Generally Speaking…

When faced with inconsistency in Reality, we can ignore contradictions. Or if we’re Catholics or research scientists we can embrace the contradiction as something we can’t know or just don’t know yet.

The Fiction, though. The Fiction does not cotton to contradiction. It despises it. It bends and twists to make it go away.

The lure of The Fiction is the comforting notion that a world is completely knowable. And so you’re driven to know it all. The knowledge, and not the search for it, drives you mad. It’s the thirst for knowledge perverted. A knowing that masters and therefore rules reality in all its permutations. When you know all, there is nothing unexpected.

Even with a thousand episodes and movies and books and games, The Fiction is finite. You can catch it all. There is nothing to know about it outside of its texts. So you devour. You are hungry, and this is your comfort food. Would you like to know more? But there is an end. The permutations aren’t infinite and so you don’t get overwhelmed by contradictions that HAVE to make sense. You just decide what’s canon and what’s not.

Canons are authoritarian. They blast away dissent and create a reality that’s consistent and defined by those who create the canon. One holy, catholic, and apostalic reality.

The heretic’s search beyond the canon is his undoing. Faust bargains (a heresy of degree) and Cthulhu drives you mad (a heresy of boundary). But The Fiction; The Fiction is safe. It’s created by Man and so it’s knowable. Anything outside the canon can be dismissed. It follows logical rules, because otherwise it’s not consistent and inconsistency is a luxury of History, not of The Fiction. That’s why The Fiction (appears to) thrive within video games. Their language is the Code. Games’ scifi and fantasy antecedents could only dream of a language like this to build their Fiction: no language is more logical than the one that breaks according to rules.

So The Fiction, when judged against certain standards, when used for certain purposes, and the Code are simpatico. When Code makes the world, the world must make sense. Everything operates by Algorithm.

In Reality, there aren’t Algorithms. Or they’re too complex to model. So we tell stories. Stories help the world make sense by making its lack of sense bearable. Stories spackle over the cracks in Reality, the spots where Algorithm breaks down. Too much desire for sense, too much focus on the consistent, on The Fiction, is a trap. If you look for the cracks and the seams in The Fiction and you can’t find them, then you’ve probably had a psychotic break.

You don’t need to question The Fiction; it is written without agenda, unlike History. What it describes is how it is; it is not a certain point of view. It is easy and safe.

In The Fiction, culture and society are stagnant. If The Fiction invents a culture in transition, it is stagnant in its transitional moment. The History of The Fiction is not an interpretation of its past; it is its past.

History is an attempt to understand the past; to shape it into something useful to the present. The Fiction leaves no wiggle room (unless it is built into the text): you cannot reinterpret the motives of the great leader of a thousand years ago in light of new historical evidence because there never were motives and the new “historical” evidence carries exactly the same weight as the old “historical” evidence because they’re both The Fiction.

Unless.

Unless History and the Fiction, Algorithm and Code are all kinds of stories. They are all ways of making sense. Some are free from the tyranny of reality. Stemming from the need to make “logic”. Free to be messy. You’re human; you’re prone to irrationality. Even when you’re rational, you’re selecting the information you parse, filling in gaps, to make your judgments. The key is to make that irrationality, those judgments, constructive and enriching. Not destructive and impoverishing.

Comments

  1. brian says:

    Did I even say anything here?

    That’s part of the fun.

  2. Mike says:

    I suppose my question is this: If games are being made that put players into simulated environments complete with independent systems in place to make the player *feel* as though they’re in a real world – such as RDR, or my pet-love Pathologic – and they are inevitably doomed to failure because:

    a) No system can be made that is currently complex enough to account for the chaos of our own universe, to which we are accustomed and nurtured into accepting all through our lives, and

    b) Game narratives are often secondary sets of “special” systems that for whatever reason (clarity in design etc) the player is actually made aware of the criteria for agency of that system – OR have no agency at all which undermines whatever ancillary systems they put in…

    THEN where do you go from there? If fiction is so couched in certainty to the point that we call anything that doesn’t make sense “bad writing” despite the fact that instances of a similar chaotic nature occur in real life, then how do you bridge the gap between fiction as this impenetrable wall of cause and effect, and something less controlled? – I mean a game is the obvious medium – but what do you do?

    Is the fact uncertainty exists in the world is the whole reason why it’s practically impossible to replicate in fiction – because we don’t understand it?

    Interesting read – sorry about my insane comment.