Interpretive Play and the Player Psychology of Optimal Arousal Regulation

  • Matthew HigginsEmail author
  • Peter Howell
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 12497)


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 narrative design, particularly in Her Story and Dear Esther. The relevance of the proposed 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 comparable to the psychological model, particularly the prominent roles of recalling and forming expectations, and how player attention is often attracted to novel, unfamiliar, or unexpected stimuli. The ongoing aim of this work is to further investigate interpretive play in the context of digital games and continue to develop the cognitive psychological foundation. Future work shall also contextualise the research and findings though the development of commercial games.


Interpretive play Arousal regulation Digital games Narrative Cognitive psychology Schema 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK

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