Monday, May 14, 2012

Themes vs. Narrative

So it's a been awhile and I guess that's not really a thing that needed to be said but there it is.  Anyways I recently thought about a discussion I had had with a family member some time ago in which they claimed that the Lion King was just Bambi with violence. I strongly disagreed, and attempting to compare narrative elements that were distinctly different. The problem is that it just comes off as me splitting hairs. From a strictly narrative perspective, to a certain extent I guess I was. This did get me thinking, what were the underlying components that made me so strongly believe that you were getting to distinct experiences.

Disclaimer: I am no huge fan of Disney, but their stories are well known so they make for an easy comparison that anyone can relate to.

In reality, and in keeping with a Disney theme, you could look at Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast as essentially the same story. Most of you reading this probably read that sentence and felt I was out of my mind and didn't know what I was talking about. Those of you that didn't either know where I'm going with this or haven't seen these movies which probably means you're a bit young to be out here on the fringes of the Internet.

Let me break these stories down for you:

A guy and a girl meet under trying circumstances, there's some passing interest but nothing can happen due to social barriers between them. (Status/Looks) The lead character is given the opportunity to get closer to their love interest, allowing for their relationship to grow. Just when things seem to be going well, antagonistic forces strike and drive them apart. Then they fight back, overcoming the forces opposing them, and wind happily in each others arms.

Sure, when you dig into the details they start to seem like very different stories, but in reality the differences are essentially the same component in the story in terms of role just taking on a different form. Did I grossly oversimplify the stories? Definitely but it serves my purpose without being outright fabrication. Here's where it gets tricky, see even if you agree with my plot analysis something should not sit quite right with you. In the video game industry you often here the term 'core engagement' as a way to classify a game. The 'core engagement' is the underlying fundamental reason you play a specific game or genre of games. Most Disney movies have the same core engagement of light-hearted tales with a fairy-tale romance of some kind. However, these movies also have themes and that is where the distinction lies.

When you compare the themes of all the above mentioned movies, you realize that the narratives provide a deeper experience and ultimately make these movies feel very differently. The first comparison, the creative spark of this post, says that Bambi and the Lion King are essentially the same movie. While it's true that the plots follow a very similar structure, the themes are very different. Bambi is simple story about coming of age, a journey from childhood to adulthood and putting aside childish things. It also touches on themes about living up to your parent's legacy which Lion King also touches upon. The Lion King deals with lust for power, betrayal, redemption, and revenge. It's got much darker themes, it also presents a more compelling conflict as the ending is built up to all the way from the beginning. In Bambi... well the story kind meanders until the end with the forest fire.

Beauty and the Beast explores themes about society's rejection of those that are different, judging based on appearance, vanity, anger, what strength really means. Aladdin has themes of Greed, Deception, Damaging Lies, a criticism of social entitlements and separation, Nobility vs. Status. So when you take those very similar narratives but you apply the different themes, you wind up with a much more unique experience that gives very different take aways than the story alone would deliver.

So in a nutshell, a lot of movies these days don't necessarily come up with the most original stories, or at all, but with the right Themes they can create a unique cinematic experience that doesn't make you feel like you've watched the same recycled thing for the 100,000th time.

Friday, March 9, 2012


So I've been kind of neglecting this blog lately, mostly because I have started a blog directly related to a project I am working on and it's sort of my hobby at this point.  Shameless Plug!

I've picked up Mass Effect 3 and I have found it to be rather overwhelming, the sheer scale of the task laid in front of you at the very beginning of the game is monumental and doesn't seem to simplify as you get farther in.  So far it seems to have managed to combine the greatest elements of the last two games and eliminated nearly all the flaws. I have heard some complain that getting quests added from ambient dialogue lacks engagement, but I haven't really been bothered by this. Perhaps I'm just used to it after playing Skyrim.

Admittedly I love getting back into a Mass Effect game where you have a very character driven story that gives your decisions massive implications. I know I will be doing multiple playthroughs of this, and a lot more if I can get Multiplayer to actually work for me. I try to find games but it never finds anything, and when I create a game nobody can find it. I chalk it up to EA's shitty Origin system not working correctly.

If you haven't tried it yet, and you've played the first two, get on it! Like, right now!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Don't Break the Chain

Read a few posts today on Lifehacker about a productivity strategy for actually achieving long term goals. Basically you take 3-4 year-on-a-page calendars, and mark each with an activity that you want to dedicate time to. Every day that you put in your alotted time, you put an X on that calendar for that day. After enough days a chain starts to form, and the goal is to not break this chain.

So for my 3 calendars I am putting:

If I can manage these three consistently I will add:

I do some of these activities already, some better than others, but they are things that I am trying to make priorities in my life. If nothing else, these give me objectives to overcome before I settle in to goof off at my computer or go out and do something. My hopes is that this will help me get on top things that need only a little daily maintenance but can really get away from you if you take multiple days off.

Friday, February 17, 2012

New Blog!

So I've started a new blog to track my geeky pursuits as a coder (kind of), please follow along!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

SW:TOR First Pass

So I've got a few hours into the Old Republic and I gotta say that I like what I see. I think my only real complaint so far is that when you take a tanking advanced class you don't get your 'Defensive Stance' until four levels after you take the advanced class.

My thought is that you should at least get the cornerstone ability that lets you perform the role you have specced into right out the gate. Other than that, I'm absolutely loving this game. It's take on crafting is new and refreshing, the combat is engaging, and it offers interesting incentives to group up more often.

The RP isn't as prevalent as I'd like but it's around if you look for it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Here we go again

Odway, Level 1 Republic Trooper on Lord Adraas.

What have I done?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Saw 'The Grey' last night, phenomenal movie that was extremely emotionally draining. Has given me a character idea, based roughly on Liam Neeson's character, and has me really chomping at the bit for another MMO. This poem stuck with me from it, definitely a worthwhile poem even if it was made up by the movie.

Once more into the fray.
Into the last good fight I'll ever know.
Live and die on this day.
Live and die on this day.