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Showing posts with the label Storytelling

Putting the Howl in "Howl-loween Specials"

There are three things I've learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin. But this is our blog, and that means we can discuss whatever we want. Being the spookity time of year, it's a good opportunity to do just that. While "horror" might be the word of the month for many, there's also something to be said for the more mundanely macabre - the things that, while not horrific, blend right into the spirit of the month. Here at Never Say Dice, one thing that brings us into that space are the old Halloween specials of our childhood. While some should probably  stay buried in the past, worms crawling in and out of their corpses, others seem to endure over the years. The favorites might vary from household to household, but shows like It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown or Garfield’s Halloween Adventure are still commonly well-liked. That begs the question, though: what makes a good Halloween special work, and what can we take from t

Creeping (Un)death!

We’ve once again entered that month full of spookiness. Witches, goblins, bats, and other creepy crawlies abound. One particular category of creature has been stuck in our skulls of late, and that's the undead. From skeletons to vampires and zombies, and a great number of spirit types in between, the undead are a large part of the creatures that populate the Halloween season. While scary ghost stories might appear at Christmas as well, this time of year sees a surge of interest in movies, books, and games featuring the undead. Though they appear in stories set year-round, this is when they get their chance to shine in the moonlight. Something's been troubling me though: while there are notable exceptions, the majority of the undead that appear in our stories are humanoid. Why is that and should we work to change it? -A A : The question of why our undead tend to be humanoid can be difficult to answer. It could simply be a matter of depiction - human/humanoid undead are just eas

Storylines of Succession

Even if you’ve been keeping your nose in dusty tomes of RPG lore, word has probably made its way to you that Queen Elizabeth II has died. As heathen Americans, we’re more used to the idea of Kings and Queens (and Czars and Emperors and Kaisers and…)  from history and works of fiction than in our day-to-day lives. But those works of fiction, even the ones we make ourselves, are inspired by history and the world around us, so this week we thought we’d talk about the way that shifts in leadership (monarchical or otherwise) can affect the worlds we create for stories and games. - B B : The more you think about it, the more you see things that are affected by these kinds of changes. Whose face is on the money? Who even declares the value of said money? Even if your setting is based around bartering systems (something of an inevitability when much of the wealth the Player Characters encounter is in the form of plundered discovered treasure and artifacts) the availability of goods and servic

Play It Again, Sam!

Sometimes it feels like people who consume media are divided into two camps, with little leeway in between: one says "I don't keep books/games/movies after I'm done with them, I'm not going to read/play/watch them again," and the other instinctively amasses the things they like in order to access or re-visit  them on a moment's notice. (Anyone who has ever helped me move knows which group I belong to... and I'm very sorry about your backs.) Physical media and its associated benefits and drawbacks notwithstanding, the motivations behind these positions say a lot about the way people engage with the media they enjoy.   With predominately linear formats like books and movies, the engagement process is mostly pre-defined. While one could argue about the way home viewing has changed the cinematic experience by allowing audiences to jump in at any point or to back up and  re-examine missed details, and that printed media, particularly comics, have always had a &

Superman and Purpose

Greetings, citizens of Metropolis, (Metropolians? Metro-ites? Metrons? Is there even a specific term?) and happy salutations to all for another annual Superman Day . While it may have originated as yet another spurious corporate holiday, for some it can still be an opportunity to celebrate a long-beloved superhero. Though I may tend to be more of a Marvel fan myself, DC Universe stalwarts like Superman and Batman have always been part of my media consumption. This may be an unavoidable force, as evidenced by both my children becoming fans of DC superheroes before they even consumed any related media. A while back, Bugsy broached the topic of nature of Superman as a character and property for a previous Superman Day. With such a long-running and widespread character, it's worth thinking about what our own personal experiences with Superman have been. How have they shaped our unique view of the character, and how will that change our interactions with future Superman media? For thi

Pew-Pew Zoom: SHMUPS, WTH?

A few weeks ago, I delved into the narrative elements of early space-based aracade games , but I still want to keep exploring the frontiers of what space games have to offer. "Pew-Pew Zoom" will be closer looks at different aspects of space games, and I felt nowhere would be a better starting point than the humble (yet often very, very strange) SHMUP. So dust off your controllers, stack up those quarters, and GET READY! To start, we should probably define the rather odd, but fun to say, acronym "SHMUP." While it's a shortening of the age-old term "Shoot 'em Up" (which, prior to the advent of electronic gaming, primarily referred to films and TV shows, particularly Westerns and war stories), the term is generally referred to a specific kind of shooting game: one where the player guides a vehicle, such as a spaceship, fighter plane, blimp, or hummingbird , at a set speed across scrolling levels in two dimensions, avoiding enemies and their weaponry,

You Cannot Fast Travel When Plot is Nearby

You’ve probably been there. Trying to get from one part of the map to another. A sound effect cuts through the overworld music , an animation comes up, and the music switches to something a little more adrenaline-pumping. The first time it happens in a game, maybe the first few dozen times, you’re probably pretty excited. What monsters will you face? Will there be materials to upgrade your weapons? Just a little much-needed currency and experience? A surprise treasure box ? Then you get to that fourth dozen time…fifth…sixth? Somewhere in there it becomes a boring monotonous grind just to get anywhere, or maybe to find the last component you need to upgrade your ranged weapon. At best, the ritual becomes a minor annoyance while you pass through as quickly as possible. Would it be better if you could just fast travel ? Zipping between two points without subjecting your character(s) (and yourself) to yet another pointless battle? This can work well in video games, but do you use it at you

Fun With Murder: The Narrative Ethics of Assassination Games

It's funny. As someone who views "detective" as an integral part of their personality , I sure have a lot of crime games. Well, crime media in general, especially movies, but games have certain... implications. You're the one committing the crimes , not watching other characters do them or following a protagonist as they piece together criminal events through evidence and investigation. You're right there, doing all the bad stuff yourself. Recently, in the ongoing quest to tackle my massive game backlog, I've been playing the first Tenchu game, released in 1998. I bought it because the creators would later go on to make my beloved Way of the Samurai series, but if one looked at my shelves, they could easily assume I chose it thematically, as Tenchu 's neighbors include numerous Hitman , Assassin's Creed , and Dishonored games - a subgenre we'll call "assassination games." I've seen it remarked that there's an irony that, while

Odd Taxi's Genre Subversions

No matter what (or who) we're engaging with, first impressions carry a lot of weight. But even before we've made them, we already have a set of expectations and preconceptions. These can be based on deliberate signifiers (this taxi is available because it's parked and the light is on), cultural preconceptions (I can talk to the driver, but they won't engage with anything I say in-depth), and underlying, unquestioned fundamentals of reality (the driver will appear human). This takes place in media as well, and largely defines the way we engage with genre works . When our actual experiences don't line up with expectations, we experience a sense of confusion as our brains struggle to catch up and make sense of what it's been presented, confusion that may (or may not) be proportional to the nature of the dissonance. If someone was familiar with anime conventions and the types of stories typically featured in anime, but not, say, the convoluted, darkly comedic crime

Fifth Dimension

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone. A Side :  If you’re familiar with the words above, you’ve probably seen at least one episode of the stalwart classic The Twilight Zone . (Or maybe you remember them from our previous Twilight Zone post where we reviewed a few episodes and the series itself? In which case, we hope you went and watched a few episodes afterwards.) The 2019 series revival may have been cancelled this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t welcome these newer entries into our strange home. While some of the new Zones may have been rehashes of old material, a number of new episodes can join the ranks of that "middle ground between sc