Emotional responses to interactive fictions


Abstract
We commonly feel a variety of emotional responses to works of fiction. In this thesis I propose to examine what we understand by the terms fictional and narrative, and to describe what sorts of narrator might be required within a narrative work. Of particular interest are interactive works of art, both narrative and non-narrative, and I provide a definition of what features a work should possess if it should properly be considered interactive. I discuss the notions of interactive narratives and examine how interactivity affects any possible narrator. I examine the paradox of fiction - how it is that we can feel emotions towards characters we know not to exist, and suggest how the paradox can be dissolved. I further discuss how it can be rational to feel these emotional responses and note particular responses that it does not seem possible to feel rationally when engaging with non-interactive narratives. I then examine what effect the introduction of interactivity to both non-narrative and narrative works has, and argue that it reduces the control the artist has to direct our emotions, but increases the range of emotions which we can feel. Finally I suggest that some of the emotional responses that would be irrational to feel when engaging with non-interactive narrative works can be rational when we are engaged with their interactive counterparts, but that at least one emotional response cannot genuinely be felt rationally even in interactive cases.
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