Monday, August 29, 2011

For a weird tale screw up one thing: Setting, Continuity, or Character

If you want to make your story weird. Screw around with one and only one of these three: Setting, Continuity, or Character

Kafka created surreal stories so compelling because the world they are in are otherwise so normal, so drearily mundane in both setting and characters. If he instead wrote sci-fi books the reader would feel cheated, surrealism builds on breaking the rules reality is based on. If you wrote those rules that you are breaking then you are just cheating.

The same goes with a really strange character, say Dexter Morgan of the show Dexter*. We can get away with portraying a sociopathic, alien mindset so different from any normal character development because he is placed in a very well defined cop drama genre, with real world physics and real world problems**. It is the fact that he thinks about safe driving and buying groceries in between cold blooded murder that makes the character not a caricature.

Contrast these with any of the greatest Sci-fi authors. The heart of science fiction is ordinary people dealing with extraordinary situations. What are people like in a utopia, what will we do when the moon is destroyed to fuel an alien mothership, how will social moors change to accommodate psychic abilities? These and more are answered by the world of science fiction but we only believe them if the reactions come from believable normal people and if the world is (other than the one sci-fi change) normal and believable too.

PS - "There is an exception to every rule, except this one."
There are exceptions to this rule; Robert Anton Wilson's "Illuminati" and arguably Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep". If your story must break the rule then do it, but don't think your exceptional just so you can be lazy and not fix up a convoluted or sloppy story.

*Lets just ignore the books here.
**This is half of why we are ignoring the books, especially you Book III -_-

To mockingly blog where no blog has mocked before!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ludonarrative Dissonance


I'm... I'm sorry, that was mean and wrong of me to say. Your mom is not a ludonarrative anything. In fact that statement doesn't even really make sense. Lets start this over.

Ludonarrative Dissonance is a big fancy word that means Bioshock could have been better. No wait, look, I'm not doing very well at this, let's just quote Wikipedia.
Ludonarrative refers to the aspects of storytelling in a video game that are controlled by the gamer. It is contrasted with the purely narrative aspects of the video game which are determined by the game's designers and told through cutscenes.

Ludonarrative Dissonance

The term "Ludonarrative Dissonance" was coined by Clint Hocking, a creative director for LucasArts (then at Ubisoft), on his blog in October, 2007.[1] The neologism "ludonarrative" is a portmanteau of ludology and narrative, and is now an essential concept in videogame theory.[2]

The idea refers to conflicts between a video game's narrative and its game play. Clint Hocking coined the term in response to the game Bioshock, which promotes the theme of self-interest through its gameplay while promoting the opposing theme of selflessness through its narrative, creating a violation of aesthetic distance that often pulls the player out of the game.

In a nut shell; if you have lots of cut scenes describing the main character as an altruistic hero that risks anything to protect the innocent, but in game you let him slaughter said innocent (perhaps you even reward such blood shed) then you have a problem.

Another example is Gears of War2.
Or any game where an NPC tells you you are the "chosen one/only hope/best there is" and then refuses to give you equipment, training, or the Ultimate McGuffin until you prove yourself by killing 10,000 wolves in the forest *cough* zelda *cough* WoW *cough* every other rpg *cough*. You also have a problem if your game narrative is all about choice and free agency but you don't give them any choice or you give them a bipolar false choice. "You are totally free... to Slaughter the Innocent... or not. (I'm looking at you KOTOR -__- )

Ludonarrative dissonance means the scripted part of the game does not make sense with the choices taken by the player. If you have ever watched a cut scene and said, "I wouldn't say that, I wouldn't do that, no no no you idiot don't do that! Why can't I stop myself from doing that!" That is ludonarrative dissonance.

PS - These are not technically ludonarrative dissonance but they are something very close.

You have a problem if the only way for the plot to continue is to do something monumentally stupid that any player would not willingly do otherwise. ("Hello Dr. Evilrobe MacBackstabbypants. You seem trustworthy, living here in the necropolis and all, please lead the way.") - LudoIntellegence Dissonance

You also have a problem if your games main feature is how open and explorable it is but it is repetitive or empty of anything worth seeing. Ludo-oh look another tree dissonance

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Friday, August 5, 2011


I am a huge fan of cross pollinating knowledge. Learning is quite simply acquiring knowledge you don't know. You won't get something you don't know by continuing to study what you do know.** More importantly I believe that a field as a whole can benefit, can learn, as we in that field seek out new bits of understanding and bring them back.

With that in mind I would like to present to you this tid-bit on leadership. Leadership may seem odd as a topic for writers who are traditionally misanthropic and solitary but if you take a moment to think about it what makes an author "great" (in the people actually hear about and read them sense) is that people follow them. People read their work and not any random authors because it is THEIR work and not just some random authors. So sit back and enjoy one of the more popular of the widely popular TED Talks.

~Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action from TED 2010

Why do you write?

Not knowing yet is alright, I am sure many great authors would just say 'because'. To be perfectly honest I'm not really sure why I write either, but I think I'll try and figure it out now.
Till then, I leave you with the only famous author's quotes I could find on the subject.

"So really why I continued writing [is because] I felt there was nothing out there. So I had to continue, because they were so bad, not because I was so good. And I'm still not so good. But they're still very bad. There is still room for someone to step in here, you see?" ~Bukowski, Poetry in Motion

and the far more lengthy but no less illuminating essay Why I Write, by George Orwell

** Totally facetious argument based on poor definition of what "know" means, expect me to argue the exact opposite at a later date. "Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it." ~Santayana, Essays