Perception of “This is not a game”: Definition and measurement

This is an interesting article out of the PCS research team. In it we attempt to come up with a working definition of the This is Not a Game construct we use, along with researchers in alternative reality gaming. This is Not a Game is the suspension of disbelief in the fictional world we create, where students give themselves over to the experience. It’s the kind of thing that lots of people kinda get, but that we wanted to think about more precisely and carefully. This article reports our attempt to do so through a survey validation methodology. Not my usual kind of research, but an interesting project to be part of all the same.


Participatory narratives are compelling, at least partly because of their ability to help players sus- pend disbelief in the fictional world in which they engage. Game makers have used the phrase “This is Not a Game” (TINAG) to capture the willingness of players to buy into such narratives in ways that promote productive roleplaying and authentic engagement. Although TINAG has per- meated the academic and popular literature on gaming and immersive narratives for decades, there has not been a scientific grounding for the term that provides researchers support for a more rigorous study of the topic. This article makes two primary contributions. First, it provides a definition of the Perception of TINAG based on a systematic literature review of 50 articles that define or describe critical characteristics of TINAG: The Perception of TINAG is a player’s acceptance that they are embedded in and able to influence a fictional story woven into the real world. Second, the paper develops and validates a survey instrument that researchers can use to measure the Perception of TINAG and its three unique components: (1) the player accepts that they are embedded in a fictional story, (2) the player believes their actions influence the narrative, and (3) the player perceives that the story is woven into the real world. We evaluated the instrument using exploratory factor analysis using expert reviewers and game players. We include a table of the articles describing TINAG and our final scale to facilitate future research.


At ResearchGate

At BYU Scholar’s Archive


Giboney, J. S., Bonsignore, E. M., McDonald, J. K., Hansen, D. L., Mata, L, & Balzotti, J. (2023). Perception of “This is not a game”: Definition and measurement. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction.

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