Photopia dispenses with interactive gameplay

Photopia
unceremoniously dumped the idea of a ‘puzzle-based’ narrative in favour
of what it called a ‘story-based’ narrative, a linear progression
(linear in terms of interactivity, not time) from beginning to end that
throws seemingly random fragments of a story at the player, which
slowly start to weave into one another and create a cohesive pattern as
the game progresses. The effect is akin to a movie like 21 Grams, which
chops its linear narrative into fragments that slowly start to
coalesce.


The debate centred on the fact that Photopia
required very little from the player in terms of actual ‘gameplay’.
There were no ‘puzzles’, some reviewers said, and the experience was
akin to watching a long cutscene (Metal Gear Solid comes to mind) and
occasionally pressing a key to move it along. Most of the sequences,
like the one in the beginning of the game, are timed to two or three
responses before moving on, irrespective of what they might be.


Commentators
seemed to regard Photopia as almost dispensing with the need for the
gamer. It had a story to tell, and that was that. –
Krish Raghav, Express Buzz

I have assigned Photopia in the past when I teach interactive fiction, though lately I have shifted away from assigning specific texts for class discussion, and more towards asking students to use the IFDB to research games they actually want to play.  After students have tried programming in I7, and they have a better sense of the medium, I assign a few texts for the class to discuss.

This past year, about half of the students in my introductory new media course chose to create text adventure games rather than make web pages.  In the advanced class, some students chose an IF project because they were intimidated by Flash, which is not exactly the best reason, but which does show that text-adventure gaming is an appealing way to introduce programming skills to word-centric English majors.  (These days, Flash is such an important part of new media production that I will very likely require students to take the Flash course offered by the art department, so that they won’t be working in Flash for the first time when they take “New Media Projects.”)