The following is sort of a post-article writing meditation on what I think I'm saying in a forthcoming piece on Fable 2. Keep an eye on the SCAN Media Journal for a long review/critique of Fable 2 that opens up the idea of different rule sets in an example game.
In the field of game studies, we find ourselves talking about 'rules' a lot. The rules of a game are the most obvious, and often the most valued. Think of Marrku Eskelinen and early Jesper Juul--they both describe game rules in very clear terms as being a recognisable structure that we can point at, discuss, critique etc. We learn the rules of the game in order to play, if we break them we are cheaters, etc. They can be negotiated on the fly in certain types of (children's) games, that sort of thing.
When looking to narratology, we can discern a different set of rules, the rules of 'narrative.' I would argue that these are rules of a different order, more meta-rules for building a good narrative, not content-rules of a particular narrative. Like the meta-rule of what a game is (should be fair, have quantifiable outcome), the structuralist rules of what a narrative is (beginning, middle, end, having a narrator) are upheld by the narrative, not described within it. So, the rules of an individual game are not identical to rules of games in general. Similarly, the rules of narrative (structure) are not the same as rules that apply within a particular narrative. And quite obviously, the rules that define general narrative and general game are not the same thing either--this is essentially the basis of the narratology vs ludology debate.
However, videogames are not 'games' nor are they 'narratives' they are, above all, videogames. A new form of media/expression/art/software that hasn't been properly defined or criticised yet. I believe we are getting close, however, as the frame of the general debate has shifted in the last couple years. A lot of it has to come down to language, and the precision with which we apply certain words. So a word like 'game' needs to not be confused with 'videogame' in certain contexts. Because if we are talking about the rules of a particular game, we may or may not be talking about its particular instantiation within a videogame. We seem to have a fairly decent grip on the fact that the 'narrative' doesn't account for the entire videogame, but perhaps because of the funny word play involved, it seems that earlier theory tried to substitute the game (rules) for the whole videogame.
The holodeck does not yet exist. I will argue here that it may never exist, and that despite its allure, we may not want it to. The holodeck is an invention of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek, and features prominently in several series, The Next Generation, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine. Similar technologies have appeared in science fiction before, from Huxley’s feelies or the wall-to-wall televisions in Fahrenheit 451. Janet Murray is most responsible for directly linking videogame studies to the holodeck, along with Brenda Laurel’s similar notions before her. Essentially, the holodeck is a three-dimensional hologram projector with the computational power necessary to react believably to any actions taken by the human participant. This includes rendering fully-human (or alien) characters with which to converse and projecting environments which the participant may interact with physically. For the moment, we will ignore the as-yet unrealized technology for generating tangible holographic objects, and instead concentrate on the internal logic of a perfect simulator.