Stefano Gualeni and Riccardo FassoneMar 12, 2023
A Philosophy of Worldbuilding and Imaginary Play
What role do imaginary games have in story-telling? Why do fiction authors outline the rules of a game that the reader will never watch or play?
Combining perspectives from philosophy, literature and game studies, Fictional Games: A Philosophy of Worldbuilding and Imaginary Play (Bloomsbury, 2023) provides the first in-depth investigation into the significance of games in fictional worlds. With examples from contemporary cinema and literature, from The Hunger Games to the science fiction of Iain M. Banks, Stefano Gualeni and Riccardo Fassone introduce four key functions that different types of imaginary games have in worldbuilding. First, fictional games can emphasize the dominant values and ideologies of the fictional society they belong to. Second, some games function as critical, utopian tools, inspiring shifts in the thinking and political orientation of the fictional characters. Third, imaginary games, especially those with a magical component, are conducive to the transcendence of a particular form of being, such as the overcoming of human corporeality. And fourth, fictional games can deceptively blur the boundaries between the contingency of play and the irrevocable seriousness of "real life", either camouflaging life as a game or disguising a game as something with more permanent consequences.
With illustrations in every chapter, bringing the imaginary games to life, Gualeni and Fassone creatively inspire us to consider fictional games anew: not as moments of playful reprieve in a storyline, but as significant and multi-layered rhetorical devices.
Rudolf Inderst is a professor of Game Design with a focus on Digital Game Studies at the IU International University of Applied Science, editor of “Game Studies Watchlist”, a weekly messenger newsletter about Game Culture and curator of @gamestudies at tiktok.