Friday, September 16, 2011

Drama and Character Vs "epic-ness"

There's a common misconception in media. Essentially, it says that "more epic is more dramatic/emotional/powerful etc." That is, higher stakes, larger armies, more deaths, make for a bigger impact on the audience. Nothing could be further from the truth.

People care about people. Those people can be robots, or living toys, or humans or aliens, but they can't be countries, or populations, or even planets.

A few examples: In the Mass Effect series, you can decide the fate of entire planets. At the climax of the game, your actions save the entire Galaxy. You can commit acts akin to Genocide. But if you listen to people talk about their play experience, you wouldn't know that those things were in the game; you'd think that the game was a relationship/dating game. In the mind of a player, the most important decision is who to befriend/sleep with*. People care about people.

In Saving Private Ryan, the fate of the free world is at stake, but only in a theoretical sense. In the most "epic" events of history, the characters never know the significance of their actions on the world scale. What they-and the audience-care about is the fate of their company. The arrival of Air Power doesn't matter because it leads to Allied victory, it matters because Tom Hanks' life is saved (Spoiler Alert).

The perfect counter-example is in Star Wars Episode III. The final battle between Obi-wan and Anakin shouldn't be about the lava and crazy jumps and special effects. It should be about the character of the combatants. Instead, it's often impossible to tell which Jedi is which.

If your problem with my talking about Star Wars is that it's not long enough, you should check out Red Letter Media's videos about the series. They provide a lot of valuable information about storytelling and strange jokes.

*Correct path for Femshep: Liara, Garrus, Liara.
Maleshep: Liara, Tali, Liara.

1 comment:

Jeffinated said...

Tom Hanks died, remember? his last words were "Earn this..."