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Is Electronic Literature A Game Or Not?…That Is The Question.

If you were in a store, would you find electronic literature in the game section?  I don’t think this is something many people would think about, but it does raise a very interesting question.  With electronic literature being so evolving these days what is it that differentiates between a piece of electronic literature and an electronic video game?  Electronic literature and video games both overlap in what they have to offer. With all the new technology and tools that electronic literature has to offer, what is it that’s stopping people from associating electronic literature as a game rather then what it truly is, a piece of literature?  This may seem difficult to answer seeing as there are many similarities between the two, however there must be something that makes electronic literature different and unique. In order to figure out what that is we need to analyze “The Sweet Old Etcetera”, a piece of electronic literature.

In the poem “The Sweet Old Etcetera” E.E. Cummings “encourages the reader to play…, as the interactivity is only deduced in the act of engagement”.   The reader unleashes the poem in this text though ways of interacting with the piece, such as clicking on words or objects on the screen to have new words appear.  The scenic picture that the words make help get the reader in a different dimension and adds a picturesque touch to the piece of literature.  What I would consider to be the differencing factor which does not make this a game is its purpose.  The sole purpose of this piece is to relay over a poem to the reader.  The author however chose to do it through a creative way however that shouldn’t take away from the underlying fact that it is still a piece of literature.  Although there are similarities between this piece and a video game the sole purpose of this piece is to allow the reader to interact with the poem therefore having a stronger connection to the literature in it.  The purpose of a video game is to interact with a “user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device”-nothing else.  It may relay a message by doing it, but its sole purpose is entertainment. Although the two have similar actions, they both have different purposes. 

“The Sweet Old Etcetera”, although it does allow for some interaction of the reader with the piece, the interaction is very limited.  It sets out to engage the reader by allowing them to click on letters or forms to allow access to more words on the screen, in hopes to reveal the entire poem.  However, this is the only interaction the reader has with this piece of literature which makes it seem more similar to a piece of literature rather than a game.   Whereas in a video game where the interaction is greater and more hands on, “The Sweet Old Etcetera” it is very limited, making it more similar to a piece of literature.    



Competitiveness is something which is found in games yet is not found in electronic literature.  Unlike games where there are time limits and opponents, electronic literature possesses none of these.  You can take as long as you like and not feel the pressure to succeed at a fast pace and you are not competing against anybody other than yourself.  Unlike games where there are rights and wrongs, electronic literature does not have that.  It takes on many different directions and will allow you to decide what happens next.  It will give you the option of choosing different directions to take the story in.  You are the deciding factor as to what is right and what is wrong.  Unlike video games where the sole purpose is for entertainment, electronic literature generally has a purpose behind it.  It can be revealing a kinetic poem, a piece of literature or a piece of history through a story.  Although it may do it by means of a game or creativity, its purpose is to relay over a piece of literature.  The game acts as the intermediary which relays the literature from the author to the reader.

Although we see lots of differences between video games and electronic literature, there are still some similarities. “ A video game is an electronic game that involves human interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on aa video device”.  This sounds very similar to certain elements of electronic literature.  Many pieces require the reader to be hands on and interact with the literature just like a video game would.  It involves clicking to get new information or continue to the next level.  Some require more interaction such as “Game, Game, Game, and Again Game” while some such as “The Sweet Old Etcetera” require less.   Both electronic literature and video games include audio sounds in the background and different visual components to gain one’s attention and have a greater affect.  Although electronic literature has more to offer, there is a large component of it that is similar to video games.

One may assume that the similarities between electronic literature and video games are enough to consider the two the same, however as we can see there are still lots of differences between the two.  It is true that both electronic literature and video games require interacting with the programs, entertainment and accomplishing tasks.  However, the underlying purpose of electronic literature is to relay over the literature to the reader.  The author may choose to deliver the literature through creativity; however the purpose of the creativity is to deliver the literature.  The reader is able to form a bond with the text and appreciate its meaning in electronic literature, something which is not accomplished in video games. 

Sources used:

Electronic Literature Volume 2

Wikipedia-video games


  1. Your introduction was great and provided the readers with a clear description of what was going to be discussed in your blog. I greatly agree with you about the point you make about interaction within “The Sweet Old Etcetera.” I agree with you that electronic literature can include interaction and not be considered a video game. I believe that the difference between electronic literature and video game is the level of interaction within the piece. I also agree with your point made on competiveness and how there is an absence in a piece of electronic piece of literature. I believe that if competiveness were added to an electronic piece of literature it would automatically become a video game. Your conclusion was great and perfectly summed up what was discussed.

  2. Your first sentence was great and immediately hooked me in. I agree with a main difference between electronic literature and video games being their main purpose. Electronic literature has many purposes mostly letting the reader decide it whereas video games main purpose is entertainment. Overall, well done on your post.

  3. TJ Stan Marquez

    Appropriate and effective use of images throughout the post. I like the way how you opened your post with a question “If you were in a store, would you find electronic literature in the game section? “; it really did made me feel interested on what you were going to talk about.

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