John Fowles sometimes talked about literature as a game. As an author, he would pretend his characters have freedom, but he knew it was a game, and that he was playing God, in control of everything that happens. I find Fowles an admirable writer in part because he invites readers in on the game. In The French Lieutenant's Woman, he injects himself in to talk about the writing and reading process, he becomes a physical character in the novel, and he manipulates the "ending" while talking explicitly about it. But Fowles is not pulling one over on the reader--rather, he's inviting the reader to recognize fiction as fiction. In The Aristos Fowles writes about different types of games: games in which the play itself is what matters, and games in which there is a goal (to win). If fiction is a game for Fowles, it's a game that exists for its own sake, and a game in which the writer pulls the reader over to his side.
I sometimes think of Fowles as a Reader-response writer: he requires his readers to think about how they read. And perhaps this game metaphor is useful in thinking about how we read. For example, when I read, I know the characters are not real. They don't exist: the author made them up. Yet I'm willing to play the game: while reading, I will happily pretend that the characters are real. I'm willing to assess their actions and consider their desires and motivations. I'm willing to get to know them, try to understand them. I might like them or dislike them. I know the characters don't exist, but I'm willing to play the fiction writer's game. Fiction is pretend. But as children we find it's fun to pretend: we play pretend all the time. As we grow, we can still be willing to play pretend. I'm not giving up my reason or my critical faculties when I pretend that the series of letters I see on the page identify real characters or events: I'm agreeing to play the game. It's a game with conventions, and there is generally a set of rules that both author and reader have agreed to. You can experience literature without agreeing to the rules of the game or even treating it like it's a game. But fiction is, indeed, a game of pretend.