The Sunday Papers

Sundays are inexplicable jet-lag, luxuriating in the glow of a 7-1 Blood Bowl victory and compiling a list of the finest (mostly) games-related writing from across the week in a handy list format, while trying to not include a link to some manner of pop music or another.

Failed.

71 Comments

  1. We Fly Spitfires says:

    Ironic how you commented about jet lag. I just flew to Tokyo and I’m suffering from it bad!

  2. Oak says:

    And also your arms are tired.

  3. Ben Abraham says:

    An interesting side-observation: The Pirate Bay, as one of the Holy Four at RPS has previously mentioned, is meant to go offline any day now. It’s been up and down for about the past 12 hours and I thought that was the end of it when I first saw it go down, but it’s up and working again.

    Anyway, just a heads up, cause someone at RPS might want to watch and see what happens if/when it actually does go offline. A follow up to the whole “Piracy = Pirate Bay” piece maybe…

  4. 超声波清洗 says:

    Tastes differ.

  5. Tony M says:

    I empathise with that gamer-expat article. I still think of myself as a Roleplayer even though I haven’t roleplayed for 15 years. Your teenage hobbies colour your perception of your whole life.

  6. Jayt says:

    ‘Not like this, not like this’

  7. bonuswavepilot says:

    I’m a bit of a sucker for consistent canon, me. Granted, something with the longevity of Dr Who or Star Trek or whatever is going to take some keeping-track of, but is that really difficult these days? In fact, if you’ve got the fanbase these shows have, it’ll probably be done for you.
    The thing is, even remaining strictly canonical doesn’t have to be terribly limiting. All it really means is that if you want to use a previously named McGuffin, you look up how it was used last time. If you can’t be bothered – call it something else. Nestene Consciousness isn’t supposed to work this way? OK, its the Narbular Hivemind.
    The thing is if you use popular stuff from the history of the show (sonic screwdriver anyone?), its popular because your audience like the way its been previously used – you’re trading on the name, and just making new shit up every time you use something seems to cheapen that.
    The other nice thing comes from the fact that the people amongst your audience who give a crap are also the only ones who are going to notice if you bother keeping track. In other words – there’s a built-in advantage to recycling your technobabble; most of us won’t notice, but the ones who do get a little rewarding charge for being that obsessive about your creation.
    The other reason I think canon is a good idea is what I shall dub ‘X-Files Syndrome’. Especially with a character who relies on a somewhat mysterious past (like The Doctor, or Mulder), if you just continually redact the previous partial explanations with a cry of “Aha! But even *that* was just part of the greater deception!”, eventually it just gets irritating.

  8. Kieron Gillen says:

    What’s the Canon in – say – Greek Mythology?

    KG

  9. AndrewC says:

    That there are Gods and they fuck a lot. The rest is up for grabs.

  10. Noc says:

    It’s not my field of expertise, but I think it’s the religion?

    In that you’ve got Greek Mythology as this sort of broad shared-universe collaborative bundle of myths (more like the Marvel or DC universes than the run of a single show, with different writers using each others characters and rehashing older stories with a newer spin) . . . but that you’ve also got the religious aspect, with the clergies and governments enforcing some basic ideas interpretations, and prosecuting disagreeing parties for heresy.

    I wish I knew more about the way Grecian religion was actually set up so I could provide some good examples, but all that’s coming to mind is the trial of Socrates where he as accused of being a “Natural Philosopher” . . . which was a killing offense, since the religion had firmly established that the Gods did not want mere humans trying to figure out more about the world.

    And this canonized policy is reflected in stuff like the Prometheus myth, and Oedipus Rex, where the gods punish people for trying to give humanity a leg up and trying to get to the bottom of a mystery, respectively. I’m not sure which came first (the religious canon or the myths), though, nor am I especially clear on the extent of the religious faction’s policies on enforcing canon.

  11. Noc says:

    Either way, though, you’ve got an established religious power maintaining some manner of established canon, and then you’ve got particular authors or playwrights writing (or remaking) stories in that universe.

    I think.

  12. jalf says:

    I’m a bit of a sucker for consistent canon, me. Granted, something with the longevity of Dr Who or Star Trek or whatever is going to take some keeping-track of, but is that really difficult these days? In fact, if you’ve got the fanbase these shows have, it’ll probably be done for you

    Er, how would that work? Send an email out to all major fansites, “We’re planning the following plot for the next episode. Would that violate any canon? Please get back to us ASAP”

    You don’t feel it would kind of ruin the point if they handed the script out to anyone who wanted to see it?

