Sunday, November 17, 2013

Getting the full impact of the story of a game

I just finished reading Permanence, by Karl Schroeder, today. For those of you who don't know, it's a outer space science fiction story with some intriguing aliens and some cool plot twists and turns, and real sense of wonder.

More than once I've lamented the fact that never have science fiction games turned out like I'd want them. When I finished Permanence I once again got reminded of that, since some parts of that book would work just fine as scenes in a Transhuman Space game. But, the philosophical implications, the inner turmoil of the characters and the way the mysteries of the settings were shadowed in the actions of the protagonists of the novel, those would probably never crop up in a game. Maybe it's a problem for me that the kind of sf I like is hard to recreate in a game. Or is it something else?

A while back I watched the Western remake, True Grit. It was a fabulous movie, with great shots and excellent interplay between the characters as they discovered their own "true grit". They way it was shot, using the scenes and the camera to show distance and closeness was also excellent. Today I saw the original, the True Grit from 1969 with John Wayne. I'm quite fond of many of his western movies. The Searchers, High Noon and Stagecoach I consider some of my favourites of all time. So, here we had the same story told in two different ways, just like the same adventure could play out very differently at two different tables.

That movie was shot very differently. It was always very light, never dark even when it was clearly supposed to be night. The music was so light and merry I almost laughed. After hearing for so long that "this ain't an easy trip, sister", that music totally flipped that impression over into a jolly ride into the wilderness. Surprisingly many of the lines the actors had were identical in the two movies, but they felt quite different. They both basically said the same thing, but it came across in a new way.

So, what does that mean for my longing after the deep impact of Permanence in my science fiction games? Well. I know that I can decide not to play jolly music when it's supposed to be grim, and I can try to describe the inner conflicts in NPCs by their external actions. But, I'm still a far away from capturing that magic. Sometimes you say the same things, and it comes across in a totally different way.

I wonder if I'll solve that riddle.

But, damn do I want to play an Old West game now, or what!

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