December 6, 2005
MarkBernstein.org
 
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TEKKA: Losing

Continuing the games theme in the new TEKKA, I have a hypertext on Rise of Nations that asks, among other things, why we don't take a closer look at losing computer games. After all, that's what we generally do.

In the end, you cannot win. Nobody gets out of here alive.

For over a decade, a cadre of academic enthusiasts have been hailing computer games as the natural next step in new media. They dismiss the literary achievements of hypertext fiction as transitional moments en route to a mythical holodeck that will immerse you deep in the action. The computer game industry, which some grant proposal writers believe to be "bigger than film", has been seen as a savior, reconciling popular taste to an electronic art world that has grown esoteric and inaccessible. Interactive Fiction fan Nick Montfort was merely the least tactful member of the chorus when he set out to write a premature obituary for electronic literature: "Cybertext", he said, "killed the hypertext star".

Oddly, one of the least-discussed questions of computer games has been their end. What happens at the end of the game, and why? Why do games end as they do?