*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
August 19, 2022, 10:14:28 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 83 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: Do you take superheroes seriously?  (Read 21104 times)
Per Fischer
Member

Posts: 203


WWW
« on: March 24, 2006, 06:25:05 AM »

This is a question for Michael, as I have been asked this question discussing WGP on a Danish forum. Another participant wanted to know why you had chosen a superhero setting (and implied, I guess, why the particular one you have chosen) at all since he did not have the impression that you were that serious about superheroes. I couldn't really respond besides quoting from the designer's notes about you playing MSH until it fell apart.

The impression, according to the poster, is that WGP doesn't immediately appeal to people who are thinking "I want to play a superhero!" (I think it does.) And that the game somehow falls between being a superhero pastiche and taking superheroes seriously.

Do you have any comments, Michael?

Per
Logged

Per
--------
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Brand_Robins
Member

Posts: 650


WWW
« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2006, 08:32:46 AM »

While I'll let Michael answer for himself, I have to say the following:

I take superheroes very seriously. Probably too seriously. And WGP is the only super's RPG I've ever played that comes close to letting me use that seriousness in game.
Logged

- Brand Robins
Per Fischer
Member

Posts: 203


WWW
« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2006, 09:11:50 AM »

That's interesting, Brand, would you like to expand on that? In what way are 4-colour superhero comics serious, and how does WGP support that? If you don't mind me asking a bit retorically, but I need some fuel as my arguments so far in said debate have run on ground.

To me, it's the player determined priming and use of aspects in the game - they enter what they want the story is about, directly into the story, there and now, instantly. The game doesn't really define the level of seriousness needed, it lets you, as the participant, decide that for yourself.

Per
Logged

Per
--------
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Valamir
Member

Posts: 5574


WWW
« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2006, 10:06:16 AM »

Perhaps something is being lost in the translation here.

What does he mean by "not serious"...not serious in what way?

What aspects of WGP is he pointing at?

What kind of comics does he consider to be "serious".


I'm tempted to dismiss this guy as being pretty clueless about what comics are really about (because no game has ever captured this better than WGP) but perhaps there is some translation difficulty in understanding what he's really asking?
Logged

Brand_Robins
Member

Posts: 650


WWW
« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2006, 11:01:00 AM »

How are comicbook superheroes serious?

Well, fist -- they aren't always. There have been ages where supers were little more than masturbation fantasy and power trips. When DC deputized Batman it was a pretty sad day for superheroes....

However, at their best superheroes are very serious in the sense that they form the corpus of a modern (mostly American) mythology. They explore issues of power, sexuality, growth and hope and despair in ways that are blown out of context of reality and into the giant-balloon realm of myth. By turning real issues into passion plays they allow us to frisk out the ways our hearts and minds lean without the constraints of practicality or pragmatism. They are the mad, beautiful ideas of what we want and hope and fear and hate.

Take, for example, the way that the Punisher comics originally came out of the New York of Serpico, where people were facing real issues of corruption in city hall, the police, and a growing feeling of anger, helplessness, and alienation from their government. From this mix of rage and helplessness comes the murdering vigilante who deals out vengeance in a hail of bullets. Ditto Superman and the world of North American cities in the 30’s, moving through helplessness towards a sense of nation based around a very mixed up ideal combining the superman/noble protector who stand above the sheepeople and the democratic ideation of the common man. Or the 1980's Britian of Margret Thatcher trying to eliminate homosexuality as a concept and the anti-Pakistani prejudice spreading through the country leading to the theatrical, grotesque anarchy of V for Vendetta.

(If you want a close up of the way this works in a fictional account, read "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.")

In the last few years we've had another renaisance of this, with comicbook supers finally moving away from constant repetitioin of male coming of age stories. Works like Astro City and the Incredibles have taken advantage of the desconstruction done by works like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns in order to use supers to make those blown-up myth-takes on adulthood and family, settling into adult life, cultural identity in a melting pot society, etc. And while Astro City and the Incredibles aren't exactly "serious" within themselves, I think they can be taken seriously in the same way that you can take good comedy seriously -- it is a craft and an art form, and just because it makes you giggle or smile doesn't mean that it isn't meaningful.

Of course, we also all know about how badly these things can go wrong when the powers become the point, when the story becomes a trope. The Punisher movie of the 2000’s being a good example, pushing buttons that no longer have cultural emphasis and then cringing away from its own message in mid stride because it’s become an excuse rather than a reason. The Superman that turns into a geranium when confronted with aquamarine kryptonite has become his own joke, moved so far away from the North American reaction to Nietzsche and the shadows of the great wars that he no longer has any more weight than a balloon.

And that is where my problem with most supers RPGs comes in. I know that folks like Ron and John have had good experiences with Champions and getting good meaningful play -- but such experiences were not mine. Games from Champions to Mutants and Masterminds put the primary focus of the character on their powers, on the things they can do, on the zanny costumes they wear -- and mostly on the big fights they have or the problem-solving expiditions they go on in order to use thier powers in a tactical way to fix everything and win*. To me this is the pastiche of superheroes, and the fact that it also happens in comics just shows how often superheroes have (like Conan) become a pastiche of themselves.

