Courage: An Annotated Bibliography

> Introduction

My digital artefact, a Pokemon nuzlocke comic called Courage, is situated in a dense web of social and legal contracts, both formal and unspoken. It also exists as a labour of love; a creative project that I strive to continue producing both for the story itself, and to cement my role as a consistent digital content creator. This annotated bibliography will outline sources that contribute to identifying its positioning in social, creative, and legal spheres, and how it came to be what it is.


> [01] Copyright and the Commercialization of Fanfiction

Lipton, J. D. 2014, ‘Copyright and the Commercialization of Fanfiction’, Houston Law Review, vol. 52, no. 2, pp. 425-466.

[F]anfiction raises specific problems because the creation and distribution of fanfiction is an area in which there is little legal certainty, but which implicates creative speech in a fundamental way. (p. 465)

This article by Josephine D. Lipton positions fanfiction in legal sphere of copyright and fair use laws, to the end of outlining the present issues and evoke discussion, rather than propose solutions. Lipton does a step-by-step analysis of fanfiction’s defenses and lack thereof through each section of American fair use laws, both commercial and noncommercial, using case studies. Lipton’s language throughout the article was purely legal and academic, which allows it to be used as a framework for these issues. This article has been useful for me to identify the key issues that arise with creating a work of this nature, and to position my own fan comic in the legal sphere.


> [02] The Messy World of Fan Art and Copyright

[ ]

The bigger issue, however, is the cost of going to war with fans. Being litigious with creators of fan art can be very costly, not just in terms of court costs, but in terms of backlash.

The anonymous author of this web article leads with a disclaimer – they are not a lawyer; they are simply a legally-minded writer. This article is primarily an informed opinion piece, with speculative elements regarding how we can keep the relationship between copyright holders and fan content creators symbiotic. Articles such as this are important regarding the discussion of copyright and fan works due to the legal grey areas that many others can’t or won’t tackle. This article has helped inform the way I think about my work’s place in terms of “social rules”, rather than laws.


> [03] Interview with Junichi Masuda

[ ]

Just like how children and adults both like playing soccer — children might like it at first because the ball is round and colourful but adults put far more thought into it.

This interview with Junichi Masuda, founding member of Game Freak and creative director of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, provides some insight into the original aims and development process of Pokémon games. Particularly relevant is how Masuda outlines how Pokémon was never explicitly designed to be a children’s game. Similarly, though my audience is primarily adult and the nature of Nuzlocke rules lend themselves to tragedy, I present my comic in the format of a children’s book. Looking at the way Pokemon is constructed for the enjoyment of multiple demographics at once has helped me make design and narrative decisions.


> [04] Why Are Things Cute?

Vsauce creator Michael Stevens released a video in 2012 about the psychology behind “cute” things, and why people react to these cute things in such specific ways. He analyses the conventions of the way cute things are constructed visually, in terms of proportion and roundness, and shows that anything – even a hammer – can be made “cute” with the right alterations. It is a bite-sized informational piece that acts simultaneously as entertainment, so the depth of analysis is limited. This video has helped inform the visual features of the characters in my comic, particularly because they are so diverse in body type.


> [05] Can Fandom Change Society?

PBS Off Book regularly releases videos that analyse and provide commentary on current sociotechnical trends. This video provides some insight into fandom, a social collective that is often looked at as inconsequential, and how groups of fans will challenge common social perceptions through rich, close participation with media and culture en masse. Courage is itself part of this collective, and analysing its place in the transformative, unrestricted space of fandom is crucial to developing an understanding of its social value.


> [06] Empathy, Simulation, and Narrative

Gallagher, S 2012, ‘Empathy, simulation, and narrative,’ Science in Context, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 355-381.

Our understanding of others and their situations, and hence the possibility of empathizing with them, is not based on attempts to get into their heads in a mentalizing fashion, since we already have access to their embodied actions and the rich worldly contexts within which they act.

Gallagher discusses the issues present in our current understanding of empathy, and proposes a solution in the idea of narrative empathy. He outlines the conditions through which narrative empathy is achieved, and what leads to an affective misunderstanding rather than an empathic connection. Because Courage relies heavily on achieving empathy from the audience, these conditions will be a useful point of reference for further construction of deep emotional environments. As a peer-reviewed academic source, this essay is dense and critical, but the author has carefully constructed his arguments for easy digestion.


> [07] Even More Advice – Mem Fox

[ ]

A story-book … is always tedious without well-drawn characters: characters whose highs and lows and final triumph tug at the heartstrings of readers and listeners.

Professional children’s book author Mem Fox has a lot of guidance to give to other prospective children’s book authors. Because Courage is set as a children’s book and deals with many of the atmospheric themes crafted for children, it has been useful to take a look at how a successful children’s book is crafted. On her website, Fox aims to guide her readers through the process of writing, with particular attention paid to character. Courage has been a dedicated character-driven story since its conception, so Fox’s advice has been useful – though not complete, due to the difference in target audience.


> [08] Nuzlife as a Psychic Double

[ ]

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.

As part of a student research project at UOW, blogger monarchsfactory has drawn the Nuzlocke phenomenon into the realm of Aristotelian tragedy. This blog post outlines the rules of Nuzlocke, and highlights the self-imposed dedicated personal tragedy as a form of catharsis. Analysing Nuzlocke tragedies in this way provides a crucial connection between the popularity of this niche fandom and the aspects of Courage that capitalise on cuteness, empathy, and joy. As a student blog, its research is primarily academic – but much of its value lies in the alternate perspective it provides.


> [09] Self-Imposed Modes of Gameplay

[ ]

I always get a kick out of how gamers find new ways to enjoy older classic games. The fact that people invent challenges like Nuzlocke mode in Pokemon or the three heart challenge in The Legend of Zelda. What are some other ways gamers have bent the rules to add a unique twist to a game?

This reddit thread aggregates a discussion of self-imposed rules that players use to enhance or completely alter the way a game is played. Such a large discussion of personal opinions is difficult to sift through, but the upvote system of Reddit can provide an idea of which opinions are held most commonly. The value of this thread lies in its insight into the reasons people use these self-imposed rules, which dictate the type of community and discussions that are had around them. This form of discussion has informed the way I communicate with the audience of Courage, which has been a key factor in keeping its community growing and thriving.


> [10] Pokemon: Hard Mode

[ ]

/v/irgins dubbed it the “Nuzlocke Challenge” and the sensation was born.

This webpage and connected comic is the current official Nuzlocke page. It details the challenge itself, how it came to be, and the unexpected results of this new, self-imposed set of rules. The challenge itself started on 4chan, as many great and terrible things do, and became popular through the creator’s retelling of his game through a comic. Without this source, the nuzlocke fan community would not exist, and I would not be so immersed in the idea of self-imposed rules that change gameplay and storytelling. As a critical source, it’s not good. But as a socio-historical cornerstone and the inspiration for Courage, it would be remiss of me to neglect it.



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