Narrative Perspective in Remediated Stories

In class we talked about the interesting choice Peter Jackson made to show Gandalf’s story as it happened in scene instead of allowing him to retell it as exposition, like in the book. This allowed for the movie to have a faster pace using scenes and action, which works for this format because cinema does not have the time or much interest for slow-paced exposition dumps like books do. This is just one example of how the narrative perspective of a story changes between different medias; in looking at other remediations, we can look at how writers and directors either keep or change the narrative perspective and what this can tell us about the remediated stories and the media itself.

gandalf-v-saruman
This scene of Gandalf fighting Saruman is visually interesting and fits with fast-paced and visual media of film
gandalf-talking-to-frodo
A scene of Gandalf narrating his fight to Frodo would just not work in a film for too long

In  keeping with the Lord of the Rings saga, the next remediation of interest to this class is The Lord of the Rings Online MMO, which changes both the actual story being told and puts it all in the perspective of one character. The Epic Quest line allows your character to help the Fellowship of the Ring without actually joining it, thus allowing for the story to fit in with the book’s canon without changing it. One interesting aspect about the MMO genre is that although the quests and plot is already set, each person has the option to choose whether they want to join a party and interact with other players, allowing all of them to be their character and make choices within the framework of the games’ quests. For example, they can do side quests, join a party, or make their own, thus crafting their own story.

One remediation that is close to my heart is Tom Tywker’s and the Wachowski siblings’ film Cloud Atlas, based on David Mitchell’s novel with the same title. Both works tell the story of six different characters living in different areas and time periods in a different fashion and rely heavily on remediation. Starting with the novel, six stories are told through different story-telling means (a journal, letters and a musical sextet, a crime-fiction, a postmodern autobiography, an interview that became canonical in post-apocalyptic era’s civilization, and a first-person narration), with every protagonist finding the previous protagonist’s first half of writing in their respective stories; finally, the book ends by completing the second half of the stories in reverse chronological order (such that the 6th story finishes 1st, and the 1st last). As such, although the various individual modes of writing are extremely transparent and very focused on the subjective experience of each protagonist, the work as a whole is abstract and really focuses on the themes common to each story.

journal-cloud-atlas
The journal entry section is composed of several entries from different days. The narrator’s confusion, remarks, and attitude come from the character himself.
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The story breaks color coded

It’s interesting that David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is called a novel, since none of the individual stories are presented in that form; instead, they are presented as autobiographical forms of literature (except the final story, which is oral story-telling). The book as a whole could have just been a narration of each character, but instead the story is presented as if the characters were telling you their own story; in this way, the novel can serve as a comment on the literature that it remediates- although a comprehensive analysis of this is beyond the scope of this blog post, I do have a feeling of what it may be: there is a stark contrast between feeling the subjective experiences of the characters from their intimate story of their life that I get from each story and the feeling of similarity between the immediacy and intensity with which each character describes their own story. Furthermore, since the protagonists follow a hero’s journey, the remediation of many different forms of literature may be a tool to show their underlying similarities.

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The movie poster shows the different characters and their respective environments together, almost as one, under an arc or light,

As if the novel did not have enough remediation, the film adds another layer by remediating that novel. Instead of showing half of each story then going back in reverse order, the directors stated that they cut the stories into segments, then combined the thematically similar segments together between each story; as such, the movie may go from the 3rd story portraying corruption and cut to the 1st story dealing with the same theme, then the 5th. The directors explained their choice to tell all the stories at once in terms of a restriction that their medium gave to them, since they believe that the audience would not want to see the first half of six stories then have those stories finished later, as it is in the novel. Furthermore, since each story has a similar Hero’s Journey arc for the protagonist, they would often scramble the various similar sections between stories together, such that we may see multiple characters from different stories crossing their relative thresholds and have the chance to appreciate their differences and similarities at each section of their journey. Finally, the film casts the same actor in multiple different stories, which adds a totally new layer to the theme of inter-connectedness that is unique to the medium but still captures the essence of the novel; since many of the same archetypes of characters appear in the different stories (from the slave or repressed victim fighting against the system oppressing them, the person helping them fight the system who is not oppressed by it, to the powerful agent representing that system), the use of casting actors in the same or different archetypes allows the whole film to have a meaning that is greater than its individual parts.

