What is the Fictional Pact in Gaming?

The fictional pact is a concept that helps establish an emotional connection between the author and the reader, which is an essential principle in multimedia projects. The concept was introduced by Umberto Eco, who listed six essential principles that should be followed to establish an agreement between the author and the reader when entering the world of fiction. In the gaming industry, the concept of immersion is taken to a whole new level.

  1. Acceptance of the Imaginary World as a New Reality
  2. Suspension of Disbelief and Establishment of Norms
  3. Treating Narrated Events as True 
  4. Coherence with the Real World
  5. Consequences of Violating the Previous Principles
  6. Each Genre Has its Own Set of Fictional Rules

Acceptance of the Imaginary World as a New Reality

When readers or players enter the world of fiction, they must be willing to suspend their disbelief and accept the story’s world as real, at least for the duration of their experience. Readers or players should not question the reality of the imaginary world, and instead, fully immerse themselves in the narrative.

For example, in the Harry Potter series, readers must accept the existence of magic and the wizarding world as real. Without accepting this imaginary world as a new reality, readers may have difficulty connecting emotionally with the story and characters. This principle is crucial to establishing the emotional connection between the author and the reader or player.

Suspension of Disbelief and Establishment of Norms

The author must create a fictional world that is believable and coherent, with a set of norms that govern the behavior and events within that world. Readers or players must be willing to suspend their disbelief and accept these norms, even if they do not align with the real world.

For example, in the Lord of the Rings series, readers must accept that magic exists and that there are creatures like hobbits, orcs, and dragons. These norms are established in the story’s world and are essential to maintaining the suspension of disbelief. Without these norms, readers may have difficulty accepting the imaginary world as real.

Treating Narrated Events as True

Readers or players must react emotionally to events within the story as if they were real, even though they know that the events are fictional. Similarly, the author must present the story’s events as if they are real and should avoid any inconsistencies that may break the reader or player’s emotional connection with the story.

For example, in the Hunger Games series, readers must react emotionally to the deaths of characters within the story, even though they know that the events are fictional. The author must present these events in a way that makes them feel real and emotionally impactful, and avoid any inconsistencies that may break the reader or player’s emotional connection with the story.

Coherence with the Real World

The fourth principle of the fictional pact demands coherence with the real world, with events that occur in the fictional world resembling events that happen in the real world. This means that the author must create a coherent and believable world that is consistent with the real world’s norms and principles. Readers or players must be able to identify with the story’s events and characters, which requires a certain level of realism.

For example, in the Game of Thrones series, the author creates a coherent and believable world that is consistent with the real world’s norms and principles. The story’s events, characters, and settings are grounded in reality, even though the story takes place in a fictional world. This realism makes the story emotionally impactful and allows readers or players to identify with the story’s events and characters.

Consequences of Violating the Previous Principles

Any violation of the previous principles leads to a breakdown in communication between the author and the audience. If readers or players do not accept the imaginary world as a new reality, suspend their disbelief, or treat narrated events as if they truly happened, it can break the emotional connection between the author and the audience. Similarly, if the author does not establish norms that govern the imaginary world or create a coherent world that resembles the real world, it can break the emotional connection between the author and the audience. 

The consequences of violating these principles can range from minor distractions to major disengagement from the story or game. If the author fails to establish a believable world, the audience may not become invested in the story or may lose interest quickly.

Similarly, if players do not feel like they are a part of the world or that their actions have consequences, they may feel disconnected from the game.

  • One example of a game that suffered from a breakdown in communication between the author and the audience is the highly anticipated video game, “No Man’s Sky.” The game promised an expansive and immersive universe, but upon release, players discovered that many promised features were missing, and the world felt empty and disconnected. The game’s failure to deliver on its promises led to backlash from players and a breakdown in communication between the developer and the audience.
  • On the other hand, games like “Red Dead Redemption 2” and “The Witcher 3” have been praised for their immersive worlds and engaging narratives, which effectively establish an emotional connection with the audience. The games follow the principles of the fictional pact and create believable worlds that players feel invested in. As a result, players are more likely to become emotionally connected to the story and characters, leading to a more satisfying gaming experience.

Following the principles of the fictional pact is crucial for establishing an emotional connection between the author and the audience in multimedia projects. Video games take the concept of immersion to a whole new level, and the principles of the fictional pact are even more critical in creating engaging narratives and immersive worlds.

The Power of Music: How Video Games Use Soundtracks to Create Emotional Connections

Music is one of the most important elements of immersion. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild use music to create an emotional connection with the player. The music adapts to the game environment and continues to evolve along these lines. For example, when players are exploring a vast open world, the music is atmospheric and ambient, whereas in combat situations, the music is more intense and action-packed.

Creating Intrigue and Excitement: How Video Game Trailers Set the Tone for Immersive Experiences 

The images and art in video games also contribute to immersion. The art style must align with the fictional world’s norms and conventions. For instance, the game Cuphead uses hand-drawn animation and a retro 1930s cartoon style to create an immersive and nostalgic experience. The interface’s UI/UI design also plays a critical role in immersion. A good example is the game Return of the Obra Dinn, which has a minimalist and immersive interface that allows players to fully immerse themselves in the game’s world and mechanics. 

Enhancing Immersion through Localization and Culturalization in Video Games  

These tools are just the tip of the iceberg. Video game developers must consider many factors to make their games immersive, such as the use of idiomatic localization and culturalization.

In our previous article, we explained how video game developers can use localization and culturalization to enhance immersion and create a more compelling experience for players.