In Chapter Two of The Language of New Media, Len Manovich delves deeper into how we consume and create modern media. Two points in particular from this chapter resonated with me. The first is the shifting idea of “tools” in the digital age and how we use them. As Manovich describes breakthroughs in user interface design and interactivity I was struck by a brief aside about how the tools we use to work have also become the tools we use to play. We enter data into spreadsheets at the office and go home to play a game on our own computers, erasing any barriers that might have existed between work and personal time. This breakdown of a clear delineation of work and play means we are an always connected society sitting at a computer.
As we sit at a computer for leisure we also have learned to ingest new media in various methods, most notably in the guise of a video game. Games have taken many shapes since their creation, but one of the most important and innovative formats was created in the late eighties and perfected in the early nineties with the game Myst. Myst is an “interactive adventure” that presents players with a mystery that is unraveled by traversing a digital landscape, using input commands to manipulate the environment, reading text and watching snippets of video. These methods existed in separate forms in previous games but Myst and several games that followed wrangled these media delivery formats into one effective package. What is most significant is how this information was presented inside a form of new media itself; the game is a delivery system for new ideas. While the game is now dated and considered archaic by industry standards, it helped usher in a method of media consumption that is still important to this day.
Media delivery is still evolving, creating new methods of digital communication that are often masquerading as a seemingly unrelated media package. Games themselves are pushing boundaries and testing the limits of interactivity and presentation. I believe games are a valid and acceptable form of media delivery that can contain a message, but that is an opinion that I have only come to share. This article outlines some of the reservations I had, and still somewhat have, but as I see the medium grow I believe we are exhausting our new media options and will need to branch out into new methods of content delivery. Our tendency to combine work and play will help facilitate these breakthroughs.