Interpretive play and the player psychology of optimal arousal regulation

Matthew Higgins*, Peter Howell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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Building on previous discussions of interpretive play in story-focused digital games, a psychological foundation of narrative interpretation is proposed. First, how narrative information is synthesized with prior experiences and expectations into ‘situation models’ in long-term memory. Second, how pleasure is derived from increased arousal through engaging with novel, unfamiliar stimuli. This psychological foundation is then compared to contemporary approaches to narra-tive design, particularly in Her Story and Dear Esther. The relevance of the pro-posed cognitive psychological foundation is also considered in regard to digital games with no documented intentional use psychologically, primarily through an analysis of player behaviour and response in Gone Home. Results are compara-ble to the psychological model, particularly the prominent roles of recalling and forming expectations, and how player attention is often attracted to novel, unfa-miliar, or unexpected stimuli. The ongoing aim of this work is to further investi-gate interpretive play in the context of digital games and continue to develop the cognitive psychological foundation. Future work shall also contextualise the re-search and findings though the development of commercial games.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInteractive Storytelling
Subtitle of host publication13th International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling, ICIDS 2020, Bournemouth, UK, November 3–6, 2020, Proceedings
EditorsAnne-Gwenn Bosser, David E. Millard, Charlie Hargood
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-62516-0
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-62515-3
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2020
EventThe 13th International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling - Bournemouth, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 Nov 20206 Nov 2020

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science
ISSN (Print)0302-9743


ConferenceThe 13th International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling
Abbreviated titleICIDS 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • interpretive play
  • arousal regulation
  • digital games
  • narrative
  • cognitive psychology
  • schema


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