The Rules of the Text
Both A Song of Ice and Fire and Mass Effect are transmedia practomimes. The former began its distinct, identifiable life as a series of fantasy novels; the latter as a series of digital role-playing games. By the phrase “distinct, identifiable life” I mean to suggest the fluidity of the boundaries of practomimetic works. A Song of Ice and Fire could be described as a re-telling of events of medieval history and of narrative elements from many other fantasy novels. Publishing conventions dictated that the first novel of A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones was given its outward existence (that is, its existence as the thing we call a book) as a distinct performance within the ruleset of the fantasy genre, but rules-of-the-text theory lets look beyond the arbitary constraints of those conventions, and see that GRR Martin’s textual performance of that novel is no different, in its coming-into-existence as a play performance framed within the play practice of fantasy storytelling, from a Homeric bard’s performance of “The Embassy to Achilles” or a gamer’s performance of Mass Effect 3.
A really thorough working out of the implications of this formulation demands that we begin to describe oral poetics as a form of play, and recognize that modern game-playersin particular players of digital gamesare creating meaning through the same constellation of play-practices, which draw resonance at the same time from the performance and from the ruleset, construed as broadly as an individual occasion has capacity to do. A player of Lego Star Wars, for example, is creating meaning based not only on her performance in the synchronic occasion, in which she is playing at building things to solve puzzles, but also in the relationship to the diachronic ruleset of the transmedia Star Wars franchise that those puzzles have: the clever Lego riffs on the Star Wars films, as for example when the player reassembles a radio which plays the imperial theme music, causing enemies to dance rather than attacking, draw their meaning from the ruleset of the franchise as a whole (diachronic) as well as from the game (synchronic).