope of the current levels of the technology the most are the games. (I also use educational cd's like Compton's encyclopedia and a "learn to speak french" monster that drives me bonkers with some of the pronunciation of the narrater) To be sure, up until about two months ago(if you don't count Myst), these games all were ports from existing arcade style video games. Most were first person shoot-em-ups. Fun for a good bash over the modem or Ethernet with your friends but hardly an uplifting example of the technology's oft predicted ability to fundamentally alter the way we relate to ideas of plot and narrative in story telling.
But this past Christmas season saw the introduction of the first attempts on the part of game creators and film makers to merge the two entertainment forms into a new hybrid: the interactive, nonlinear movie. That's right folks they're here so get Žem while they're hot.
So as not to be behind the times(after all analyzing this goop, not to mention creating it is what I do for a living right?), I ran right out and plunked down several hundred of my hard earned labor power party passes on several of the newest and most talked about, technologically revolutionary examples of these new types of cdroms. Don't laugh. You're right, for the most part it was a waste and I now have a whole new collection of little frisbees to taunt the cat with. Most were no more than star wars revisited using simple tried and true, predictable plot lines and characters albeit loaded with flashy 3d graphics and nifty astronavigational conundrums. The level of underactivity in these titles for the most part never proceeded beyond answering a question with yes or no. And in many cases, the game/movie would force you back onto the planned plot regardless of the tone of your responses. The level of underactivity went no further than the bare minimum required to give the user the false impression that they were in control of the story's outcome. Ultimately, this Cdrom, which by the way is being heralded by the mainstream media as *the* new wave in interactive movie making was no more than a very dressed up flight simulator accept you get to have four separate love interests and your very own Chewbaca to bail you out of trouble from time to time. By the way this particular movie takes up a total of four 650mb disks. There is no doubt that the graphics, texture mapping, ray tracing and 3d rendering is very impressive. And the 30 minute opening sequence probably is going to have a huge impact on how future products of this type are packaged. But the theme is tired and shallow and the outcome and message of the work is ultimately linear: you either take out the baddies and rescue the face or you die and get plopped in a burial pod and pushed out into space. Boring.
However, there was one cd which not only impressed me with it's use of the technology but also effected me on a much deeper level for the simple reason that it was almost impossible to ever experience the damn thing the same way. About he only thing you can be sure of is that are going to be the same physical character every time you start the thing. But your internal monologue and emotional state is rarely the same from moment to moment. There are simply too many objects and characters to interact with and every single thing you *do* whether it's looking at a stone or smiling to your self will alter the course of events, sometimes dramatically other times quite subtly. I've been playing(?) This movie(?) for almost two months and I still haven't finished the same story twice. This is all the more incredible since these apparently separate and hoplessly intertwined plot twists or mini stories are in fact all part of one larger story. In the liner notes the author states that he thinks it is possible to *never* experience the same story twice. If this is true(which I doubt given the storage limits of the medium), It promises to project the viewer(?) into a whole new way of experiencing a story.
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