Thursday, March 22, 2012

When to Defend Shitty Writing (and When Not To)

Let me first state that I am not a gamer. At least, not in the purist sense of the word. I have played a few notable games, beaten a good portion of them, but this is a recent evolution.  In short, I am very much a fan of the medium, but not a connoisseur. I appreciate the way that it has evolved. Where once they were arguably mindless distractions, they have become artistic epics.  They are now a new medium of story telling.  This means they are a new medium for writers. I, as a writer, appreciate how many recent video games have come out with well-thought-out story lines. 

A recent event in the gaming world has highlighted this evolution, but not in a way that one would expect...or hope. This event has pointed out the one fact all creatives know, but often forget: writing matters.

The event in question was the absolutely horrid conclusion to the Mass Effect trilogy. So as to avoid spoilers or give away my complete geekazoid tendencies, I'll explain this video game series as simply as possible. In this video game, your character (Commander Shepard) is trying to save the universe from killer robots. The game play allows the user to make choices, like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel, and therefore suffer the consequences of those choices. Because there is so much content in this game, the characters, relationships, events, and plot lines are meticulously and artfully constructed.  Well, for the most part. 

The ending to this trilogy completely ignored the choices, events, relationships, and plot lines that had been forged.  Therefore, it ignored the entire spirit of the game and shoddily threw together a rushed ending that had more plot holes than Arlington National Cemetery.

This has made the Internet very, very angry.

So much so that there is even a massive online campaign that is demanding the game's creator, Bioware, to come out with an alternate ending (or endings). Naturally this has also launched a counter, albeit much smaller, protest in favor of "keeping the artwork as the artist intended it."

Here's the problem with the art as the artist intended argument: artist are human beings  capable of making mistakes. Artists can forget major facts in realities they created, or just disregard them in favor of saving themselves some hassle. In order for a storyline to be coherent, you have to operate in the reality you created. You can't deviate radically from your own story just to surprise the audience. In other words, you can't bullshit an ending. Let me show you how operating in the reality of a story matters even in a very, very short story:

A sweet, innocent little girl was sucking on a lollipop while picking flowers in a field of poppies. She then raped the planet with her penis that ejaculated atomic bombs.

Now, aside from certain subsets of hentai cultures, I, the artist, should not expect the many people to buy this story. Just because I say it is a complete story doesn't mean it is. The first part of this story has nothing to do with the last part. A sweet, innocent little girl wouldn't rape the earth with her penis. Her character description and her anatomy prevent that from happening. These two sentences are just an offensive joke meant to get a reaction, not to complete a story. Writers are not gods: they are fallible beings. That's why we have things called editors.

Now, am I going to change my little short story so that it makes more sense? No. Why? Because the purpose of the story was to prove a point (and to maybe make myself laugh). It was never my intention to publish it for the masses and expect them to have some emotional investment in it. Unless you are writing a personal journal entry, you have to keep your audience in mind.

Oh what the hell. I'll change it to make more sense.

A sweet, innocent, little girl was sucking on a lollipop while picking flowers in a field of poppies. Then, lightning struck a part of the field and the field caught on fire. As she started to inhale the poppy fumes and the world around her began to bend like a kaleidoscope. In her mind, she then raped the planet with her penis that ejaculated atomic bombs, but in reality she was just sticking her lollipop into a rabbit's ass.