Are actors really acting when they're characters? How about characters - can they really act? Richard Schechner asks twice.
Douglas and Hargadon want to drive a wedge between ordinary narration and what happens in a game. I don't think the categories are so easily separable. Of course in a novel or a play, etc., there are "characters" and the story is predetermined for the most part (though in theater, the precise way of playing the story -- of staging, line reading, and the rest -- varies enormously from production to production and even performance to performance); but also in apparently open games various kinds of narrations are involved. And the tight kind of narration that Eskelinen is criticizing comprises a small portion of the storymaking that goes on in pop life.
What we don't know about the "real life" of computer games are the social circumstances that surrounds, and to a large degree guides, their playing. That is, what "other" stories are the players enacting? Fans of sports or movies engage with other like-minded people. They not only follow and collect the lives of their heroes, they enact their own lives in some kind of dependence on the lives of those they adore and follow. How can computer games do likewise? Virtual heroes don't have "real lives" to screw up. They can't really get stoned, overdose, die, murder, or in other ways find themselves acting out real-life dramas. Gamers can hang out with each other, visit chat rooms, interact, and create the aura of fandom. But they don't have an actually living Star with her or his own life at the center of their interactions. Granted that stars are also media creations, but these creations often get out of hand. This predictable unpredictability is part of their charm. Comparatively speaking, interactives, videogames, and hypertext are relatively hollow. That is because, ultimately, the most interesting part of gaming -- any kind of gaming -- is the narration created by the players, not the figures or characters. Actors are always more interesting than characters.