What is Interactive Entertainment?

Jessica Ellis

Interactive entertainment can refer to any type of game or leisure activity in which the user's actions directly affect the game. More commonly, interactive entertainment is used to describe video games, or other types of multimedia entertainment where the actions and outcomes are user-driven. Many video game experts see interactive entertainment to be the goal of future productions, with each generation of video games pushing closer to total immersion in the world of the game.

Books that allow readers to choose their own adventure are considered interactive forms of entertainment.
Books that allow readers to choose their own adventure are considered interactive forms of entertainment.

Non-interactive entertainment may include leisure activities such as reading books or watching movies. These differ from interactive games in that the user is only passively involved in the process; while he or she can turn pages or hit “play” and “stop,” these actions cannot change the behavior, environment, or outcome of the book or movie. By contrast, the interactive entertainment of the early 21st century allows players to use skill and decision-making to control characters, actions, and storyline of video games.

Interactive entertainment may include role-playing games that feature avatars.
Interactive entertainment may include role-playing games that feature avatars.

One of the earliest ventures into interactive entertainment is a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure, originally written by R.A Montgomery. Each of the books in this expansive series had a second person perspective, meaning that the book referred to the protagonist, and thus the reader, as “you.” Each page gave the reader a choice between several actions, with a page to turn to for each choice. The storyline of the book was determined by the choices of the reader, thus making it an early form of interactive game.

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Similar role-playing games lead to the development of interactive entertainment in the computer world. While many classic video games created a visible central character that the user could direct, therefore being technically interactive, the idea of immersive environments developed further with the creation of first-person and multi-story games. By dissolving the idea that a user is playing a specific character, games with a second-person perspective and a rarely or never seen avatar for the user allowed the user to rely more on his or her own personality and skills in order to direct the actions of the game. The introduction of branching story-trees that could shift events in the game based on the decisions of the player increased the sense of personal involvement yet farther.

Moving out of the mental realm and into the area of physically interactive entertainment, some developments in the early 21st century now require even more user involvement. In 2010, a new form of program known as Kinect® was released, using software that recorded user movement, facial expression, and actions via sensors to direct the motions and behavior of a character on screen. Hailed as the next generation of interactive entertainment, this program is seen by some experts as removing an important barrier to total interactivity by getting rid of game controllers and keyboards and allowing the user's physical abilities to direct actions.

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