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.
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.