09 August, 2012

Stories coming full circle.

After rabidly avoiding spoilers for the past month, last night I went to see "The Dark Knight Rises".

No overwhelming spoilers here, but will say that I did enjoy the movie.

One of the things that I really apprecated was he idea of a story coming full circle. There were a lot of references in this last movie that linked back to the first. Stories that seemed to have headed in one direction to be resolved were twisted back in one themselves.

It's very much the story of the heroes journey. Each film bears this as an aspect, but the arc of the three films together really pulls this idea together...certainly far better than the Matrix films, or in my opinion even Star Wars (which was always inteded to be an interpretation of the Campbell-esque "Heroes Journey").

It's the kind of thing I love to set up in games. A story seems resolved after the first session...we all know that there are enough resolutions to attain a sense of closure, but there are always a few loose ends that can be picked up in later tales to allow continuity. By the time a sequel game has concluded, a few more of those loose ends are tied up, but then there are a whole heap of new loose ends.

The final act in the trilogy uses these disparate elements to weave a complex narrative. You never know how they are going to tie together, but you hope the writers won't introduce too many elements of deus ex machina to glue together uncooperative strands...and you hope they won't be bringing in too many more storylines.

It's a delicate balance...trying to determine how many stories need to be resolved in a particular act of the story...how many more need to be introduced to keep the audience interested...how many are too many, and will the audience simply get confused??

Personally, I like my storylines divided into thirds. When devising a game in advance, I'll generate three storylines for the group, and three per player. More often than not, the player storylines will coincide with the group storylines, and with each other. The total numberof storylines is roughly equal to twice the number of players. In the set of threes, one goal/story will be short term (hopefully achieved duing this session), one will be medium term (hopefully achieved within a couple of sessions), and the last will be long term (the uest that defines the character's journey). Characters may choose to engage their own goals, or the group goals; and every time a player resolves one of their goals, it's time for them to eitherencounter a situation where  new goal becomes relevant, or maybe they get caught up in someone else's journey for a while.

I rarely achieve this...but that's the goal, and I often come close.

For me, The Dark Knight Trilogy closed with enough well rounded story endings that it felt satisfying...but tantalisingly left a few great loose ends for new stories to begin. 

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