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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Commitment to Meaning: A Reframing of Agency in Games


This paper examines the concept of agency within games and proposes a shift from the notion of agency as representing choice or freedom to one of agency as representing commitment to meaning. This conception of agency is aimed at understanding the pleasures of engaging with narratively rich games, and helps to address the tension between player choice and authorial intent. We draw on what speech act theory says about how trust, meaning and communication are achieved in human conversation, applying these notions to interactive storytelling. This new perspective on agency provides us with a better analytical tool for understanding the relationship between interaction and narrative pleasure, and provides a useful metric for designers of story-rich games.

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