That Dragon, Let’s Play Videos

You should read this well-reasoned comment from the developers of That Dragon, Cancer about the fact that they’ve not earned any money for their title yet. (They’ve paid off debt, so they have made sales–we’re talking net income.)

The defense I see people throwing around for the Let’s Play videos that have most certainly damaged (not in whole, but in part) the sales for That Dragon, Cancer is that the reason the game has not done well is because it’s the opposite of escapism–“it’s woefully depressing,” writes one commenter on Polygon. “Only a very small percentage of people want to be enveloped in the very real emotional agony and despair associated with what cancer does to somebody’s life.”

But if that’s true, then why would anybody want to watch a Let’s Play of the same thing? Why would someone involved in so-called “mixed media” want to show this game (in full) to other people? Wouldn’t that make them sadomasochists, to subject others to something they suffered through?

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The Trope of Calling Out Tropes

I’ve never shied away from expressing my distaste for some of the exaggerated language used by Polygon’s editorial staff, much as I admire their overall work. (Disclosure: My disagreements with them have resulted in me being banned from commenting on their site; make of that what you will.)

Here’s a peak example of how Polygon creates an attack-based narrative, taking a simple bit of reportage on angry fans from The 100 (spoilers will follow) and making a conclusion about how the show’s writers have inappropriately or lazily handled their characters:

Fans were also upset because Lexa’s death falls into the archaic trope of having one character in a gay or lesbian relationship killed off, never allowing for the same happy ending that a heterosexual couple would enjoy. The trope, sometimes known as “bury your gays,” has been around in fiction for quite some time.

This trope may be accurate. It may be worth writing about. But in the context of The 100, which currently has no happy relationships for any couple, it’s utter nonsense. This doesn’t discredit the frustration that fans rightfully may feel that a beloved character was killed off, but it’s inflammatory to assume that this is a mere trope. Watch enough genre dramas, and you’ll understand that the likelihood of any couple staying together without a messy breakup (at best) or a “horrible” death is unlikely, because stasis and happiness are antithetical to the massive plot twists and shakeups that are the meat-and-potatoes of shows like The 100. Lexa didn’t die because she was gay; this isn’t some sort of subconscious “warning” to viewers of what might happen to them. She died because she’s living on post-apocalyptic Earth, and that’s what happens.

The widespread saturation of the trope has created a media environment where gay couples who get to stay together without one or the other of them dying a horrible death are vanishingly rare.

I’d argue that it’s the opposite: that we’ve created a media environment where innocuous narrative devices and conventions are now picked apart for some sort of broader story, even when evidence of a smoking gun isn’t there. Just look at the exaggeration here: Lexa didn’t die a horrible death. She was accidentally shot by one of her most loyal supporters, a man unfamiliar with how to use a gun. If there’s any laziness here, it’s that this death echoes a famous one from the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If anything, this episode should be irritating supporters of the NRA, since it suggests that gun use should be restricted solely to those who actually understand how to handle a weapon.

And yes, I mourn “the death of a prominent gay character” given the fact that there aren’t “many other characters like them” for audiences to turn to. That’s a problem. But an equally large problem would be the defensive trope of the Invincible Fan Favorite: a tipping point at which certain “unique” characters on a show can’t be killed off because diversity or representation is more important than grim reality. Would The Walking Dead have been a better show if it had killed Daryl in the first season, and not T-Dog? It sort of makes a show less interesting when you know which characters won’t be killed, and some of the most effective on-screen losses have come entirely out of left-field, when we felt most secure (Serenity).

It’s good that the fans are pushing to have more awareness for the LGBTQ community, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of The 100‘s narrative freedom, and I wish that Polygon’s reportage of this wasn’t so one-sided and lazy in assuming that this was nothing more than an insensitively executed trope.


Lightning Round! Or, The Pitch Meeting I Never Had

It’s been a busy week, and rather than let these story scraps mummify my computer in post-it notes, here are some quick takes on things I’ve been reading about:

First off, I had no idea what the “Steven Tyler Act” was, but it’s already dying. According to the Associated Press’s reporting on the subject, this was a “celebrity privacy bill in Hawaii.” Just shooting from the gut here, but even though I find paparazzi fairly distasteful, this proposed legislation seems inane. The idea of using public funds (and time) to protect just a small percentage of the public seems ridiculous to me; while it’s true that they’re more likely to be surreptitiously shot than your average Joe, I see no need for the distinction here. You get an act like this passed by making it a general privacy bill, in which we’re all protected from nosy long-range cameras. (In the Facebook age, it’s not unreasonable to expect that there are pictures we wouldn’t want leaked of us, say, stumbling out of a bar.) And sure enough, AP reports that the bill is failing on those grounds, with people like Rep. Angus McKelvey noting that “there are enough legal avenues available to them [celebrities], including taking the issue to court because privacy is protected in the Hawaii constitution.” Sure enough, Lifehacker’s got a fairly comprehensive report on your rights to take and sell photographs: in general, public spaces are fair game, unless you’re shooting a private space from a public space, or if the photographs you’re taking are compromising someone’s basic privacy — for instance, zooming in to capture phone numbers on their cell phones or account numbers in a checkbook. Celebrities, if you really want to go after the paparazzi, you ought to be suing over someone’s right to sell (and profit) off of your image — which for some reason is illegal in a commercial sense (e.g., I can’t shoot a candid picture of Ryan Gosling and sell it to Pepsi) but not in a tabloid sense. Continue reading

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