As a game designer, game is a kind of interactive art for me. Its fun of interactivity is the key that draws me in, which is also the most powerful element comparing to other art forms. But game is just a specific branch of interactive art, which emphasizes meaningful choice more. There are a lot of other interactive art forms that will not be defined as game normally. They might focus on amplifying human’s expression and capability. They might look like a tool or a toy. They might be more physical than common digital games which are just behind the screen. But the edges of these branches are pretty vague, and they closely interweave with each other. I always would like to jump out from a thinking set, and experience the world from some different perspectives so that I would not fall into a stereotyped black hole. So let’s zoom out a little bit.
What is interaction? In my word, it’s a cycle, an input and output cycle between two subjects. We do something (we send some messages to the other subject whatever it’s cognitive, vocal or physical), and we get something back from it which reacts to what we do and conveys what they want to tell us back, then we do something to react this again…This back and forth cycle is interaction. When the messages conveying through a physical way, when we use our body language to communicate, it’s physical interaction.
So what makes good physical interaction? In my opinion, it should be direct, minimalist and harmonious. It should feel like what we think it will be. It’s easy to access and use, and we could understand what to do without intended learning. It’s minimalist without any unnecessary part. It might be complex but it’s relatively “invisible”, which means it only shows the things we need at the moment, and hide all the other irrelevant information. It perfectly blends with our natural interaction way with the world. And it’s harmonious with our common sense to the world. We could feel it as real.
Interaction must be a cycle containing back and forth reactions. Sometimes it’s easy to misunderstand participation as interaction. A great example for this is artist Daniel Canogar’s work “Storming Times Square”. They invite people to crawl forward on ground and record it, then make it as a video showing on the screens on Time Square’s buildings. The video installation actually reacts to those participants’ actions, but they cannot react back. It doesn’t form a cycle. It's participant art.