CloudAtlas Actors.jpg
Look at how many roles these 6 actors played! This is a great example of remediation using the features of a new medium to flesh out the theme of the story in a new way. By the way, Hugo Weaving (Elrond) plays a slave-ship trader, an assassin working for a corporation, an abusive nurse, an (evil) government officer, and a cannibal from a warring tribe- all the same archetype of the agent of a corrupted powerful organizations.

Although the film had no way to directly frame the whole story as a collection of letters or notes in a diary, the characters are often portrayed writing their story in their respective genre and some events are narrated from that mode. For example, the film showed a character writing a letter and narrating an event that happened off-screen and allowed the auto-biographer to narrate a short prologue to his story, as there is in his book. There is also one final change the film made: it included a 7th time period, consisting of the post-apocalyptic story’s protgonist and his love interest retelling the story of what happened to his grandkids over the campfire, thus making the remediated medium of his actually shown in scene, instead of implied by the books. I love this decision, since it makes the final story a retelling of his life, just as the other five stories are portrayed as a retelling of their lives in different personal modes. In all, the film is a remediation of a novel that remediates the autobiographical writing or narration of six different forms.

The last mode I want to talk about is the musical, which I believe has a special ability to portray what I call the simultaneous multiple 1st-person subjective narration. That was a lot, so lets parse it: 1-st person is telling the story as the focal character understands it, such as Nick in The Great Gastby or Frodo in the Ring trilogy; I use the term subjective to highlight how the narration is focused on what the character feels, rather than what they perceive; multiple means that the story switches between different perspective; and simultaneous means that characters are singing about their subjective experiences at the same time, often over, between, or with others.

A good example in a remediated show is “Now/Later/Soon” from A Little Night Music, which is a remediation of Ingmar Birman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night. In this song, three different characters sequentially sing about what how they feel and what they desire as the other two continue acting out the scene; finally, when the characters get so warped in their own internal experience, they start singing over each other such that it gets almost impossible to hear what each character is saying (despite the fact that it is mostly just repeating the words or sentiment of their previous individual singing); at any rate, just looking at the script from 8:19-9:22 is illegible if read as just the sequential order of the words:

I promise. When is later? As the sweet imbecilities
Soon, All you ever hear is Trip on my trouser leg,
I won’t shy away, “Yes, we know, Henrik, Stendhal elimanates A…
Oh, Henrik,
Dear old– Everyone agrees,
Henrik, please,
Henrik…”
Soon, As I’ve
I want to. Often stated,
Soon,
Whatever you say. When? But when?
Even now, Maybe Maybe

When you’re close Soon, soon, Later,
And we touch, I’ll be ninety When I’m kissing your brow
And you’re kissing And dead.
My brow And I’m stroking your head,
I don’t mind it I don’t mind it
Too much. Too much. You’ll come into my bed.

This technique puts equal weight on each character, thus emphasizing that they are all primary characters and that the scene unfolding on stage between them is important to each of their lives individually; furthermore, it gives the feeling that while each person’s desire when isolated seems rational, when combined in relation to what the other people want, it all becomes an incoherent mess. In framing the song to have the actors sing over each other with their own internal narration, Sondheim uses the technique of song and theatre to change the film’s script but keep its emotional essence.

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Silumni, Easily Lost

A lot of my fellow posters have been talking about Braid, which is a fantastic puzzle-platformer that absolutely deserves to be talked about.  However, I thought that I should change it up a bit and instead talk about the other game that we’ve played in this class so far: LOTRO, or Lord of the Rings Online.