    All it really means is that if you want to use a previously named McGuffin, you look up how it was used last time

    And keep track of where the characters have been, when, in which order, who they met, who they killed, who lives, who don’t, who they’ve heard mentioned, who was the ruler on the planet at time T and which references have been made to that.

    Along with the precise properties of each McGuffin used or referenced ever. Take the sonic screwdriver, for example. Ok, so it can open locks. What else can it do? They need to keep track of *everything* it has ever been used to, *as well as* everything it has *not* been used for. If the Doctor didn’t use it in situation X back in 1975, then it must be because it won’t solve situation X. Better remember that so we don’t end up using it for that now. But if it *has* been used for situation Y previously, then we’d damn well better keep track of that too, or fans will start complaining “why didn’t he just use the sonic screwdriver in last week’s episode? We know he could’ve used it for that, he did it 30 years ago!”

    Whether or not consistent canon is important, pretending that it is “just a matter of keeping track of the names of the mcguffins used” is just silly.

    It is, ultimately, just a matter of keeping track of every single scene, ever sentence spoken, in every episode of the show, constructing a huge matrix where you can plot in how each of these interact with *all* the others.

    Piece of cake, really. Can’t be that hard. ;)

  13. AndrewC says:

    Which does imply that the canoneers are the baddies.

    The myths were moral stories, used to explain to people what right and wrong action was, and so the details were always subject to change as they weren’t the important things – only the lessons.

    Lessons that shift about as the prevailing winds of cultural values shifted about, thus making the stories shift about.

    Also they were very much the soap operas of the time – part of the aural tradition of storytelling that used the same basic building blocks of famous and popular characters to come up with something fun to listen to.

    And this is probably where my take on canon is – these quasi-mythical stories, like superheroes and other pulpy characters, are there to tell roughly the same stories over and over again but in ways that are relevant and fun to whoever happens to be reading. They change. They are mutable.

    Thus canon becomes a sickness in demanding that each successive telling of the same story recognise each and every other time that story has been told in the past. It becomes an existential hell, and becomes insane – like that dude who has to push the rock up the hill, you know, in that story.

    Like in the X-files when it stopped being the ‘monster of the week’ and became about telling the same ‘the truth truth is hidden by a conspiracy’ story but having to come up with more and more conspiracies because the show had to recognise that the previous conspiracies had already been uncovered.

    The show, the stories, and often the characters too, just go mental.

    So yeah. Canon, in the sense of a specific and unchangeable time-line of events, is bad. These mythical stories were not designed to support that.

  14. AndrewC says:

    Yeah – the Macguffin is just the random thing that allows the story (the actually interesting thing) to happen. Getting caught up on the Macguffin is missing the point.

  15. bonuswavepilot says:

    @jalf:

    Er, how would that work? Send an email out to all major fansites, “We’re planning the following plot for the next episode. Would that violate any canon? Please get back to us ASAP”
    You don’t feel it would kind of ruin the point if they handed the script out to anyone who wanted to see it?

    Sure – that’s not going to work so well; but why take it in that direction? If your fans have already built hundreds of painfully detailed fansites, its just a matter of searching keywords. Besides which, if you did decide to directly contact the fans, who among them wouldn’t squee at the idea of being brought on-staff to do exactly this kind of otaku continuity checking?

    Take the sonic screwdriver, for example. Ok, so it can open locks. What else can it do?

    Sonic screwdriver:
    Mark I

    A small, simple device similar to a penlight, first used by the Doctor in his second incarnation. (DW: Fury from the Deep)
    Known uses

    * Opening up hatches, panels and control panels. (DW: Fury from the Deep, The War Games)
    * For cutting through a section of a wall. (DW: The Dominators)
    * As a conventional screwdriver (without touching the screws). (DW: The War Games).

    Early model Sonic Screwdriver
    Mark II

    A larger and more elaborately detailed version, the Doctor began using this model in his third incarnation. It had yellow and black stripes. (DW: The Sea Devils).
    Known uses

    * Booby trap detector in the Master’s TARDIS. (DW: Colony in Space)
    * Remote detection and detonation of land mines. (DW: The Sea Devils)
    * To open an electronic door. (DW: The Mutants)
    * Undoing wrist clamps. (DW: The Mutants)
    * Creation of a spark of fire and igniting swamp gas. (DW: Carnival of Monsters)
    * Open electronic locks. (DW: Carnival of Monsters)

    …and so on, and on; this doesn’t even get us past John Pertwee. This is the sort of thing at which wikis excel.

    Granted, I was a bit glib about the ease with which this can be done, but I reckon it *is* possible.

