Mika Tuomola

Aalto University

A Portrait of Drama in New Media

“Aristotle has not defined pity and terror. I have.” By a deep reading of the Daedalus-Lynch dialogue on storytelling and drama in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), I introduce a vocabulary to discuss narrative (1) structures, (2) goals, stance and emotion, and (3) ethical concerns of Interactive Drama, including story-based games, in New Media. The narrative content database elements and the rules of their structural organisation in relationship to the participant interaction are considered as destined elements that may be enhanced by chance operations of the storytelling system, including the participant. All the elements and operations become activated by the choices of the interactive participant. As an existential act, the choice element of Drama in New Media requires a discussion on the ethics of the interactive aesthetics. “The esthetic emotion is… static. The mind is arrested and raised above desire and loathing.”

The Interactive Drama vocabulary is applied in the analysis of four productions in various genres, where the author has been the director and/or dramaturge: Daisy’s Amazing Discoveries (1996) as a navigable landscape drama on the Internet, Shift (2001) as a screened generative movie, Accidental Lovers (2006) as an interactive television series and game, commenting on reality television participated by audience voting, and Alan01 (2010) as an interactive character installation art piece. The analysis reflects on other contemporary works during the last two decades, while the discussion fluctuates between research literature and fiction/drama, as we investigate how storytellers themselves tell about drama within drama. The conclusions assess and probably reformulate the Interactive Drama vocabulary as an analysis and production tool. “The artist, like the God of creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.”