Towards Videogame Aesthetics II: Unit Operations
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The Authorized Stories

bbcnews1 Are fact and fiction opposites? Or variations on a theme?

In prop theory, only certain imaginary games are authorized for any given prop. But for specific props the authorized games do not just specify what is fiction (i.e. true in the fictional world of the game) but assert a claim to fact. For instance, if we watch a news report, the film we watch is a prop just as much as any artwork, and has its own imaginary game, fictional world and so forth. The only difference between this and a fictional story is that the fictional world of the new report is also authorized as fact.

We can easily confirm this: we could watch an identical report as part of a movie and it would be fiction, so the prop itself (the report) does not distinguish between fact and fiction. Everything we imagine is the same in both cases. But the news report, by virtue of being presented as news, gains the authority to be believed as well as imagined. Walton says “what is true is to be believed, what is fictional is to be imagined” but I would say “whether it is fact or fiction, it is to be imagined; if it is authorised as fact, it is also to be believed true”.

What I find fascinating about a news programme as a prop is just what is authorised as fact: there is “news” i.e. stories about death, injury, violence, disaster, crime, war, crowds, anger, money, power, technology and knowledge, but also “sport” and “weather”. We do not think twice about this, yet sport is reporting the events of imaginary games (i.e. sporting matches) as factual, that is, lending authority to what would otherwise be ‘just a game’. Similarly, the weather forecast is authorised as fact, even though it is obviously far closer to fiction (as anyone who has tried to rely upon the Met office for an accurate prediction of the British weather will attest!).

Thus the only distinction between fact and fiction is that what is fact is authorised to be believed as true, as well as being fictional. Rather than fact and fiction being polar opposites, fact is simply a different kind of imaginary game, that which has the authority to make a claim to truth. Fact is not the opposite of fiction, but a different kind of fiction.


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Very interesting.

Might another way of putting the contrast be to say that believing is a kind of imagining? This makes some good sense if we think of imagining as a perhaps more generic way of representing things to ourselves, whereas belief requires that in addition to representing we also have some kind of commitment to the truth, accuracy, veridicality or what have you of the representation. Just a thought. Currie and Ravenscroft argue something like this in Recreative Minds -- though their aim is not to argue anything in particular about the relation of fiction to fact.

Thanks Mory! I always appreciate knowing something I wrote was stimulating to someone else. :)

Sarah: hey, didn't know you'd joined the Game - a thousand welcomes!

You mention "Recreative Minds" - I put this on my reading list, then removed it because it was $50. I'm sorry, but $50 is too much for a 250 page book. It's not helpful to use gold ink these days. :)

"Believing is a kind of imagining"... I'm going to have to think about this, but yes, there may be something to this construal. But for me personally I can believe in something without believing in the accuracy or veridical nature of the proposition e.g. I believe in the fundamental goodness of human beings, but I do not believe that the proposition "all human beings are fundamentally good" is true. (One might retool this claim in terms of faith, especially on a Kierkegaard-style account).

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

I'm increasingly allergic to passives and to transitive verbs used without an object :-).

A story cannot simply "be authorised". Somebody must authorise it, and it is only authorised where that person has control. Who authorises these stories for whom?

Peter: I always appreciate your grammatical challenges. :)

"Authority" in these cases is cultural, not personal. It is not a person that provides authority, but a culture. Ordinary English language use does not provide an elegant way of making this explicit, hence it remains implicit in my text.

The same is true of the authority that endorses money as having value: the chairman of the Bank of England (say) isn't the person who grants this authority - coins and notes have this authority because it is a cultural institution that is well-established.

Thanks for sharing your perspective!

OK, so do I understand correctly that an "authorised story" is a story that a group of people comprising a culture *or subculture* agree to believe as true?

Example: "The moon landings were faked in Hollywood" is an authorised story within the subculture of people who believe that the moon landings were faked.

Peter: yes, this is not a bad way of putting it, although "agree to believe" suggests that authority is negotiated, rather than (say) dynamically emergent. But yes, the moon landing example is an authorised story among a certain subculture, but it is not an authorised story outside of that.

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