Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’

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Everything Thursday: The Aesthetics of Genre

June 20, 2019

“I think it is very important to be able to read media with a critical eye. To parse it in terms of what it is saying, both on its face, and in how it uses the language of its medium (film, TTRPG, whatever) to deliver its ideas. To make its statement.

Genre is not simply a set of aesthetics, full stop. It is aesthetics with a direction, an impetus.

Lots of folks like to forget the reason behind the aesthetic choices, and just sort of, eat and regurgitate them unthinkingly.”

Commuting Crow [Emphasis Mine]

I came across this and I like it a lot, and want to pass it forward for it is very important in storytelling, in gaming, and even in architecture.

The look and feel (ie aesthetics) of any genre is born from a philosophical place.  It was through the examination and exploration of certain ideas, theses, and ideologies, whether that be in support of them (we are interested in this  and think this is a good way to go, let’s explore and invent down that road), in question of them (we see this as a possible way things could go, let’s explore and see what the outcome(s) might be), or in opposition or critique of them (this is something we see happening, and think it is not productive, let’s explore and illustrate the harm).  Genre is more than the style of the world, it is about world building, and all of the aspects of world building.  The way society operates (or doesn’t), the way people think (or don’t), the prevailing truths (or untruths), the direction and inflections of humanity.  It is from there, from that baseline world building from which the aesthetics emerge and are developed into their final form.

So when you use the imagery and aesthetics of the genre as just a stylistic choice, you aren’t operating in the genre.  Your work is not of the genre.  It’s something else in different clothing.*

The same holds true in architecture.  The organization of the Beaux-Arts building, the hyper-detailed nature of the Baroque period, the classical orders, the bold planes of modernism, they all emerged out of philosophies about living (in all senses of that word).  There were values and convictions and ideas and ideologies beneath it all, and it was the exploration into form of all of those that informed and created the style, including how the building is laid out, how one approaches the building, how one travels from room to room, how the façade is proportioned, how and where ornamentation, etc.

So when you use the architectural pieces and aesthetics (the architectural language) of a ‘style’ (or genre) as just a stylistic choice, you aren’t operating in the true nature of the style.  Your work is not of the style.  It is something else in different clothing.

In this way, Using the words  “architectural style” to describe how a building looks turns out to be a misnomer.**

To reiterate, genres (and architectural ‘styles’***) are born of a specific context, in time and space and thought and vision.  From there emerges a look.  If you want your story, your game, or your work to be truthfully of that genre, it needs to engage with that context (again, whether it is to follow, to re-examine, to tweak, to refute, whatever, but it must engage with it), not just the look of it.

It is from there that richness arises and that great works emerge.

 

* Which BTW is fine… there’s some fun in playing around only with style.  Just be honest about it.

** It is also where many more recent buildings fall flat or feel terrible, because they’re importing architectural languages in a copy/paste mode without any thought or understanding of all the ideology and knowledge that underpinned the ‘style’ and so having little design sense poured into them.  Confusing architecture as just the “fancy looking bits” leaves behind the most important aspects that make up what architecture actually is.

*** We really need a better word.  Ok.  This is my game now, to find or come up with a new word for this.

 

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Wonder Wednesday

June 5, 2019

In a lot of ways, it seems very silly and unassuming.  After all, it’s ‘just’ a series of marble trials.  Yet done with such rigour, seriousness, and with completely earnest commentary played totally straight that it is tough not to get sucked in… and even root for your favourite team/country.  Totally fun to watch, and impressive to think of all the work behind the scenes to set it up and have it be so compelling.  Here’s the first event of this year’s competition to get you started!

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Philosophy Tuesday

May 28, 2019

I have not watched any of the Game of Thrones*, but it has been pretty darn inescapable for the past few weeks as the final season wound towards its finale. And so it was that across my path came this article at Scientific American that piqued my interest, for it delved into realms both rich on a storytelling level but even more so in the philosophical realm. Besides a treatise on the path of the final episodes there’s a great exploration that ties very nicely into the concept and notions of the Path of Least Resistance as well as Systems.

Give it a read. There’s a lot of good stuff in there and where I begin to mine it for insights is here: If we’re not well versed in writing, or even consuming, stories that flow from a sociological level/view verses the individual/psychological level/view, then we’ll likewise not be well versed in seeing how much we all are swept away by the sociological waters we swim in. It therefore becomes more difficult to see the systems and shared identities that shape our views, reactions, and even (T)ruths:

“In sociological storytelling, the characters have personal stories and agency, of course, but those are also greatly shaped by institutions and events around them. The incentives for characters’ behavior come noticeably from these external forces, too, and even strongly influence their inner life.

People then fit their internal narrative to align with their incentives, justifying and rationalizing their behavior along the way. (Thus the famous Upton Sinclair quip: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”)”

It can be tough to swim against a current. It certainly takes effort, especially when it confronts something we’ve made a part of our identity. And so once again we’re pointing towards the path of least resistance. Society, systems, structures are all there, flowing. It becomes easiest to simply go with the flow, no matter whether the outcome is a good or deleterious one, whether for ourselves, others, or the world as a whole.

Even when it is completely against our own self-interest.**

But the effort is worth it. When the already automatic systems are nudging us already almost certain futures that are not working as we’d like them to, it’s most fruitful when we aim to alter the systems rather than exclusively aiming to alter individual(s). When we can divert the flow towards great outcomes, then great outcomes become easy:

“But if we can better understand how and why characters make their choices, we can also think about how to structure our world that encourages better choices for everyone. The alternative is an often futile appeal to the better angels of our nature. It’s not that they don’t exist, but they exist along with baser and lesser motives. The question isn’t to identify the few angels but to make it easier for everyone to make the choices that, collectively, would lead us all to a better place.”

Through a broadening of storytelling to include sociological viewpoints, we can better gain that understanding. And while such stories may not be “out there” yet in great quantities (as this season of GoT apparently showed), we can always practice that storytelling in our own lives with that most important narrator – the one in our head. With mindfulness we can guide our inner commenter to encompass both the psychological and the sociological, gaining broader perspectives from which we can choose, be, and act in service of creating the society we truly want.

 

* As much of a surprise as that might be to many of you…

** And against that which fills our being with fulfillment and satisfaction and is a true self-expression of our central self and who we want to be.

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Marvels, Bricks, and Dragons, oh my!

March 21, 2019

A trio of weekends, a trio of movies, and now a trio of capsule reviews!  Got a chance to catch The Lego Movie 2, How To Train Your Dragon 3, and Captain Marvel…

Potential Spoilers Ahead!

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Webs all the way down

February 3, 2019

This is a bit delayed now, but I saw Into the Spider-Verse a couple of weeks ago!  Capsule review (and potential spoilers!) ahead… Read the rest of this entry ?

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Movie Thursday(s)

January 3, 2019

As with last year, I’m going to catch up here with a few capsule reviews of other movies I saw in 2018! Read the rest of this entry ?

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Will the king rise again?

November 23, 2018

Without much fanfare or warning, Disney dropped a teaser trailer for the “live action” remake of The Lion King…

… and I won’t lie, I got chills from watching it.

In no small part this is unsurprisingly due to the gorgeous visuals on display in this new teaser – the “realistic” rendering on display is quite stunning.  Mainly, though, the chills arise because this trailer shows only beat-for-beat remakes of scenes from the original*, and the original, especially coupled with the great score by Hans Zimmer, will almost always give me the chills.

As for the enterprise as a whole I still have massive concerns about what will result from this remake.  The remake of Beauty and the Beast left me cold in more ways than one** and I do wonder what the intent of this is (besides making a tonne of money, of course).  There are only a pawful of narrative (or other) weaknesses that I’d say would need ameliorating; will they address those or miss them, will they try to shoehorn in unnecessary stuff, will they go for some radical reworking, or will they just leave it as a pure visual overhaul?***  Some of those paths could lead to something amazing.  The others… not so much.

The 1994 release of TLK really landed for me in ways I may never be able to fully understand why.  It had a monumental impact on my life, both in terms of how it spoke to me, what I took from it, the many friendships I developed around it, and the life-directing choices that emerged from it.  I’m not concerned that the remake will ruin my time or memories of that time – I would never give anyone or anything that power – but this movie is something special to me.  I already think it is a great movie, with good storytelling.

Again I won’t lie:  they are clearing doing this, and I so want, and hope, that whatever gets released next year remains equally great, moving, wonderous, and powerful.

Paws crossed.

 

* Which makes me wonder why they didn’t actually pull a page from the original and release the entire Circle of Life sequence as the trailer…

** And Lindsay Ellis unraveled it even further here, enumerating a number of things that point to why my view of the remake had been souring further since I’d written my review…

*** Perhaps strangely I could get behind this direction.  It does leave open a big question of “why bother?” but at the same time, so long as they’re being honest about what they’re doing, there’s an appeal to making something purely for aesthetic delight.