LOTRO is an MMORPG, or a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game.  As such, many (but not all) see role-playing as an important component of playing these types of games.  While I don’t necessarily get into the social aspect of role-playing (as can be seen most commonly on the role-playing required servers of LOTRO), I do think that creating a character who is an interesting, complete individual in and of themselves is an integral part of enjoying RPGs.  Therefore, as a thought exercise, I would like to introduce all of you to my Elven Loremaster, Silumni.

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Here she is.  Isn’t she great?

In all seriousness, creating a complete character in LOTRO is a bit harder to do than in other RPGs that I have played, such as Bioware’s Dragon Age series or even Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series, simply because those games gave me dialogue choices that help me cement my character’s personality traits and even parts of their backstories without me having to really devote time outside of the game to thinking about my character, something that LOTRO does not do.  This doesn’t necessarily make LOTRO bad for role-playing; it just means that creating a whole character is a bit more front-heavy.  I can’t just figure it out as I go.

Because of this, a lot of the character choices I made for Silumni were made in the character starting screen.  For example, her name is not actually related to Tolkien’s works at all (mostly because any interesting Tolkien-related names have already been used by the thousands of players who have come before me).  Instead, “Silumni” is the Sylvan word for animal-according to one site on the internet, at least.  Since I knew I wanted Silumni to be a pet-based Loremaster, this seemed fitting for her character. I also chose to have her be from Rivendell, which is surrounded by nature.  This helped me create a character who loved nature and the animals found within it more than even Radagast the Brown, if such a thing were even possible.

I from this point on, I tried to make my in-game choices show Silumni’s love of nature.  For example, the Elven hair choices in this game are surprisingly varied, given how long this game has been out.  I purposely avoided the more “cultivated” hair options-the ones that included hair decorations or intricate braiding.  Instead, I gave her the roughest-looking hair I could find, since she would be almost exclusively hanging around animals who wouldn’t really care about the state of her hair.  I also made her an “Explorer,” a crafting vocation focused on going out into nature to find natural resources.  This also allowed me to craft the absolutely beautiful armor you can see on her in the picture.

Honestly, that’s about all I have when it comes to Silumni’s character.  I still need to give her an interesting personality, even if I won’t necessarily use it when questing.  I know that her character isn’t totally loyal to Tolkien’s works, but I really wanted to give her a unique personality, and I didn’t want to be limited to the fairly strict limitations Tolkien puts on his elves.  What do you guys think? Do you have any helpful comments on where I should take her personality, or is there any constructive commentary you could offer me?  Thanks for reading!

True Life: I’m a LOTRO Addict

I am very proud of myself… I’ve made excellent strides in the gaming world. For those of you that don’t remember, I am the newbiest of newbs (the writer who basically had only played iphone games), so when I downloaded LOTRO and was told that it would be a part of my grade for the course, I was wary at first. Initially, I struggled with the controls of the game, not realizing that the arrow keys could be used in place of the “a” “s” “d” and “w” keys for movement; not being able to move with ease was frustrating and really put a damper on my enjoyment of the game. Another issue I had at first was navigation through the game with the quests. I did not realize that one merely had to follow the glowing ring on the map to find the next part of the quest, and because of this, the going was excruciatingly slow. A silver lining the this issue was that I learned how to move before I learned how to navigate, and so I spent a long time fighting wolves in Thorin’s realm and reached a higher level by the end of the intro period that most. On the issue of navigation, I wish that staying on the epic quest line would be more self-explanatory because I’ve spent a lot of time doing side quests that I would in some cases prefer to avoid.

With that being said, these were just issues I had at the beginning of my journey. Since I’ve managed to get over these problems, I have become completely enamored with the game. If I’m waiting around, I play the game. If I’m bored, I’ll play the game. Not feeling like going out on the town? I’ll visit the Prancing Pony in Bree. I am seriously getting addicted to LOTRO!