With Great Power, otoh, puts the emphasis back onto the issues and the conflicts. It lets us look at Superman as a clash between Nietzsche and Democracy, or Batman and the Punisher as a clash between justice and law or authority and moral right. It lets you do the Incredibles and set up a game in which your issues revolve around being an insurance salesman when you know you have this amazing thing you used to be just welling up inside. It puts the emphasis back onto the the issues, all blown into mad and beautiful disproportion to make superheroes a passion play rather than tactical combat challange.

Of course, WGP also only does superheroes as seriously as those at the table do them. If you want to have the adventures of Bluntman and Chronic and their fights with Cockknocker, you certainly can. But really, that's the way any game that lets you actually make decisions about what you want the game to be about is going to work. WGP doesn't make supers serious for you, but it lets you make them serious for yourself.



*There is actually a lot of precedent for this in comics. However, it tends to be in the parts of the comics that I'm less interested in. So this is my bias, and it is subjective.
Logged

- Brand Robins
Michael S. Miller
Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 846


WWW
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2006, 05:20:20 AM »

Hi, Per.

First, thanks for talking about With Great Power... on Danish forums. Wow. That's really, really cool.

Next, here's me being flippant about superheroes (so you know what it looks like):

Quote
Holy heartfelt and insightful testimonial, Brandman!

But for a question of my authorial intent, I can't just say "What Brand said," can I? 8^)

For contrast, here's me being serious about superheroes:

From With Great Power... page 1:
Quote
With Great Power… is a role-playing game about superheroes—not just about people with amazing powers, but about superheroes, people that stand up against unimaginable odds, struggling with every ounce of might against the forces of darkness and oppression. People who choose to suffer so that others might be saved. It’s dark, inspiring, and a whole lot of fun.

If someone reads that as ironic or self-mocking, they are putting that sentiment there, not me. I meant those words exactly as written--no sarcasm. (Maybe I ought to do a podcast, so people can hear my voice when I talk about this stuff).

Likewise, these words are meant without sarcasm or irony:

From With Great Power... page 77:
Quote
Facing this dilemma, the choice between saving the world (i.e., stopping the villain) and saving what you love (i.e., guarding your Aspects), is the heart of With Great Power… Everything else in the game is built to bring you to this moment of truth. When you get there, take a moment to bask in the sweet, dark tragedy of it all.
Then make your choice. Do what’s right. Be a hero.

I take superhero stories very seriously. I see them as stories of trauma and empowerment: Something truly terrible happens to someone. They don't curl up into a ball and wilt. They don't lash out at the world in rage. They don't obssess about controlling every aspect of their surroundings. Instead, they endeavor to live their life as best they can, trying to help others, forging that trauma into a source of strength. What could be more inspiring?

Do I take superheroes themselves "seriously"? I guess that depends on what you mean by "serious." Masks, costumes, secret lairs, and boy wonders are great if that's the kind of thing you like. If not, look to Buffy or the classic Greek stories of Herakles for the same pattern. The costumes aren't important. The issues are important. That's what I was getting at when I wrote:

From With Great Power... page 2:
Quote
I chose the word “melodramatic” to describe these types of stories because it embraces their roughness. Melodrama is drawn in broad strokes—characters are cast into archetypal roles rather than nuanced portraits—situations are simple, primal, and timeless. At the extreme edge of melodrama, it shades into the fully stylized cartoon. But I believe melodrama serves an ongoing purpose. These same primal conflicts are addressed again and again over the centuries because everyone faces them again and again in their daily lives.

If the costumes aren't important, then why superheroes? Well, it was through digging into the tropes of superheroes that I came to understand this story-pattern. It's very strong in superhero comics, particularly the ones I read when I was younger. Everyone who knows about superheroes understands that tension at the heart of the story. I know that some people think that that tension is a bug rather than a feature of the story. But I never set out to please everyone.

As for those people for whom WGP... doesn't immediately appeal, I didn't craft the game in a cynical, manipulative "If I include this buzzword and this kind of art, I will maximize sales by appealing the 18-39 demographic" way. It's a quirky game. It says something very specific about superheroes, and about life. It's not for everyone. I never claimed it was.

One other thing that I do take very seriously is your group's feelings about superheroes. I encourage you to customize your own Struggle and create your own Aspects so that your thoughts and feelings can come into play. You are the ones creating this fiction, and so your own veiws must weigh on the material. And I don't see any more important level of "seriousness" than that.
Logged

Serial Homicide Unit Hunt down a killer!
Incarnadine Press--The Redder, the Better!
Spooky Fanboy
Member

Posts: 585


« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2006, 07:13:07 AM »

It should also be noted that With Great Power... can also simulate the more "serious" works of Warren Ellis and Mark Millar. It depends on the group's preferences, what they choose as the source of tension, how they develop their characters from that, etc.

Other than that, it slaps the goals of the villains against very personal Aspects of the heroes' lives, and does so until one or the other triumphs. Lather, rinse, repeat, same as in the comics. In short, WGP does the same thing for superheroes that Dogs in the Vineyard does for westerns: it cuts right to the engine of the genre, in a way that evokes that genre. If it was any more streamlined and/or simpler, it would lose it's flavor.

Can it tell every type of superhero story? No, but it can capture the really engaging ones, and that's alright by me.
Logged

Proudly having no idea what he's doing since 1970!
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!