Our playversation about DragonAge 2 confirmed me in my thought about where we should head next in our symposia. For the next few months, I propose that we consider specific possible ways that rulesets can subvert the identification through legibility (this was an element we added two weeks ago, in the crossover between DragonAge 2 and Super Hexagon) that creates immersion. The first mode I want to consider is frustration of purpose–that is, when a ruleset doesn’t let you do what you want to do, or does something to your game-state that you don’t want done.
Obviously, when formulated that way, this kind of frustration is actually constitutive of exactly the legibility we’ve been talking about: immersive identification is a matter of the player identifying him or herself with his or her performance-choices in the series of interesting choices the frustration creates. Our question will be whether rulesets can manipulate their frustrations as perhaps for instance DragonAge 2 does with Anders’ actions precisely to subvert that same identification, and, if so, how to describe the difference between frustrations of purpose that solidify and frustrations of purpose that subvert.
To that end, here’s my proposal for a starting point: Wikipedia’s article on the “Final Girl.” This may prove to be a dead-end, but pay special attention to the last bit, about Buffy. My notion is that the shifting of identification involved in the Final Girl trope needs a great deal of nuance as it applies to the initial parts of the horror film, where frustration is part of the audience’s engagement. The subversion effected by Buffy might in that case be the kind of thing we’re looking for, as it creates a new legibility in the trangressing of the old trope, just as, perhaps, Anders’ actions do in DragonAge 2.