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Showing posts with the label Writing

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

Combat Culture

For the past two years, this weekend has seen “ Moments of Silence ” posts, the first in response to the murder of George Floyd, and the second to comment on what had taken place in the ensuing year. This year, the weeks leading up to the anniversary have seen a number of brutal, preventable, man-made tragedies, and, given their nature, the standard litany of finger-pointing -  particularly from those desperate to draw attention from the obvious connection between mass shootings and the ready availability of firearms. In addition to their current favorite targets, both human and conceptual (funny how the blame always falls on the people they were already mad at), and something that can only be described as “architectural victim blaming” (at least Ted Cruz’s comments about doors are being roundly mocked), the old classics were trotted out, including that aging recurring villain: video games. Both of us at NSD were in the same graduating class as the Columbine shooters, so, while we wer

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

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

The Space Between Blows: The Audience's Role in Narrative Combat

POW! BIFF! ZOT! Fight scenes have been a part of narrative media for... well, as long as there has been narrative media . The Illiad , for instance, is full of the granular blow-by-blow we expect of fight scenes today, regardless of medium . So this is not a topic for which I can do any kind of justice - I'm sure there are people who have dedicated their entire careers to the study of narrative combat, and there will always be more to talk about, more to discover. Rather, this post will explore some recent thoughts inspired by (what else) a mostly-forgotten twenty-year old video game. Oni is a third-person action game with a focus, despite the arsenal of weapons featured in the official art, on melee combat. Today, it's remembered mostly as the game Bungie made after Marathon and Myth , but before Halo . Culturally, it's a rather bizarre relic: a western attempt at making an "anime game" based on limited reference points that the creators lifted wholesale, partic

Moment of Silence: One Year Later

One year ago, following the murder of George Floyd, Never Say Dice posted "a moment of silence" in memory of Black Americans who have died as the result of police violence, and out of solidarity to those who stand up to a system designed to break the bodies, minds, and souls of people of color. One year later, we thought we should reflect on what has transpired since then, and where we can go from here. There is always another story, ask anyone who works in words, images, and sounds, including those artists of ephemera who concoct fleeting tales around a table, shaped by dice and panic, lost instantly to time and the savageries of recollection. Every story that's told makes space for those that aren't. The "before" stories. The "after" stories. And the stories beneath. If someone has lived their life privileged enough to never hear the stories of those who suffered and died creating the world they take for granted, even acknowledging the existence

Whatcha Whatcha Whatcha Want: Crafting Character Motivation

There’s an old axiom that every story, regardless of medium, is ultimately about someone who wants something, but has obstacles standing in their way. While that’s probably overly reductionist, it’s true that both characters and plots are driven by desires and motivations. But how much do these need to be developed? Does every character need a complex motivation, or were Tears for Fears right when they said that everybody simply wants to rule the world? B : This will be a tough one to tackle, because character motivation comes not only from a creator’s intent, but also from their audience’s interpretations. Whether it’s someone reading words thousands of years after they were written or someone sitting on the other side of a gaming table, every audience member’s own desires and experience will determine how they see a character’s motivations, no matter how those motivations are being presented. Believability often comes down to accessibility. We might not want to become Jedi ourselves

Generic Post

Over the years, I've heard many an author, agent, editor, and publisher claim (facetiously or otherwise) that the concept of “genre” exists solely to make it easier for bookstores to arrange their stock, that it’s ultimately a marketing invention to better move product. It’s funny, though, I don’t think I’ve ever heard this sentiment from the people who enjoy said product, jokingly or otherwise, whether they be readers, players, or audience members. A divide of this scale can’t help but lead to questions. Are both groups talking about the same thing? What exactly is a genre, anyway, and what role does it play in the telling and experiencing of stories? I first began to question "genre" in a college creative writing workshop. Until then, I had taken for granted that the categories of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, horror, and thriller had been structured and organized by nature like the Periodic Table. This certainty wasn’t broken by coursework or  some newfound clari

Tales from the Grove: Storytelling in San Andreas

Recently, Andy and I found out that we had each started new run-throughs of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas , a game that both of us have loved since its original release, but neither had ever completed. We took it as an opportunity to play together (even while apart), keeping track of each other’s progress throughout. Now that we’re both done, we thought we’d discuss some of the game’s storytelling and characterization, and what San Andreas can teach writers and gamers looking to tell stories from the more… complicated side of the law. - B B : It’s appropriate that San Andreas starts with CJ’s return home, since picking the game up again felt a homecoming for both of us. My story (far less exciting and tragic than Carl’s) is that, now that I’m satisfied with my current hardware setup, I’ve been using the PS2 a lot more often, which meant returning to a complete Grand Theft Auto series playthrough I had started some years ago. Thanks to the lockdown freetime, I burned through Grand Thef

What to Do with "Childish Things"

This Tuesday, I turn 40. I share a birthday with both Lou Reed and Dr. Seuss, a legacy I’m doing my best to look up to. Needless to say, there will be no big birthday bash, no retrogames with friends, no late-night Dio singalongs. It hasn’t exactly been the way I pictured exiting my thirties. But, as I’ve said before, the best thing to come out of the past year is this very blog and the opportunities it gives me to both explore the media I enjoy and to share my discoveries with an audience. For the past few years, it’s been my goal to have something published by the time I hit 40 (curse you, 20 Under 40 story collection!), and, even though it’s in a way I never anticipated, my dream has come true. Never Say Dice has had more readers than I ever could have imagined when Andy and I started this endeavor a year ago, and it’s helped me regain a confidence in my writing that I haven’t felt since college - even if that still seems like it was just yesterday! Nonetheless, the event looming b