    Ok, these type of fan thingies don’t track *every* detail, but while you don’t need to go to the lengths of replacing every instance where The Doctor mentions being born with ‘loomed’, where *do* you draw the continuity line? Give the companion a different personality every episode?

    I’m deliberately taking the point too far here, but I think that a reasonable amount of attention to continuity is important in the creation of a character the audience gives a toss about.

    @AndrewC: yes, the MacGuffin is not the point, but if your MacGuffin has become one of the most recognised elements of your show, I reckon its worth at least making an attempt.

    (Also I had a witty and erudite response for your “Its just a matter of keeping track of *everything*” comment, jalf, which involved basically linking a few very nerdy wikis, but the spam-o-tron kept eating my comment. It obviously hates Star Trek and The Simpsons.)

  16. bonuswavepilot says:

    Dammit, RPS comment system. The Spam-O-Tron has eaten 4 attempts at a response now, so I’m just going to summarise and deprive your readers of my more erudite prior versions.

    @jalf: I countered your initial point about sending scripts to fansites by suggesting that all one really need to is *visit* said fansites, and do a keyword search. This was further fleshed out in my riposte to your sonic screwdriver point where I posted a list of everything it had been used for from the beginning up until the end of Pertwee’s reign. (Find it at tardis.wikia.com – I’d post the link, but that seems to get me branded a spambot, too.)

    I went on to reel off a few other hardcore wikis in response to your “just a matter of keeping track of every single scene, ever sentence spoken, in every episode of the show” point, as examples of places that seemed to come close to just that.

    At this juncture I admitted to being glib and deliberately taking my argument too far, but while making these placatory noises re-iterated that I think paying much more attention than generally seems to be the case would not be impossible, or even terribly difficult.

    I then got all craftily rhetorical, and asked where one *should* draw the line for continuity. Why not just replace The Doctor’s companion without explanation whenever a popular new young Brit is on the rise and needs some screen-time, I asked. It’s only a story, innit?

    I s’pose the thing is this; when I really like a bit of cultural produce, be it TV, game or whatever – I find it a bit of a blow to my confidence in the thing when the people making it have paid less attention than I have.

    Oh, and @AndrewC: yes, the MacGuffin is not the point, but if your MacGuffin has become one of the most recognised elements of your show, I reckon its worth at least making an attempt.

  17. bonuswavepilot says:

    Dammit, RPS comment system. The Spam-O-Tron has eaten 4 attempts at a response now… is it the content, or just me?

  18. Urthman says:

    Canon fights can get stupid, sure.

    But canon is the one thing comics and TV series have that makes them able to do things that movies and books can’t. Which is create new stories that get their power, cleverness, emotional depth, etc. by building on previous stories.

    The laziest way to do this, of course, is the ultra-cliche’d cliff-hanger end of an issue/episode in which you pull back the curtain to reveal…DUN DUN DAAH!…A CHARACTER YOU HAVEN’T SEEN FOR A WHILE!

    But, what make that lazy is that it’s not really using canon, it’s just reusing a character.

    What makes it interesting is when an old character or plot shows up, and the new story feels like another chapter in that same story. It builds on the old story rather than simply reusing an old character/idea. But to do that successfully, the new story needs to be consistent with the old story.

    The problem is it’s hard to draw a bright line between writing inconsistent (and thus unsatisfying) stories on the one hand and the kind of fanwank these articles are complaining about. Maybe you can write a cool Dr. Who episode in which Daleks are robots, or in which the Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver as a stun gun, or which asserts that the Doctor has never worked with an organization like UNIT before. But then you make it harder for other writers to create interesting stories around the idea of the cyborg nature of Daleks or the fact that the Doctor doesn’t carry a weapon or building on his previous relationships with UNIT. And I would argue that it’s that ability to build on continuity that makes a long-running TV show more interesting than a TV-movie-of-the-week starring characters you’ve never seen before.

  19. Greg says:

    For what it’s worth, the Pro Vercelli diaries at runofplay are a true gaming diary peak – this highlight might be a good starting point: link to runofplay.com

  20. malkav11 says:

    I’d argue that canon is an excellent thing that can be taken too far. I don’t think it should matter terribly if someone contradicts a throwaway line from 16 seasons ago, in their new thing. If, on the other hand, the new Doctor is a vicious, feral albino with a taste for human meat, one needs a mighty good explanation for that – because it so clearly contradicts basic and fundamental precepts of the setting.

  21. bonuswavepilot says:

    If, on the other hand, the new Doctor is a vicious, feral albino with a taste for human meat…

    I’d watch that religiously…
    “Would you like a jelly baby?”
    “…These aren’t jelly!”