Narrative as Virtual Reality 2: Revisiting Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media

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JHU Press, Oct 30, 2015 - Literary Criticism - 304 pages

Is there a significant difference between engagement with a game and engagement with a movie or novel? Can interactivity contribute to immersion, or is there a trade-off between the immersive “world” aspect of texts and their interactive “game” dimension? As Marie-Laure Ryan demonstrates in Narrative as Virtual Reality 2, the questions raised by the new interactive technologies have their precursors and echoes in pre-electronic literary and artistic traditions. 

Approaching the idea of virtual reality as a metaphor for total art, Ryan applies the concepts of immersion and interactivity to develop a phenomenology of narrative experience that encompasses reading, watching, and playing. The book weighs traditional literary narratives against the new textual genres made possible by the electronic revolution of the past thirty years, including hypertext, electronic poetry, interactive drama, digital installation art, computer games, and multi-user online worlds like Second Life and World of Warcraft.

In this completely revised edition, Ryan reflects on the developments that have taken place over the past fifteen years in terms of both theory and practice and focuses on the increase of narrativity in video games and its corresponding loss in experimental digital literature. Following the cognitive approaches that have rehabilitated immersion as the product of fundamental processes of world-construction and mental simulation, she details the many forms that interactivity has taken—or hopes to take—in digital texts, from determining the presentation of signs to affecting the level of story.


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List of Figures and Tables
The Two and Thousand Faces of the Virtual
Virtual Reality as Dream and as Technology
Theories of Immersion
Spatial Temporal Emotional
The Text as World versus the Text as Game
Dysfunctionality as a Form of Play
The Many Forms of Interactivity
Chasing the Dream of the Immersive Interactive Narrative

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About the author (2015)

 Marie-Laure Ryan is an independent scholar and the coeditor of The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media.

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