This post is a continuation of one that I wrote earlier, motivated by the idea of hysterical realism. I am looking for ways to better understand what happens to someone who inhabits a character (and if that actually does happen).
A couple of thoughts:
- Stuart Hall generally drives me a little nuts (mostly out of jealousy), but he reminded me of concepts like suture, and his attempts to differentiate identification from identity mark out a theoretical approach to how characters emerge in games that feels useful. He uses
identity to refer to the meeting point, the point of suture, between, on the one hand, the discourses and practices which attempt to ‘interpellate,’ speak to us or hail us into place, as the social subjects of particular discourses, and on the other hand, the processes which produce subjectivities, which construct us as subjects which can be ‘spoken.’
Mulvey’s insistence on the ways that films suture us into their narrative (and from the perspective of the white male gaze, a privileged and oppressive perspective is used here by Hall to speak to larger questions of identity, but if we are looking at how identity (and identification) in games becomes part of the discursive practice through which we claim identity then the connection between the two (game world and real world) feels clear.
- The moral question of how I as a player can identify with the assholes that are often lead game characters is addressed in this article by Keith Stuart writing in The Guardian. It is the type of question that led me to the co-construction questions that are troubling translators (and discussed by academics who are translators) – how do we translate for people who have committed horrific crimes?
- Stuart talks about something called narrative collective-assimilation hypothesis (his link) and how that theory accounts for folks who feel like wizards and elves and vampires after reading those texts…way too easy, but he uses it as a bit of a straw man (and hell, it’s in a psychology journal so it can’t be too far off)…
- The translation dilemma first came to me from this story about an ASL translator who “strives to be neutral” but who can’t help but think that the person he is translating for actually did commit the crime, one that he finds particularly abhorrent.
- Stuart’s article also reminded me that I had forgotten about Gone Home, especially since that game creates a beautiful environment that contributes to the ways in which the player can sympathize with the characters.
- This reminds me of the problems with trying to understand character development in either film or literature. Is Don Draper a well-developed character because of his backstory? Because of Jon Hamm’s impossible good looks and solid acting skills? Because the series can take the time to explore his multiple indentities?
- And do novels develop characters *because* of the setting? Is a character more interesting because he’s in a beautiful or terrible situation?
- This is all reader-response theory territory…