PLAI: Staged encounters in computer-mediated environments

Bronwin Patrickson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review


In response to the ongoing debate about the role of stories in games: whether they suit the form, whether they are a primary focus, a mere backdrop or at worst an intrusion, this paper proposes a new term to describe both the medium and form of computer-mediated game-play: Plai, defined in terms of staged encounters in computer-mediated environments. Traditionally the word story (or content) is understood to be a noun: A retelling of events after the facts. In interactive environments, however, stories are not just told. They are also actively created. They are verbs, actions, as well as noun, objects. Plai emerges out of that paradox. Efforts to reinterpret the word 'story' to include co-creative encounters and improvised gameplay have met with resistance, no doubt because 'story' comes pre-loaded with associations from other media. A survey of current terms reveals the need for a new term to more accurately describe playful, interactive and often dramatic encounters in our interactive, convergent and soon to be ubiquitous media-scape. Just as web 2.0 media is both consumed and made, so plai is both noun and verb. Plai has evolved in response to social network media, which stands poised to become a portal to a variety of media platforms. Social media is not necessarily a game, nor does it necessarily provide authored stories. Social media is, however, playful. Generative systems also propel users in to a process of creative discovery. In environments where narrative can emerge as a result of game-play plai reflects the spontaneous creation of dramatic, interactive storytelling, or encounter, free of set plots. In the realm of emergent narrative what is encountered is less about story and more about storified experience. In computer-mediated environments plai is staged and bound by rules, yet it is also improvised, co-created and open. Computer games offer plai and players plai. Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, to republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 6th Australasian Conference on Interactive Entertainment, IE 2009
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Event6th Australasian Conference on Interactive Entertainment, IE 2009 - Sydney, NSW, Australia
Duration: 17 Dec 200919 Dec 2009


Other6th Australasian Conference on Interactive Entertainment, IE 2009
CitySydney, NSW


  • Computer Game Design
  • Emergent Narrative
  • Interactive Narrative


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