So, Amelie recently lent me a videogame. I wasn’t allowed to play videogames growing up and expressed my hesitation to her about my abilities. “I grew up without the necessary eye/hand coordination,” I explained. “I’m not going to be able to get through it.” She waved away my concerns. “It’s a decision driven narrative, you just have to make choices to keep the game going!” The Wolf Among Us is based on the Vertigo series Fables, one of my all-time favourite comic books. It had been a long time since I had reread them, but still I felt emotionally attached to the concept and characters so I took a risk. I then played the game nonstop for two days and I was enthralled. A year ago now, I took a class called “Videogames as Literature.” While I thought it would be about analyzing the plots of videogames, it turned out to be a crash course in game theory. Although my difficulties playing videogames were certainly a handicap, I’m a sucker for theory. One of the most interesting elements we covered, for me at least, was procedural rhetoric. The term was developed by Ian Bogost, author of the book Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogames. He defines it as “the art of persuasion through rule-based representations and interactions, rather than the spoken word, writing, images, or moving pictures.” He also defines it as, “the art of using processes persuasively.” Gonzalo Frasco, while using the term ‘simulation rhetoric,’ adds the dimension of ideology, asserting that game designers and authors use the laws and rules of games to convey ideology. Thus, by adhering to the rules and structures of a game, you may be taught specific skills, or even given insight into processes and situations you wouldn’t have considered before. One example of this was a game (the name escapes me) used to teach new teachers how to navigate the complexities of work place politics and childhood education. While you were given options to deal with situations, it is made clear through the game that there are no perfect options and that the job would always include decisions that would have some negative consequences one way or the other. The power of this kind of persuasion is that it helps to simulate an experience for you, rather than simply relaying a description of that experience via images, sounds or words. I found Wolf to be an example of this.
Fables is a series about a community of fairy tales, chased out of their homelands and living in secrecy in New York community called Fabletown. The deputy Mayor is Snow White and the Sheriff is Bigby Wolf, that is, and anthropomorphized version of the Big Bad Wolf. In order to keep this tenuous community together, amnesty was granted to all fables for any crimes committed before fleeing their homelands. Thus, Bluebeard has been forgiven for killing his wives and Bigby has been forgiven for blowing down porcine domiciles, eating up Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, and every other act of violence he committed in the familiar tales we know and love. Despite this amnesty, and despite faithfully serving as FableTown’s sheriff for centuries, he remains a subject of suspicion and fear. While the main objective of the game is to find a serial killer who has been murdering fables, there is an unspoken understanding that you must also work to gain the trust and respect of the fables and the admiration or Snow White - or not.
What fascinates me is that every decision offers you multiple options of things to say and do - however different they may be, the reactions are all true to Bigby. There were times where I knew exactly what *I* would do, but those actions were not offered because those would not be actions that Bigby would take. The decisions we make also affect how the plot proceeds. Within these confines, we come to understand the isolation and frustration that Bigby feels, trapped with the dislike of his peers yet struggling to do what he feels is right — this is procedural rhetoric. I found myself thinking of my life as I played the game. It also doesn't help that this is how I look inside my head:
I was once told by a client that I live a complicated life. It was a bit patronizing and I would amend that statement to say that I live a complex life. Everyone goes through life with multiple identities out of necessity, some of us more than others. We must be different with our employers, our parents, our friends. Lies occasionally keep things moving on an even keel and truths cannot be disclosed to everyone. When I entered into this world, I necessarily chose a name to protect my identity but also to create a self who could meet and connect with people in the ways that I do. Because this is not the name I have on my birth certificate, people assume that they are not meeting the ‘real’ me. I am often asked my 'real name,' perhaps because in this line of work it represents for clients a further symbol of intimacy and vulnerability. I find this attachment to birth names curious to say the least. I live in communities where most of us have taken new names, chosen the names that best represent us. The name that my parents gave to the shapeless red lump that I came out of the womb as has no bearing on the person I am today. The names I give myself, ‘Delilah Sansregret’ included, hold so much more meaning and insight into the person I am now. Every different kind of person I am in day to day life is the real me - I am incapable of being a fake me. However, I must navigate a complex world and this results in a complex life. Still, I don’t think I would want to live a simple life, even if I had the option.
Just like Bigby, I have various choices of action in the situations I encounter. While all those options are true to me, the individual decision will impact the way people view me, sometimes giving them the impression that that “IS” the way I am. I feel that this is a short-sighted way to treat anyone and I certainly do my best to avoid such a pitfall. So remember friends, whether you've come to see me before, or you plan to see me in the future, don't doubt my sincerity or genuineness.