February 11, 2003
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Tekka: My Friend Hamlet

My main piece for the pilot issue of Tekka is My Friend, Hamlet. It's a simple argument about immersive fictions and the popular illusion that interactive fiction aspires to become something like the Star Trek Holodeck, a notion first popularized by the early VR crowd and then enshrined in Janet Murray's fine book, Hamlet On The Holodeck .

People think it would be really cool if you could be the hero of a play or movie, if you could be immersed in the action. Back at Hypertext 2001, I showed that this leads to a host of contradictions and incongruities: even if we could have Hamlet on the holodeck, it wouldn't work. Let someone sane and sensible into a tragedy -- someone like you -- and the whole thing collapses.

It's a shame that the people who think games are the future of fiction have ignored this problem for two long years. (Comedy has the same problem. We're left, perhaps, with romance and melodrama -- if everything else comes together.)

Update: Scott Johnson likes the argument.