Abstract: Player Engagement with Games: Formal Reliefs and Representation Checks

Alongside the direct parallels and contrasts between traditional narrative fiction and games, there lie certain partial analogies which provide their own insights. This paper 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 which stems 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.