Review: Rethinking Agency and Immersion, Gonzalo Frasca

Frasca, Gonzalo. “Rethinking Agency and Immersion: Playing with Videogame Characters.” N-Space (2001). <;.

Frasca proposes a design for a game for social change based on the writings of Drama theorists Bertolt Brecht and Augusto Boal, using a variation of Will Wright’s popular “Sims” line. Frasca argues that gamers aren’t actually concerned about the personal lives of their player-characters, instead desiring a inobtrusive puppet for them to play through (1-2). He notes that Will Wright’s Sims games separate gamers from their characters; thus, the perfect method of character exhibition is found (4). Using the game’s potential for user generated content, Frasca proposes a game where players can create, edit, and upload their own Sims characters to create virtual situations they can observe and ideally learn about (4-5). He describes his design as being a “meta-simulation […] a simulation that allows simulations,” and counts this as directly inspired by Boal’s Forum Theatre, one part of the Theatre of the Oppressed (6).

The biggest flaw in Frasca’s design is one which he notes himself: that user generated content allows for the inclusion of a variety of sometimes good, often inappropriate content (7). Frasca does not, however, look at the shortcomings from a Dramatist perspective—that is, the failures of Brecht, the inspiration for Boal and thus Frasca. In his short essay, drama critic John Gassner mentions Brecht’s emphasis on epiphany without empathy, which gives the epiphany no grounding and thus causes the failure of his plays to educate the audience (Gassner 113).

Also Cited:

Gassner, John. “Catharsis and the Modern Theatre.” Aristotle’s Poetics’ and English Literature : A Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Elder Olson. vols. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Pr, 1985. 108-13.

One thought on “Review: Rethinking Agency and Immersion, Gonzalo Frasca

  1. Pingback: Tragedy for Social Change « Kathartic Journey

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