Listening to the panel on narrative puzzles, I’m suddenly thinking of a whole genre of narratives about puzzles wherein protagonists discover that they are trapped in a puzzle that they did not intentionally engage or seek out (often with life or death consequences, as in the Saw films). Which in turn makes me think of another genre of fiction about games which players are compelled to play (Most Dangerous Game, most notoriously), or games whose rules are changed at the whim of one player (The Quick and the Dead).
When games enter into larger public discourses, this trope sometimes figures very powerfully: the game which some players do not want to play but cannot escape, the puzzle which has been set by a sadist, the social system which power has turned into a game and then changed the rules.
Games which are ‘fun’ or pleasurable by contrast seem to have as one of their central attributes the equal consent of all players (and an equal ability to withdraw from the game without consequence). This figures heavily in Huizinga’s definition of play, but isn’t limited to his view.
Consent might be a way to think about games in relation to power? About what makes games ‘good’ and ‘bad’? And maybe about why games sometimes are an awkward fit for classrooms?