One aspect I really love is the role playing. I love the fact that I can customize my character’s wardrobe and appearance, as well as the specific skills I can gain as an Elf Champion. I think one reason why this part of the game is so appealing is due to the fact that I am an English major and avid reader. When I am reading (especially in the Lord Of The Rings series) I can imagine myself in the protagonist’s position and wish I were apart of the action. By playing LOTRO, I am able to engage with the narrative in a way that has never been open to me before, and that helps to fulfill this desire.

Additionally, the quests provide just enough challenge to be fun and engaging, but are not difficult to the point that I want to abandon them as a lost cause. Even if my character dies, I feel like I can evaluate my performance and improve enough to give the challenge another go and ultimately be successful. While this game isn’t as strongly based on learning as the game Braid was, I still think it is an important factor here. In playing this game, you learn new strategies to help you play more efficiently and creatively.

One thing that I have learned since starting this game is that apparently Lore Masters get to have animal pets. Since I have been enjoying playing so much, I think it is time for me to create a new character of the Lore Master variety so I can acquire some of the cute and friendly creatures I’ve spotted along the way!

-Sparling Wilson

Lord of the Rings Online- An… Experience

Playing Lord of the Rings Online has been an… interesting experience for me.  I am no stranger to video games and MMO’s, but LOTRO provided an experience that was both new and familiar at the same time.

Starting up the game, I designed a character, a DPS character like usual since that is the build I prefer.  When the game started, I was interested in the tutorial and intro quests.  I hadn’t experienced an MMO that started the player in the game in such a way.  It made the game feel very story-based, filled with narrative and character and plot; a feeling that most MMO’s fail at inspiring.

Unfortunately, once the Tutorial and Intro quests ended, it became an experience far more like those of a traditional MMO, such as WoW.  I was impressed at the recreation of Tolkien’s world.  It felt very solid and complete, like I had actually stepped into Middle Earth.  Unfortunately, the game began to suffer in other ways.  Once reaching Bree, the player is exposed to what I am calling quest-bloat- the experience wherein a large amount of quests become available all at once.  This is an issue I have with many open-world games, and especially MMO’s.  I like to complete every quest I can, or do everything else I can, before continuing the main quest-line.  In this case, this has caused the game to grind to a more-or-less complete and utter halt.

Another issue with LOTRO is the pay-to-play and pay-to-win mechanics.  You have to pay to unlock basic necessities such as extra bag space and other things.  It feels a bit unfair to those who are unable to pay real money and makes the game just a slight bit less fun.

I guess I started out really enjoying the gameplay and ideas that were put into LOTRO and became just a bit disappointed when it started to resemble traditional MMO-fare.

~Nathanial Edwards~

Immersion for a Skimmer Like Me: LOTRO

I used to be into immersion, I really did. I loved an immersive gaming experience, even if it was linear. A first person game with a focus on cinematics was a guilty pleasure for me over games with, perhaps, better game mechanics and replay value.

Now that I’m a bit older, I appreciate elegance in game mechanics. I now see the appeal for classic games like Super Mario and many arcade games where you can just jump in and start playing. In addition, it takes a more integrated narrative to get me invested nowadays.

I don’t read many of LOTRO’s quest prompts. For me, running around Middle Earth and piecing together my own story creates experience that I still love. Ideally, the lore of the quest would come out as I play the game (the floating dialogue above the characters is a great tool). I can understand wanting an initial text prompt (which can then be easily translated to other languages) for the important quests, but why would anyone care about the reason that they have to go kill five random bears?

It evens out, though. On my journey to kill the five bears for the never-again-relevant Dinglebeard the Dwarf, I get to see Middle Earth and other players running around doing their own quests. I can’t compltely explain why, but it just makes me happy. I get the same feeling that I did while playing Runescape when I was in sixth grade. There are no real-world problems or societal pressures. There are just a bunch of adventurers looking for their own experience, whether it be curiously poking their head around the world or stategically gaining XP and dominating the game.

