Saturday, July 22, 2006

0:20 AM
31°C
French heat victim deathcount since Monday: 21


Well I'm glad that at least one person has voted for option 2 in the elf poll. That individual either has the gentle soul of a poet, or conversely, is prone to being extremely literal.


For the Hatred of ElvesTM - Part 4

So now I’ve established that Japanese fantasy is outright interesting and I like it. “Authentic” or not, I just say “who gives a flying”.

But if we have to get all precious about the correct number of goblin toes and other authentifiable aspects of a Western fantasy tradition, then let’s do that, because it’s clearly important to some people.

When I said previously that I thought Japanese anime/game developers often seemed to know a great deal more about our cultural history than us Westerners, I really didn't have a clue – I based this bald claim purely on the little I’ve seen that has made an impression on me. The impression is an uncanny one.

If I described to you a seafaring talking mouse with superiority complex and a large feather stuck behind his ear, armed with a rapier would you think “oh look it's those crazy Japanese, at it again with their wacky inauthentic fantasy”? Or does the gamer of today realise that this is a character straight out of the classic British fantasy world of C. S. Lewis? My guess would be hazarded as the former, for ironically it’s within the fantasy worlds of Japanime and J games that this piece of imagery would be more likely to reappear.

In fact one is more likely to see a whole lot of themes and imagery from classic British fantasy in Japanese games than in Western games (unless we’re talking about dreary licenses). (I only use the example of British fantasy because I’m more familiar with British literature) Flying ships? Chesterton’s flying pigs? Swift’s island in the clouds? Even stuff out of Enid Blyton’s bloody Magical Faraway Tree would feel more at home these days in a Japanese fantasy world.

I’m sure Tolkein was a perfectly nice man etc etc but Mervyn Peake, for example (not to mention C.S.Lewis) was writing fantasy masterworks more or less contemporaneously, and yet the elements of his fantasy – one of the fantasy worlds of my true blue “authentic” Western adolescence (a feature I dared not mention in Part 2, for fear of digression) - seem no longer to be in the sacred bloody canon of “authentic” fantasy for gaming purposes (and I say again, dreary film licenses do not count and I tell you now that I won’t hear a word about them).

You’ll say “oh but there are fantasy games being made by Western developers all the time that introduce really original elements”, but then I’ll say that may well be the case but look what happens when a game of this strictly policed genre dares deviate: we have gamers launching into vitriolic flame wars on the doctrinal appropriateness of Orc nostril hair and others positively refusing, with xenophobe-like stubborness, to learn new creature races (read KG's frustration with such attitudes here).

It really does remind me of that moribund old beast, the classical music establishment. Conservatoire survivors will tell you that there are two types of music in this world: music that forms part of the “standard repertoire” and music that does not. Oh yes, one has all the freedom in the world to amuse oneself with music that is not part of the standard repertoire ("oh but orchestras are playing music from outside the standard repertoire all the time!”), but only accompanied by a roguish wink and promptly followed by a return to the serious business of performing the “standard repertoire” (“that which will always be and ever was”, quoting from vague memory from Gormenghast (an elf and orc free world, I’m relieved to say)). This is preserved in a glass coffin and frozen in time nonsense is part of the reason why that, as I’ve just mentioned, the classical music establishment is moribund. Take heed, let this be a warning to us all, and so on and so forth.

to be continued...

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