Stories Inform; Players Inform Too
That's why thick terms like player agency sometimes mystify me. I 'know' it refers to the players control, but it's easily lumped into concepts like mechanics. It's the same with feedback loops and incentives: concepts game designers use to inform the player.
Games differ from static mediums and are of closer relation to live performances; at a concert, the audience feeds off of the musicians energy, and musician becomes more and more engaged with the enthusiastic crowd. In games, the players inform the story as much as the story informs the player. Player's who feel they're being punished will likely rebel; depending on the game, they'll grind levels for extra lives or experience until they're ready to face off against the next challenge down the line. Players also inform other players in the game; If my friend switches to a Heavy in Team Fortress 2, I'm going to switch to a medic and help him out. If we're playing Minecraft and he's working on pixel art, I'm probably going to start sheering sheep and looking for dyes or blocks that will match his design. If we're playing poker, my past bluffs will most likely catch up to me when I go all in, because everyone around the table has learned I make rash and impatient decisions when I'm playing with unvalued chips.
Perhaps the study of players is just as important as the study of play; no?