Agency Reconsidered


The concept of “agency” in games and other playable media (also referred to as “intention”) has been discussed as a player experience and a structural property of works. We shift focus, considering agency, instead, as a phenomenon involving both player and game, one that occurs when the actions players desire are among those they can take (and vice versa) as supported by an underlying computational model. This shifts attention away from questions such as whether agency is “free will” (it is not) and toward questions such as how works evoke the desires agency satisfies, employ computational models in the service of player action and ongoing dramatic probability, use interfaces and mediation to encourage appropriate audience expectation, shift from initial audience expectation to an understanding of the computational model, and can be shaped with recognition of the inherently improvisational nature of agency. We focus particularly on agency in relation to the fictional worlds of games and other playable media.