What’s the point? Part II

May 2, 2013

I asked before: what’s the point of your writing? It varies by type of writing, but if you seek to tell a story then your point is often the same: a moral, a message, a feeling, whatever the reader takes away in the end.

Some have turned up their nose at “lesser” forms of writing such as the comic book, and expressed outright scorn for videogames, but I argue they all may have a “point” just as movies, plays, and “book” books do. Storytelling is storytelling regardless of format. Consider:

What’s the point of H. P. Lovecraft’s horror literature? How about:

“One fears the unknown”

(See his famous quote.) When his heroes get a grip on their situation (and themselves), they may live beyond the last page.

What’s the point of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman? Comic book or “book” book, such doesn’t matter, it still has a point:

“One must change or die.”

As a bonus, he made other points along the way, but the “moral” of Dream and his family is stated explicitly.

What’s the point of Andrew Hussie’s Homestuck? A webcomic this time, and he makes many points, not the least of which being:

“One must grow up or die.”

Same moral, different age group. The story is strewn with growth and death, and even the consequences of trying to deny this moral.

What’s the point of Looking Glass Studios’ Thief? (Fan site here.) At long last, a videogame! An explicit point is:

“One fears the unknown.”

However, more total game time is dedicated to:

“One overcomes anger through empathy.”

After two-thirds of a game learning to dislike the Hammerites, who would have guessed you would come to empathize with them? And yet there you are in their old cathedral, tending to their dead, creating an emotional connection to at least some members of their faith. When you’ve finished Thief, you might still dislike the “heavily-armed fanatics,” but you can accept such “strange bedfellows” for a mutually-beneficial relationship.

Then Thief II happens, and . . . well, that’s another story.

Having said all this, the tools available to a writer do vary by format. In videogames, the writer may be forced to conform to the needs of gameplay. However, this is no different from a playwright being forced to conform to the reality of stage. The end result is the same: the story makes a point.

So I ask: what’s the point of your writing? When the monster descends on the heroes, does it do so because you want to see blood, or because the scene supports your point? No matter how effective a big visuals budget is for drawing a viewer to your film or videogame, it is the point — the moral, the message, the feeling — that he or she will take away in the end.

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