It's a Book! It's a Game! It's a... Chore?

At times, playing a mission-driven video game, particularly a bad one, can feel like a chore. And essentially, it is — or rather, it’s a sequence of chores that you must finish in order to reveal the next plot segment. Want to find out what happens next? First perform a pointless task: Tromp across the world and pick up some glowing graphical doohicky (killing some mutants/zombie/aliens/gangsters along the way), take it to someplace else, kill a boss, and then, and only then, will the game dole out a little bit more of the story. This is why the real fun of games, typically, is in exploring the world rather than in following the story. The best games succeed on the strength of their environments; the narrative experiences they provide are, often enough, rather like being forced by a book to run laps around your house in order to read the next chapter. It’s a promising, often pleasantly engaging form of entertainment, but, given that it’s essentially designed around putting up barriers between the player and the narrative, it’s probably not really the way you’d really want to tell a story. Leave that to the books, right?

Or perhaps you would. J.C. Hutchins and Jordan Weisman have just released Personal Effects: Dark Art, the first in a series of “interactive thrillers” — novels which seem to borrow from the quest structure of video games. Reports Vulture:

Dark Art, out this week, is the first book in a possible series of interactive thrillers by J.C. Hutchins and Jordan Weisman. With a pocket full of “evidence” enfolded into the front cover and a plot riddled with phone numbers and URLs to visit along the way to the big reveal, it is itself a marketing trick, a would-be Blair Witch Project for the Twitter age.

Not surprisingly, one of the authors (Weisman) is a game designer. Somehow this doesn’t seem too appealing: Maybe I’m a technological curmudgeon, but a big part of the reason I read books is to get away from my computer. The last thing I wast is to have to fire up Safari in order to find out what happens next.