I was taught to teach writing in the traditional way, with standard essays on standard topics. I'm interested in learning how to use this sort of forum with my own students.
Historical accuracy? What does that term actually mean for video games?
The newly released first-person, open world RPG "Kingdom Come: Deliverance" has been criticized in some quarters (perhaps unfairly) for not including black people in the game. Vocal defenders have emphasized the game’s commitment to historical accuracy (after all, there would likely have been no black people in a small village in medieval Bohemia, where the game begins) and have frequently mocked the criticism as further evidence of the ridiculousness of the social justice warrior.
What does historical accuracy even mean when it comes to this RPG? Is it historically accurate to exclude black people yet to include the possibility of becoming a "bard" or a "knight"? The term "bard" wouldn’t apply to medieval Bohemia, either, and lowly blacksmiths of that time simply didn’t climb the social ladder; they pretty much lived and died in the same lower class that they were born into. Is it historically accurate to not have fantastical creatures to battle yet still to allow the player character to craft potions using a skill called "alchemy"? Those potions create short-term buffs that don’t look at all the different from the buffs created by magic potions in medieval fantasy RPGs such as The Witcher or Baldur’s Gate.
What do video games allow and not allow?
The character creation and storytelling features of video games are often interesting and compelling, but each game — by the very nature of its design and coding — doesn’t allow a player always to do exactly what she wants in the game. What is a player to do?
I really enjoyed your focused and developed discussion of the two films, even though I seriously can’t sit through most horror films. They set me on edge too much, and I usually end up leaving the room (if I’m watching them at home) or pleading to myself to never ever come to one again (if I’m in a theater).
As much as I liked the first half of your essay, I thought the second half of your essay moved away from that focused analysis of the films and into a discussion of what seems to me to be a very different and very complex topic, making what seem to me to be overly broad generalizations, such as this one: “The 1970’s, when The Wicker Man came out, were a time of tremendous cultural upheaval on both sides of the Atlantic. Religious traditions had less power and influence than ever before, a process that started in the 1960’s and continues to this day 8. People were experimenting with free love and alternative relationship styles 9. Popular music was becoming increasingly daring and controversial, and the relatively new genres of hard rock and heavy metal were gaining in influence 10.”
The 2014 Time article that you give as a source in that section of your essay (‘What Every Generation Gets Wrong About Sex’) challenges that notion that the 1960s or 1970s were the actual beginnings of all of those changes: “The truth is that the past is neither as neutered, nor the present as sensationalistic, as the stories we tell ourselves about each of them suggest. Contrary to the famous Philip Larkin poem, premarital sex did not begin in 1963. The ‘revolution’ that we now associate with the late 1960s and early 1970s was more an incremental evolution: set in motion as much by the publication of Marie Stopes’s Married Love in 1918, or the discovery that penicillin could be used to treat syphilis in 1943, as it was by the FDA’s approval of the Pill in 1960. The 1950s weren’t as buttoned up as we like to think, and nor was the decade that followed them a ‘free love’ free-for-all.”
Decades before the cultural conservatives whose names we might still recognize were panicking over heavy metal and homosexuality there were cultural conservatives panicking over rock music, Elvis, homosexuality, and Negroes on the radio. Decades before that they were panicking over jazz, interracial speakeasies, short-haired women, and, yup, you guessed it, homosexuality.
It’s definitely good to connect a specific analysis to a broader historical context, but it’s not easy to discuss a hugely complex topic such as historical context with oversimplifying it.
Good reply, Jeff! This discussion made me think about the giant eagles in LOTR. In Tolkien, they’re independent creatures with their own minds and own histories. In D&D, they would have been depicted as being under the complete control of the summoner or simply the random person wearing the Ring of Animal Control. There are worlds of difference there!
I’m with you! I watched it on Netflix and had a hard time making me finish it. I’d watch maybe 30 minutes, lose focus, come back a few days later… I didn’t have the experience at all with the other films. End Game just did not keep my attention. Maybe we should watch it again just to try to figure out why it’s soooo boring. 🙂
I don’t think you’re “too stupid,” but I also don’t think you’re being very fair. Joyce was profoundly aware of the histories and legacies of colonialism (not just on the level of British colonialism in Ireland), and many of his writings reflect that awareness.
Great essay! I enjoyed reading it.
If you want to think about environmental ethics (including wanton destruction, consumption, waste, conflicts over resources, etc.), consider the Fallout series. You can play Fallout 4 for days on end, especially if you play on Survival mode, scrounging through a post-apocalyptic wasteland in search of edible items or junk items to repurpose and completely forgetting about the main storyline.
Good, thoughtful, provocative essay!
I’m left thinking about how the early relationship between literature and film mirrors what you identify as the current relationship between film and video games.
Literature was the strong influence in film’s early days. Literary techniques — esp. perspective, narration, characterization, and symbolism — were adopted by early film makers, and film makers often even adopted (and continue to adopt) the content of literary works instead of creating entirely new stories on their own. Like film, literary analysis (for aesthetic, not religious purposes) wasn’t always considered a suitable subject of formal study; it’s a relatively new field of study (c. 1850+).
Is it possible to think there’s a pattern, then? One medium influences a newer medium in profound ways, and the newer medium slowly comes to eclipse the medium that came before it?
My prediction is that interactive video storytelling — demanding an active player, as in a video game, rather than a passive viewer, as in a film — will challenge and possible eclipse cinema as a dominant form of entertainment.
There are recent movies based on real lives of black people who achieved great things. Loving (2016) is a very good film. Hidden Figures (2016) is also plenty good, even with the completely invented scene in which the white male supervisor demolishes the Colored Ladies Room sign.
I don’t understand the need to criticize works in a fantasy tradition for not being works in a realism tradition. We have plenty of room for all sorts of works and all sorts of stories, and fiction can have profound influences on our world. Upton Sinclair’s fictional novel The Jungle created lasting legal changes in the US, after all.
I get your larger, really interesting point (about finally having a black superhero who’s not a vampire or demon), but I’m still going to quibble about a side comment that you made about Catwoman.
Catwoman was not simply “invented for the film.” The character was certainly heavily modified for the film, but she has her origins in comic books. See the wikipedia entry on her: “Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, the character made her debut as “the Cat” in Batman #1 (June 1940).” The third (and, in my estimation, the best) incarnation of Catwoman in the 1960s Batman TV series was famously played by black singer and actor Eartha Kitt.
There’s been a lot of modification and revision with the character of Catwoman: from villain to hero, from supporting character to lead, etc.