First you save your family, then you save your city, then you save your country, then you save the world, then you save the universe. And then what?
Welcome to the wonderful world of “Spectacle Creep”, where everything gets bigger, faster & stronger!
There’ll be references to movies, comics & video games and we’ll use them to look at ways of overcoming the same stuff in “meatspace”. Maybe I’d better set up the premise a little too.
I’ve been working on a comic book character called “Lady Six”. It’s been great so far. I ran into a little snag, however. I realized that the story I wanted to tell had maybe 20 episodes to it before she ends up “saving the universe”.
So, let’s do this shiznit!
April 2015 marked the end of Marvel’s classic “616” world. If you don’t know what this means, it’s basically the Marvel equivalent of the “Red Wedding” where all your favorite heroes were cordially invited. To die.
In May Marvel launched the “Secret Wars”. If you’re curious then check out “Comicstorian” on YouTube who explains what’s going on. This story will go on until December and then we’ll experience the start of a new Marvel Universe.
The question is: Why?
Let’s look at that first line again: family, city, country, world, universe.
Marvel finally reached the point where universes are threatened & being killed off one by one. There is nothing to go back to after this.
Fighting everyday criminals plotting to rob a bank? Cyber terrorism? Dealing with Deadpool (oh, your demise was beautiful!)?
Screw you, we frickin’ saved the universe!
This is why we from time to time need a new Bond, why TV-series get spin-offs, why video games get rebooted etc. The threads become too many and too thick to make sense.
It limits where we can go and what we can do. The choices we’ve made along the way narrow our future choices. It becomes a zero sum game.
Sometimes we need to step away from that and create our universe anew.
I know, pretty dramatic, right?
Now, what if these aren’t true choices? What if they’re decisions based on calculations? A kind of “if-then-else” conditional decision making.
Alright, let’s take a look at how video games handle these things. Something those cats got that we can apply when writing books, movies, TV?
How can we expand the decisions available? Well, maybe by giving more alternatives? A lot of games use a kind of rock/paper/scissors principles, look at StarCraft as an example.
We could do something like expanding “rock/paper/scissors” to “rock/paper/scissors/lizard/spock”.
Now we’ve expanded the range and we can go in interesting directions. Cool, that’s a step in the right direction. But this gets pretty linear too, right?
What are choices about? What is the force that transforms calculation into choice? Conflict.
What’s the greatest conflict? Incomparables.
The choice between buying the same jacket for $15 or $20 isn’t a conflict. It’s a calculation.
A conflict means having $15 and the options of buying the jacket, buying some food or taking a taxi.
It’s freezing. You’d prefer all three. You’d even settle for 2. But you can only have one.
You can buy the jacket and walk home warm. Buy the food and you’d have to walk home in the cold. Take the taxi and you’ll be warm plus get an extra hour around the house but you’ll be out of food.
These things can get really tricky especially if we involve some kind of moral or ethical conflict. But, we’re interested in how we can avoid “Spectacle Creep”, remember?
Saving the universe is a simple, binary, yes/no kind of equation. If we don’t save the universe it resets. If we do, well, we have to come up with something even more extreme. And how the hell do we do that?
What about character skill trees? Is there anything there we can use? If we choose one then we say no to the other. What if we didn’t? Atleast, not permanently.
What if we needed to balance all things? That we didn’t have to first do A then B then C? That the universe was not dependent on some malevolent force from outside?
It’s like spinning plates. If you have 4 plates to spin and can only use your arms you need spin 2 at a time and then focus on the others, jumping back and forth.
However, spinning more plates seems to add to the excitement and you do that. Then it just keeps going and going and going. Maybe you’re not just spinning plates, you’re also juggling chainsaws and swallowing swords. Spectacle Creep Achievement Unlocked!
This seems like a sprint rather than a marathon.
Now, both Marvel and DC (who reset their space time continuum in 2011 with “The New 52”) have done a tremendous job keeping it going for as long as they have. It should be applauded.
I don’t know if the readers (or whatever medium comes next) are going to be that interested after the next time, or the time after that.
Look at what’s become of video games and movies like Call of Duty, Die Hard, Sonic the Hedgehog, Terminator and so on. They’ve become parodies and the need for a reboot is obvious.
But how can we do that so we can avoid going through this circle again and again?
I can respect and understand that they want to retell the stories. Maybe even go back and explain the origins etc.
But what if we accepted what life actually does? It ends. Yup, that went really dark, really fast.
Superman’s origin story is the story of Moses retold in a different way. We’ve seen countless example’s of David slaying Goliath and the quest for immortality.
It is not our fate to live forever. What if we really, honestly, forever chose to kill off characters. Let their lives have mattered.
What I feel this reboot, resetting and so on does is to lessen the consequences of their actions. They never really die. And if they do they still live on in different universes.
The thing that doesn’t die? Their legacy. What they accomplished and how they led their life.
We can let Bruce Wayne, Wade Wilson, Kal El, Super Mario, Rambo and company die. What doesn’t die is what they represent.
What if Nintendo came out tomorrow and said: “Ding-dong! Mario Mario is dead, killed by Bowser. He is survived by his brother Luigi Mario, a talking mushroom and Princess Peach”?
An uproar. People would lose their shit. But…
Then it’d calm down. The first suspect to take over is Luigi. Well, how’s about someone else in the Mushroom Kingdom took over?
Maybe a relative with other strengths and weaknesses than Mario had? Maybe give us the satisfaction of knowing that Mario & Peach got together and had twins. The NEW Super Mario Bros!
I’d be curious to see that story develop. Also, keep Mario dead! Do NOT pull a Superman. His kids need that fire. It could turn into a revenge story or something. Teach kids some other morals etc.
I came to the conclusion that maybe 20 issues of “Lady Six” is enough? Maybe there isn’t more for her to do than to save Earth and/or the universe?
That might just be enough until the next generation can pick up where she left off.
And now we get to the main point.
Here, we’ve been talking about video games, comics & movies. What about life?
Have you come to the point with your job, project, book, painting, music or whatever it is that you do, where you’re simply trying to keep that particular “story” going?
Let it go. Nope, not gonna post a picture from “Frozen”.
The “death” of that is a new beginning for something else.
Look at what made you fall in love with it in the first place. I can bet you that it wasn’t the big “save the universe” moments, right? It was the simple things. It was making sure justice got served. It was the journey you went on. Exploring new worlds and new possibilities.
So often we get so entagled in the story that we think all we need is a “reboot”.
Could it be that the reboot is meant as an opportunity for us to step aside and let someone else put on the mask & cape?
Let me know in the comments and on Twitter.
Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!