Nuzlife as a Psychic Double

It’s becoming apparent that a key element of my research and argument on the topic of the Nuzlocke as a cybercultural reimagining of Aristotelian tragedy lies in the spaces between analogue and virtual realities. The very palpable effects of a virtual event on an individual’s ‘real life’ experience as discussed by Julian Dibble in A Rape in Cyberspace, while specifically referring to somewhat different subject matter, can be applied to what I’m examining.

While discussing a particularly heinous act of digital violence being treated as a “breach of ‘civility’”, Dibbel calls attention to the strangeness of the interaction between these worlds. He describes the requested sentence of “toading” (character deletion, here compared to a virtual death sentence or banishment) on the culprit as “Ludicrously excessive by RL’s lights, woefully understated by VR’s”. He goes on to suggest that virtual experiences are “neither exactly real nor exactly make-believe, but [are] nonetheless profoundly, compellingly, and emotionally true.” The sharing of an individual’s experience across both realms of ‘real life’ and ‘virtual reality’ “[makes] sense only in the buzzing, dissonant gap between them.”

This experience of the “psychic double” of self is present clearly in the Aristotelian formula for tragedy in the necessary cathartic quality, and has been extended into new iterations of the structure. The self-imposed rules of a Nuzlocke run of any Pokemon game strive to strengthen bonds between the player and their ‘mons, encouraging the player to inhabit the position of the character to the point where there is no distinction between the two. Even the original image of the first introduction to Nuzlocke rules depicts the player and character as one and the same; Pokemon Ruby’s protagonist holding a Gameboy Advanced ready to begin the game.

Nuzlocke original rules

The cathartic emotional embodiment of the Nuzlocke experience and self-enforced Pokemon ‘death’ exists purely in this “buzzing, dissonant gap” between virtual and analogue realities; a “compelling, and emotionally true” imitation which follows Aristotle’s structure and pulls it into the Cybercultural age.

3 thoughts on “Nuzlife as a Psychic Double”

  1. Interesting read, I had never heard of Nuzlocke until your post made me look it up. From personal experience, games defiantly do have the ability to evoke strong emotional connection. Especially if you feel connected to the character in some way or have spent time developing them. I recently finished Life Is Strange and honestly did not know how to deal for a least a day after.

    I remember back in 2012 there was a huge controversy over a scene from Tomb Raider, after developer Ron Rosonberg accidentally called it a rape scene. Although blown way out of proportion it did create this whole debate over the use of sexual violence as a plot shaping device in games, due to the emotional effect it could have on players.

    I did some research into the topic and found this article you may find useful…,+fiction,+and+emotion&source=bl&ots=kzMd6dYd8R&sig=9YMI4RluxcpSiEA0pIzyLI8eaG8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi62vmW8efLAhXi26YKHWJNBI0Q6AEIKzAD#v=onepage&q=Video%20games%2C%20fiction%2C%20and%20emotion&f=false

    Its all about how fictional games can create real emotions.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think one of the most interesting parts of this is that Nuzlocke, by definition as shared in the image, was an experience that was at the one hand both very personal (the person doing it bonding closer with the pokemon they have, the new potential failure state of having to release pokemon and ending their game, the imposition of ‘death’ in this space etcetera) are juxtaposed with the Nuzlocke experience being shared in the form of live let’s plays and subsequent livetweeting experiences.

    Do we make experiences more personal by sharing them?

    Another thing that’s been curious to me is hearing how people with actual OCD or spectrum conditions have already been playing these games in similar ways – I know of a player who could not finish the game because they felt obligated to capture every pokemon they could, leading to anxiety when they ran out of repels or pokeballs. It’s possible that some players were already operating under “Nuzlocke Rules” but were not in any way sharing the idea or spreading the meme.

    It’s a very theatrical experience, even when it’s personal. It elevates a game normally renowned for its failure-free eventual-progress design to a more hard-scrabble, tense and almost romantic ideal.


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