What is interactivity?

Games are interactive. How can we make that interaction most satisfying  audiences?

Last week on the blog I wrote about what makes a game – particularly thinking about Greg Costikyan’s I Have No Words and I Must Design, one of the classic game design essays.

According to Greg, one of the key qualities of a game is that it’s interactive. And as an interactive theatremaker, I definitely agree! I see a lot of ‘interactive’ theatre that doesn’t really live up to its promise – and I think that’s because the makers haven’t always fully prepared themselves for how much people might interact with an interactive show.

The thing about interaction is that to be really satisfying it has to work both ways. Interaction is a kind of conversation between a game/show and its audience.

If two people are having a conversation, ideally we’ll say about the same number of words and sentences. If I’m the only one talking and you’re not really saying anything, maybe it’s not a conversation at all?

It could be something else great, perhaps – maybe a really inspiring lecture, or a story that I’m telling you – but it’s not a conversation.

And I’ve seen wonderful theatre that aims to be interactive (or ‘immersive’ – a buzzword for years now that still isn’t well understood) but actually is based on assumptions that its audience won’t say or do anything to change what’s going on.

In order for a piece of theatre to be interactive, our audiences have to be able to make change.

What shows have you seen where the audience genuinely have the power to change what’s happening?



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