Enacted experiences require blocking on participant action

Contingency is important in creating an Enacted experience.

The “default state” of a game is one which blocks on player action. The story, battle, construction, etc. simply will not proceed until the player takes an action. From time to time, the game might “take control” and unfold narrative without player input, but it can’t do this too long before disrupting the feeling of enaction.

Consider this memorable passage in Diamond Age:

Then she realized that the book hadn’t said anything for a long time. “What happened then?“ she said. The Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer said nothing. “Nell looked for a safe way down,“ Nell essayed. Her vantage point began to move. A patch of snow swung into view. “No, wait!“ she said, “Nell stuffed some clean snow into her water bottles.“ (p. 308)

The Primer had been giving Nell more and more control as the chapters unfolded. From this point in the story, Primer-Nell’s not going to going anywhere unless real-Nell tells her to.

I suspect this property is one reason why participants in immersive theater often don’t feel that they’re enacting the proceedings.


Stephenson, N. (2003). The Diamond Age: Or, a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer (Reprint edition). Spectra.

Last updated 2023-07-13.