Digital Beard Stroking: Divisiveness


As we’ve just finished up a political season, it seems like a good time to look at another topic that’s at least tangentially related to that “delightful” time.  In particular, the underlying divisiveness of the conversation and how our perspective and bias led to a complete lack of understanding between the various, opposing groups.  Don’t worry, though, I won’t really get deep into politics.

Sneetches

100% of people reading this relate to one of these guys

One of the interesting failures in communication in this day and age is the complete disconnection between people’s fundamental perspectives and how that informs their bias and politics.  There is a huge chasm between not only the expressed opinions of people, but the fundament upon which they rest their beliefs.  There are underlying assumptions that we all have and they inform our decisions and thoughts.  Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not is up to us, but it’s definitely there.

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“So, where does this fit into that thing you write about, Fancy Beardy Man?”, you might be asking yourself, and rightly so!  The matter of perspective and where we come from is a huge aspect of stories because it’s crucial that we appreciate the motivations and mindset of the protagonist (and sometimes the antagonist) of the stories we involve ourselves in.  Consider the immersive qualities of your favorite story, be it game or book or creepy campfire tale, and think on how one relates to a character in that story.  This is the sort of thing that, when done correctly, is so subtle that we don’t notice it.  It is, however, something that’s easily forgotten about.

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Wait, so Why am I jousting again? And am I riding an Emu? What did the other guys do? I have more questions than answers

But it’s not worth the bits to look at the poor examples when there are juicy, genuinely delightful real examples out there!  While some games can approach this by introducing a seemingly endless array of options for personal expression and actually allowing efficacy in the outcome of the story, others can achieve this by virtue of narrative alone.  In the game “Last of Us”, for example, we’re introduced to the main character by a very immersive, visceral and uncomfortable intro that leads us (spoiler alert) into a world of death.  This world of unending death and destruction helps to galvanize us to the horrific actions of the main characters.  During the course of the game, one kills far more regular humans than actual zombies (Cue “Zombie stories as a symbol for humanity’s tenacious grip on civility and how easy it is to descend into evil, horrific monsters).  Because of these traumatic examples of human depravity, it allows us to relate to the desperate actions of our protagonists as they remain the least awful of the available characters.

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This was one of the least violent frames I could find. Seriously, you murder so many people in this game!

Because of this build up (spoiler alert again, seriously play this game, it’s old as all getout), the ultimate actions of the main protagonist are forgivable as being the least awful of the available choices.  When Joel goes on a killing spree to save Ellie, then proceeds to lie to her about it, we’re faced with a moral conundrum.  If we were dropped into it without any of the buildup over the last year of in-game time, we’d probably call him a psychopath and a dangerous murder.  Since we’ve had our perspective built carefully, we can actually start to see why he feels the way he does and almost forgive him for it.  This is the sort of manipulation that I’m referring to and how it can create really relateable characters who may, in fact, be doing terrible things but since we can understand their circumstances, we can see why they might do it.  Perhaps we can apply that same philosophy to our relationship with some other protagonists/antagonists/political parties?

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