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ReindeR Rustema: Cronenberg and Rushdie chat

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Date: Sat, 10 Jul 1999 15:34:15 +0200
From: ReindeR Rustema <>
Subject: Cronenberg and Rushdie chat

Hopefully you have all seen eXistenZ by David Cronenberg by now. I found
this old, though still interesting, conversation between Cronenberg and
Rushdie at:

In another forum I coined the idea that the criticism of computergames
should not look for the narrative, plot, goal, moral in it. This is
frustrating, pointless and unsatisfactory. After all, if it is truly
interactive the story vanishes. What remains is the environment, the place
you are in. Therefore it is better to look at a game with the eyes of an
architect. A designed space that tells what its function is and what you
as a user are supposed to be. It goes even beyond the architecture of a
building. What you look like is also included in the design (e.g. Lara

Undoubtedly I am not the first with this idea and someone else has
formulated this before and much better. If you know a URL where I can read
what I am about to think I would be very grateful.

Here are some clippings of the Cronenberg-Rushdie conversation:

>This is the whole interactive art thing. Can it be a new art form? There's a
>sense in which every art form is interactive because you or whoever is
>reading your novel can bring their own things to it.
>I've written a script for MGM about gaming and my own version of that. And
>there have been attempts to do books that were interactive in the sense
>that you had chapters that you could shuffle.
>That's right. There was a writer, a British writer in the '60s called Bryan
>Stanley Johnson who did a lot of this trickery. [Johnson's 1969 book, The
>Unfortunates, was published in a box of 27 loose-leaf sections, to be shuffled
>in any order.]
>Actually, I think you can't do it. There's just this book, there's 
>just this object,
>and what you can do technically inside the format of just writing it down is
>almost infinite. It's just inexhaustibly infinite. I'm more 
>interested in that than
>in these more physical foolings around with the book.
>I'm not interested in, for instance, one of these writers of what's called
>cyberpunk fiction who had written a book which was available only on a
>floppy disc. [William Gibson's story, Agrippa, was published on diskette.]
>And had built into the program a thing which meant that each time you
>scrolled through, read a page, the previous page would be deleted. So that
>by the time you finished the book, you didn't have the book anymore. I don't
>know if this was a device to prevent replication or what. It seemed to be
>completely futile, because the great pleasure of a book is re-reading.
>That old technology of having the paperback in your pocket is very hard to
>There's this thing about the death of novels and it has been so for about a
>hundred years. I think it's too useful an object. It's cheap and useful and
>fulfills a function that other things don't fulfill.
>But I think it's quite possible that 20 years from now you won't have
>hardback novels.


>Cronenberg: Do you think there could ever be a computer game that
>could truly be art?
>Rushdie: No.
>There's a beautiful game called Myst. Have you seen that?
>I haven't seen that.
>They say this is democratic art, that is to say, the reader is equal
>to the creator. But this is really subverting what you want from art.
>You want to be taken over and you want to be-
>Shown something.
>Exactly. Why be limited by yourself? But they say, "No, it's a