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ISSN 0869-5377
Author: McGonigal Jane

McGonigal Jane

PhD in Performance Studies, Director of Game Research & Development at the Institute for the Future. Postal address: 201 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto CA 94301, USA. E-mail:


A Real Little Game: The Pinocchio Effect in Pervasive Play / Logos. 2015. № 1 (103). P. 130-156
annotation:  Ubiquitous computing and mobile network technologies have fueled a recent proliferation of opportunities for digitallyenabled play in everyday spaces. In this paper, I examine how players negotiate the boundary between these pervasive games and real life by comparing them with the first film viewers, who allegedly could not distinct cinema from reality and feared the Lumières’ film The Arrival of a Train at the Station as much as they would fear a real train that could smash them up. I juxtapose the experience of the first film viewers with that of the first pervasive gamers and conclude that they have much in common. By giving various examples of puppet masters’ exposure in pervasive games and of pervasive gamers’ conscious rejection to admit this exposure, I affirm that gamers do not naively believe in deletion of the game-reality boundary, but do consciously desire this deletion while realizing its stubbornness. I trace the emergence of what I call the Pinocchio effect — the desire for a game to be transformed into real life, or conversely, for everyday life to be transformed into a real little game. Focusing on two examples of pervasive play — the 2001 immersive game known as the Beast, and the Go Game, an ongoing urban superhero game — I argue that gamers maximize their play experience by performing belief, rather than actually believing, in the permeability of the game-reality boundary.
Keywords:  pervasive play; immersive games; the Pinocchio effect; gaming reality; performance studies
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