Perception of “This is Not a Game”: Definition and Measurement


“This is not a game”, TINAG, alternative reality games, participatory narratives, pervasive games, virtual environments, PRISMA methodology, survey validation


Participatory narratives are compelling, at least partly because of their ability to help players sus- pend disbelief in the fictional world in which they engage. Game makers have used the phrase “This is Not a Game” (TINAG) to capture the willingness of players to buy into such narratives in ways that promote productive roleplaying and authentic engagement. Although TINAG has per- meated the academic and popular literature on gaming and immersive narratives for decades, there has not been a scientific grounding for the term that provides researchers support for a more rigorous study of the topic. This article makes two primary contributions. First, it provides a definition of the Perception of TINAG based on a systematic literature review of 50 articles that define or describe critical characteristics of TINAG: The Perception of TINAG is a player’s acceptance that they are embedded in and able to influence a fictional story woven into the real world. Second, the paper develops and validates a survey instrument that researchers can use to measure the Perception of TINAG and its three unique components: (1) the player accepts that they are embedded in a fictional story, (2) the player believes their actions influence the narrative, and (3) the player perceives that the story is woven into the real world. We evaluated the instrument using exploratory factor analysis using expert reviewers and game players. We include a table of the articles describing TINAG and our final scale to facilitate future research.

Original Publication Citation

Giboney, J. S., Bonsignore, E. M., McDonald, J. K., Hansen, D. L., Mata, L, & Balzotti, J. (2023). Perception of “This is not a game”: Definition and measurement. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Taylor & Francis




David O. McKay School of Education


Instructional Psychology and Technology

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor