Sunday, 15 May 2011

Pause for Thought

When I sit down to watch a TV series or a Film there are some which I realise will make me uncomfortable, that really make me squirm in my seat as their narrative unfolds.

Different types of drama will inspire discomforts in different people, for some people supernatural dread or physical squeamishness will do the trick. I don't really react to those things, for me it's the slow motion car crash of interpersonal drama which will make me reach the pause button.

There is assumption on the part of some people that every time I hit pause I am degrading my experience, that if any work is not seen “as the author intended” is it is somehow lessened.

I have seen the authorial intent argument trotted out a lot in recent years in the discussions regarding the future of computer games. Games offer a wider and deeper form of choice but the ability of someone consuming media to subvert authorial choice by stopping or pausing is as old as language itself.

I don't think less of a book if it is a difficult read, It is fine if I have to put the book down for a while a good author of will make me want to pick it up again despite myself.
Regardless of what the author does nothing can stop me thinking about alternate ways that events can play out as I make my way through a narrative. A author can't stop my imagination, all they can do is make your telling of the events the most compelling.
I feel the skill of someone like Shakespeare isn't just in creating a ending like that of Romeo and Juliet, it lies in leading it is audience towards this goal in a way which makes it seem inevitable.
By making the narratives conclusion seem a natural outcome of the events which unfolds not a contrivance.

I do not believe the two mediums have as many differences as some would like to think, building a consistent reality for the narrative is vital to both. Screenwriter Syd Field famously stated “action is character”, which to me at least sounds damn similar to Clint Hocking's idea of Ludonarrative Dissonance (“where the game elements conflict the thematic elements the narrative tries to convey “). In both cases what the character does needs to fit in with what we would expect them to do given the information we have been told about them.

I think part of what scares people is games can employ such powerful psychological affects they can get away with breaking these rules. That doesn't mean that breaking the doesn't have an effect it's just far less pronounced.

Throughout the history of art as a medium has evolved its practitioners have had a discussion about ideas versus form. Arguing about whether how you say something, or what you say is most important.
I don't deny this is an important discussion for people to have but I think it's mostly a personal conversation you have to have yourself about what is most important to you. Ultimately practitioners on both sides need to accept that this is a medium which contains both, and get on with pushing the boundaries of the aspects which resonate with them.

No comments:

Post a Comment