Art, Fun, Larp, Magic, Presentation, Role-playing, Storytelling, Videogames

Magic, in books, role-play, video games, and other storytelling type things

Dear Diary,

I’ve had this weird relationship with a person who keeps following me. It’s magic. Magic seems to think it’s necessary for a lot of my daily life things, jumping in and trying to help out… but in the end it just makes things harder for me to do. Then I have to explain to everyone why there’s an idiot following me around and why what he did had nothing to do with me.

So in books, in movies, in role-play, I’m constantly plagued by magic. People forget why magic, when it is good, is good. They don’t seem to understand that the same reasons magic is good in certain stories are the same reasons other random story elements are good. It’s because they’re useful, well thought out, and have a string of logic that has no loop holes. However when people write magic into other things they tend to miss this idea completely. Magic is GOOD because it is GOOD. Because it’s grand and epic and decimates everything around it.

People put magic into things for many reasons, one of them is just to cover up giant plot holes in stories. Now if you held the magnifying class on stories with magic long enough you’ll find that well… magic does this every last time since magic isn’t REAL, but you could do this with other plot elements as well because…. the stories tend to be made up a lot of the time. However sometimes people think that you can just use magic to cover up the fact that something made no sense. However this is see through and bullshit. I often find myself talking to someone about a plot and say

“Yeah this didn’t make sense”

and they’ll say “Oh well SAYING BACK LINE FOR LINE WHAT THEY TOLD ME IN THE MOVIE”

So I hastily reply “I know that’s how they explained it, but use your brain for a second and think… this makes NO SENSE AT ALL”

But there’s no convincing them.

This often happens with things that aren’t magic as well, so I think part of it is people don’t want to think about their entertainment they just want to hop up and down and clap wildly, giggling and smiling. This may be seen as a good thing. However, as great as that is for the person,I simply can’t do this. When I see a problem in something I instantly want to fix it not pretend it doesn’t exist.

Another reason people ignore that magic into stories is it often makes whatever you’re doing feel extra special. This person has MAGIC. It’s spoon feeding this idea that something inside of you is this masterful wonderful thing that no one can touch with even logic because well, people want to feel special. When in reality lots of people fall short of other people and as hard of a truth as this is to swallow it just is true. I’ll never be able to beat the good players of magic the gathering or chess for instance because I can identify that there are ways my brain are just not as good at functioning… for instance I can’t really see multidimensional perspectives in a lot of games like that so as much as I can practice and get better I still won’t have that skill. It’s like saying someone with no hands could eventually become the tennis master of the world, it’s just not true.

As I said before though I think magic has it’s place, so let’s look at the easiest one magic can get away with things…

Video Games:

I feel this is where magic can get away with the most. If magic is treated like everything else in a video game… like guns, swords, or any other MECHANIC in the video game it’s hard to care whether or not it makes sense that I’ve injected myself with something that let’s me shoot swarms of bees at people. It’s just fun and silly and isn’t a story it’s a mechanic. However, if used IN the story it falls under the same criticism as books and movies.

Role-Playing:

So there’s two types of role-playing we need to cover. Let’s start with LARP. Live Action Role-Play is very similar to Video games. If it’s a mechanic and you don’t have to think about it too much it’s fine. However since it’s not straight up game-play it tends to be thought about a bit more so it needs to be a little less silly than most game plays. Shooting waves of bees with the DNA powers in you just is a bit too much to not notice the silliness.

However in online role-play we’re starting to move to the less game-play mechanic oriented part of magic and the more thematic type. This is used to move along the “story” and set the characters and what not. However unlike LARP which has a specific stringent set of rules that if written well constrain the player, there are absolutely no constraints what-soever. So people who don’t understand what make magic good go for the epic plot fixing elements AAAAAAAAAAAAND the make me feel special reasons for putting magic into their characters and tend to break the entire system. This is where magic bothers me THE MOST. Partly because you have easy access to the worst of the worst, where as books and video games it tends to be easier to see what will be bad and to avoid it… but people not only make their characters completely illogical but they also make them stupidly over-powered and buff. Anyone who has a bit of humility can’t even interact with the other persons character. Magic in this format I think should be completely thrown out. It simple in my opinion, doesn’t work. People who role-play online have o sense of logic for magic and I’ve NEVER seen anyone who used magic in an appropriate way. If you online role-play, make your characters not magical. Fantastical? Sure. Magic? No.

Lastly we have Books and Movies:

This is the one where magic either works or it doesn’t, There’s less in-between and it more just depends on the writer. If you use magic make sure it’s logical. Since it’s used JUST as a plot tool just remember basically my first complaints: Remember it has to be logical. It should be in there for a reason. MAGIC for the sake of MAGIC doesn’t hold up. It doesn’t make the story more interesting in and of itself. Interesting story is built by knowing your audience and creating emotion based on that. Just like any art, art is about emotion. You gotta decide what kind of emotion you create. Also if you have ANY integrity what-so-ever you shouldn’t be hoping to use magic as a crutch for bad writing or as a way to get blind nostalgia.

I’ll explain why nostalgia is the worst thing to ever happen ever for creative endeavors another day, but take this consolation prize… If people only like your work for nostalgia’s sake then it’s probably not that great. I know I’m DEFINING it as only for nostalgia but, it’s often times close enough to only that we can just round down.

