Player Engagement with Games: Formal Reliefs and Representation Checks

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 80 (1):95-104 (2022)
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Alongside the direct parallels and contrasts between traditional narrative fiction and games, there lie certain partial analogies that provide their own insights. This article begins by examining a direct parallel between narrative fiction and games—the role of fictional reliefs and reality checks in shaping aesthetic engagement—before arguing that from this a partial analogy can be developed stemming from a feature that distinguishes most games from most traditional fictions: the presence of rules. The relation between rules and fiction in games has heretofore been acknowledged but not examined in detail, giving an impression of a tension that is constant. However, the paired concepts of formal reliefs and representation checks, once introduced, allow us to explain how rules and fiction interact to alter the ways in which players engage with games in a dynamic but limited way.

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Karl Egerton
Nottingham University

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