-MEvelop

A whole new world

Like many of my classmates, I am very new to gaming. My first “quest” in Lord of the Rings Online involved figuring out how to actually get the game to work on my computer. The game worked for a few days, and then I suddenly had difficulties getting the game to load. After hours of testing the game, researching, doing more testing, and getting other people to help me, I finally figured out how to download the game to my computer.
Now that it’s working, I find the game to be pretty interesting. I like being able to explore more of Middle Earth than just the lands that the books and movies discuss. The game creators must have put so much creativity and passion into developing all of the details.
Most of the guys I talk to are really jealous that I get to play LOTRO for class and ask me how they can get into the class. My girl friends love to tease me about my LOTRO playing, especially since I don’t fit the typical gamer stereotype, being in a sorority and all. Apparently calling it LOTRO is like having a pet name for it, and they crack up when I start referring to my character in the first person. I’ll be complaining about a wolf attacking me, and they’ll look at me with a confused expression until they realize that I’m referring to the game. My friend told me that the other night I was wearing headphones while playing and letting out little exclamations every now and then. What can I say, I’m glad my frustration entertains people. I think that despite their mocking, they do find the concept fascinating.
In all seriousness, I think the game is really cool, but challenging. It is a little difficult to maneuver my character; I have some issues with getting the right angle for basic tasks, such as opening a door or fighting an opponent. Navigating can be pretty tough, too, since the quest-tracker will indicate the right direction to go, but not the best route to take. There have been a lot of times when I’ve had to skirt around a mountain or creep through some bushes or trees to get to the right place without enemies seeing me. This element of the game has encouraged me to explore and be more creative with the tactics I use in getting places. I’ve had lots of opportunities to explore the Chetwood Forest, since most of my quests have been there, and I keep getting killed and having to go back through the forest again and again. The quests are very difficult, especially the “kill” ones, and my fighting skills are not very well-developed. I like being able to use my Burglar’s advantage and a “Riddle” skill that stuns your opponent, but I’m not very good at regular attacks. I’m definitely mostly interested in uncovering the storyline that the game follows, so sometimes I get annoyed with how long it takes to complete the quests.I think it would be nice to receive a hint or two from the game, but it has been really beneficial to learn from the other people in my class. Hopefully lots of assistance and practice will make me much better at the game than I am now!
-EMG

LOTRO: A Test of Patience

While I revel in the ability to run around for hours in a virtual environment while still convincing myself that I’m being productive, I must say that it has gotten to be a bit tiresome at times. My one biggest complaint about LOTRO is that there is just
so
much
running.

I picked up the controls to the game very quickly and I have enjoyed juggling the various quests I taken on; however, again and again I find myself just running back and forth between the various areas in this vast world of the game.

Now, I do appreciate how that adds to the experience of the game as well as contributes to the narrative. It enhances that sense of journey–of being just a tiny figure in this massive world. It goes along with the long and tiresome journeys we read about in the novel. With this being said, my patience runs rather thin when it comes to video games and I would rather not spend a significant portion of the time just running from location to location.
I did recently learn about the auto-run key, so that along with riding horses has eased my frustration on the matter, though the quests are still often more a test of my patience than anything.

I’ve only come across one quest so far that was even remotely challenging. I had to sneak around these goblin-like creatures and pick off one or two at a time in order to finally reach and kill the Goblin Chief. I later realized that this quest was definitely meant to be conquered with a partner or team, but I still enjoyed the challenge of taking it on by myself. Other than that, my quests have mostly been a matter of taking the time to run and find or deliver various objects or creatures. But maybe I just need to get to a higher level first.

All in all, I’ve enjoyed exploring this enormous world; however, I’m just hoping that as I progress, the challenges and quests will become much less wearisome than they have been thus far. I also really look forward to being able to work with the other players on quests and toward a shared goal, as I have yet to experience that.

– Logan W