Sincerely

ButterBrowniesAndTurnips

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Art, Connotation, Conversation, Debates, Definition, Fun, Music, Thinking about what you say, Words

Using the Correct Word

Dear Diary,

I got into an interesting conversation the other day. So, let’s set the scene:

I’m a musician. Not an amazing one, but I think I’m better than someone who knows a couple chords on a guitar ya know? And in high-school I played music with my best friend at the time. We’ve grown apart, but we still sometimes collaborate ya know? So I sent him a text about my thing, feeling embarrassed about my bad vocals I sent him and said something like.

“But I think it’s fun.”

And he responded. “All Music is fun”

We quickly got into a debate about this as I challenged him. But, as a musician, shouldn’t I like music as a whole? Yes. So don’t I think all music is fun? No.

Here’s the problem, fun is a very vague word. It generally means like “Amusement” but it can also mean more vague things than that, like, “Entertaining” or “Enjoyable.” Enjoyable? That’s INCREDIBLY vague.

So, do I think all music is “Enjoyable?” This is harder to access. I don’t think atonal music is general enjoyable in a direct sense. Like, I’m enjoying hearing the music for musical pleasure. However as musician I think it could be enjoyable to think about and take in for intellectual stimulation. So, I think enjoyable can apply…. but I think this is painting the wrong picture. So, that’s my general complaint.

Is all music, fun? Does all music bring amusement?

No, I don’t think so. I think A LOT of the time it does. Music is an easy way to bring fun to the world, it just is. So, most music is done for that. But here’s the thing, there are other better words to describe lots of music.

For instance, music can be cathartic, meaning like psychological relief through the expression of strong emotion. This usually means anger or sadness. So here’s some cathartic songs that I don’t bounce around having “fun” too, but have or still do bring me a level of catharsis that I often needed.

“Dreaming with a Broken Heart” by John Mayer.

He describes something that I genuinely felt all the time at one point in my life. At one point in my life everything seemed to take a turn for the worse. It was really easy to pin this on a break up that just recently happened, but that wasn’t the center of the problems. Either way, I’d fall asleep and be back together with my ex partner at the time. I’d be SOOO happy, then I’d wake up and instantly feel this wave of agony and sadness. John Mayer perfectly (or at least rounded up to) got this idea down in his song.

“Pictures of You” by The Cure

This actually stems from the same time in my life for similar reasons. Even if the lyrics weren’t as perfectly captured as John Mayer’s dreaming with a broken heart, the tone and subject matter really felt so similar to the feelings I had. When I was going through this, I’d be sobbing alone in my basement listening to this song on repeat. Either way, fun was not the experience I was having then.

“Friend” by Coal Chamber

This actually, in my opinion, was a pretty weak song. However, at the time I had someone who was a friend who betrayed me and I’d listen to this song and deal with my anger I felt from the betrayal. Either way, it certainly was CATHARTIC, but not fun.

However, some songs can be cathartic and fun all together. For instance, “Move Along” by the All American Rejects can be very cathartic if you listen to the lyrics. However, the tone of the song doesn’t have a incredibly sad one. It’s actually a little upbeat even. I could see myself jumping around having fun to this song, but also feeling cathartic and maybe a little sad to it.

Now, this isn’t to say that there isn’t subjectivity that plays into this. Some people have darker senses of humor so songs can feel fun that most people might scrunch up their face to in thought to calling it fun, but on the whole this subjectivity plays less into than you’d think.

Another aspect to this is that a song is really multi-dimensional. Saying a song is “Fun” reduces it to a level of simplicity it just doesn’t have. If you pulled apart each track, each verse, each instrument, you’d find parts that are darker, parts that are lighter, parts that are more fun, and parts that are more cathartic. Trying to pin down an entire song with one verb is just an inappropriate goal. However though, songs put together will have a certain tone to them and because of this you might be able to say the general tone of a song is “fun” or “cathartic” or some other verb.

So, now for the thesis I’m trying to make here with this post, using the right word. Even if we can stretch out a word’s vague definition to apply it to every song, track, or piece of recorded sound to be included into the word “fun” it still wouldn’t be painting the right picture. I was having a conversation earlier about people calling their pets their “Children.” Without proper context, if someone just started talking about their “Children” people are instantly going to imagine someone having either adopted or had a kid. This isn’t an inapplicable word, but it is misleading! Just like calling an atonal, experimental, or extremely avantegarde song fun sort of paints the wrong picture here. Other words better describe the music and if you say “This piece of atonal music is fun” someone might get a bit confused about what you’re trying to imply because the connotation of the word fun just doesn’t paint an accurate picture.

So, in retrospect I think people take this tactic to deal with criticisms of the genres. There is nothing wrong with atonal, experimental, or avantegarde music. Sometimes they might even be rightly labeled fun. However if someone is trying to say they’re “not music” or they’re “bad music” use the right ways to argue their points down. Music is the purposeful arrangement of sound and silence, it’s obviously music. Good and bad music may be discussed in terms of quality, but ultimately this tends to be a subjective matter and it’s hard to quantify what “good” music would be or what “bad” music would be because again…. it’s multi-dimensional. Labeling it fun to try and chase off critics of the genres is just a DISHONEST way to try and fight back against this unfair criticisms, so don’t fall into this trap. You only make it easier for them to say it’s bad music because there is a grain of truth to them saying “No it’s not fun” since it’s just not the optimal adjective to describe it.

Sincerely

YourFriendHenryTheEnemy

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