Tell Me What Art Is, and I'll Tell You What Games Are

That’s the story that’s been set up for the player to experience,
and he travels along that path like a tourist on a Disneyland ride.
However much choice the player seems to have in between these story
checkpoints, the overall path of the game is geometrically equivalent
to those of film or theater or books. We choose to ignore the
fundamental quality that makes games different and so compelling– their
interactivity.

The other approach is to “open up” Moby Dick, to allow the
player real, significant choices in the course of events and their
outcomes. In this configuration, an especially skillful player might be
so good at the game that he does indeed catch and kill Moby Dick,
triumphantly achieving Captain Ahab’s revenge– and along with it,
destroying the whole point of Melville’s story. Allowing such an
alternate ending robs the work of its power; the story of Moby Dick is engaging precisely because Captain Ahab cannot
find extra lives, rewind time or load an old save for a second chance,
and the story of his obsession and undoing is fixed over time, a static
sculpture in four dimensions.

The issue of these changeable outcomes is what the critic Roger
Ebert infamously identified as the central problem with games-as-art,
and despite the emotional flurries and dismissive grumblings from the
gaming community, it is actually a good point without a clear answer.
If Melville had so much as allowed for any possibility at all where
Captain Ahab “wins,” no matter how remote, the work’s message and its
interpretation of the world completely changes. Instead of destiny and
fate, we would now speak of probability and chance. Work hard enough,
get lucky enough, and anything is possible — Matthew Wasteland, GameSetWatch