Affect, Responsibility, and How Modes of Engagement Shape the Experience of Videogames

  • Kevin Veale
  • Transactions of the Digital Games Research Association, December 2015, Digital Games Research Association
  • DOI: 10.26503/todigra.v2i1.44

Why Playing Videogames Makes You Feel Responsible For What Happens In Their Stories.

What is it about?

When people play videogames, the experience feels different to other kinds of storytelling because of how videogames work: the person playing the game is the one making choices, and that impacts how they feel about the characters and events within the world of the game. The article explores how and why this dynamic happens when people play games, and considers the ways that the creators of specific case-studies have set up the spaces of their games (and the choices that are available) in order to shape the experience people have of the stories the games tell.

Why is it important?

Storytelling experiences have always been shaped by the ways that people engage with the content of a story through the form of media that holds it: for example, simply knowing how far through a book we are changes how we anticipate what will happen next in the story. However, often the ways that different kinds of storytelling media shape our experiences of fiction - and the ways that the people telling stories *already* make use of that fact in telling their stories - isn't something we notice. Understanding how the processes we go through as we engage with fiction are shaped by storytelling media, shaping our experiences of the stories told through those media in turn, will show insights into how people have been telling stories for a long time. Videogames are a form of storytelling with a big, broadening cultural impact, and understanding how the way games fundamentally work differently to other forms of media will help explain how *being games that you play* impacts the stories told through them. That's not to say that videogames are 'better' or 'more immersive' than other forms of storytelling media, just that they're distinctive - and this article wants to explore why that is, and what consequences that has.


Dr Kevin Veale
Massey University

The ways that different forms of storytelling media shape the stories we tell through them fascinate me. This article was a great opportunity to explore how the toolset provided by videogame storytelling have been used to shape the experience of their stories in purposeful ways. It also extends a line of discussion in some previous work within my doctoral thesis, "Comparing Stories - How Textual Structure Shapes Affective Experience in New Media ( in the thesis, I argued that videogames are distinctive because people come to feel responsible for events within the world of the game, but this article gave me an opportunity to really dig into *why* that dynamic happens and how it works in more detail.

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The following have contributed to this page: Dr Kevin Veale