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Computer Games - Interactive Movies - Players - Stakeholders
Local Censorship - Overseas Censorship - Developer Responses - Accusations

What is an interactive movie?

A sub-category of computer game, interactive movies involve visual depictions of real human actors engaged in complex storylines.  They are the result of the technological convergence of traditional film making techniques with computer gaming.  As with movies, every action of every actor needs to be carefully filmed rather than quickly and cheaply generated on a computer as is the case with traditional computer games.  Video files take up much more storage space on any electronic medium than animation files.  This all means that interactive movies can only be produced at considerable costs of time and money and that interactivity is seriously limited.

Interactive movies were most popular in the early to mid 1990s when video compression technology had matured sufficiently to allow visually crude video to be placed on cd-rom discs.  This development coincided with the last surge in popularity of adventure games - computer games that empahsise strong plot, characters, and problem-solving in the manner of movies rather than more or less continual combat and/or action.  Multiplayer capability is generally impossible with these sorts of games unless people seated near the same computer discuss their interactivity choices while playing a particular title.

Most gamers welcomed interactive movies for their novelty value for a few years until they largely tired of their comparative lack of fast and frequent interactive opportunities in comparison to combat and/or action titles.  These days, only a very select few radical directors such as David Wheeler are keeping the traditions of interactive movies alive, but this time primarily for DVD and with even less interactivity than was seen in this type of game's cd-rom heyday.  The current trend is to make these products more like movies than computer games and thus to try to break into the mainstream movie as opposed to computer games market.  It is unclear at this stage whether interactive movies will thus experience a resurgence in popularity or meet their permanent demise.

Some famous (and infamous) cd-rom based interactive movies include: The 11th Hour, Harvester, and Phantasmagoria.  Some recent examples (both by David Wheeler and available on DVD and cd-rom) are Tender Loving Care and Point of View.   All examples in the former group contain adventure storylines involving horror, while those from the latter group are primarily thrillers that are more like movies than games.

Interactive movies have a much greater chance of being banned for sale in Australia than standard computer games owing to their particularly mature storylines and degree of visual realism.  The DVD medium used for most interactive movies sold in the world today has considerably enhanced this latter quality.


Bonus Material 
Anthony Larme

Interactive movies university project (2002)
Convergence, Control, and Gratification Within the Interactive Movie Phenomenon
( 187 Kb WinZip ZIP containing Microsoft Word DOCs and a PowerPoint presentation )

Psychiatry in interactive movies university essay (2000)
The Portrayal of Psychiatry in Recent Film
( 94 Kb Adobe Acrobat PDF )

Phantasmagoria and Phantasmagoria 2 Web site

Point of View Web site

© Anthony Larme 2002
Comments and questions are most welcome