Mimesis as Make-Believe (4): Fictional Worlds
May 06, 2010
The make-believe theory of representations implies a multiplicity of fictional worlds, since every dream, every representational work, and every appreciator's game of make-believe implies its own world. As we have already seen, a work world – the fictional world associated with a particular representation – can be understood to entail everything that is true in all the fictional worlds corresponding to the (authorised) games of make-believe appreciators play with that representation as a prop. There is thus a clear distinction between the world of the work, and the world of the game we play with that representation as a prop.
As has already been mentioned, when we play a game of make-believe with any given prop (such as a toy, a painting, a novel, or a movie) we can say it is an authorised game when it corresponds to the work world and the implied intentions of the artist behind the representation concerned. But it can be no trivial matter to determine what is an authorised game and what is not. When watching an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, for instance, which fictional truths are to be admitted? Those contingent on just that episode? On all the other episodes? On all the other episodes, and the episodes of the original Star Trek? Authority in cases like these can become nebulous, especially when so many individuals have contributed to a single franchise.
In Walton's terms, each individual episode of any given TV show has its own authorised game, and any attempt to tie them all together is not entirely authorised. Similar examples can be found in literature. Bram Stoker's Dracula has an authorised game in which it is prescribed to imagine that there is a vampire named Dracula. The Hammer horror movie Dracula: Prince of Darkness also has an official game in which it is prescribed to imagine that there is a vampire named Dracula. It might even be considered part of the latter's official game that the fictional truths of the former apply. But it can never be part of the authorised game for the former that the latter has any sway over the fictional truths generated (say, by requiring that Dracula be imagined as looking like Christopher Lee while reading Stoker's novel). The reason fans get into trouble in situations such as this or the aforementioned Star Trek example is that they are trying to treat a set of representations as if they were factual. This can be a fun game, but the principle of generation in effect in such instances is far too draconian – it is effectively an attempt to enforce a bastardised Reality Principle where something closer to the Mutual Belief Principle should apply.
These situations, and others like them, fall under what Walton refers to as silly questions (perhaps the only instance of a philosopher using 'silly' as a technical term!). He asserts that there is a principle of charity involved when the mechanics of generation are at work, and thus some fictional truths which might otherwise by implied are blocked (or de-emphasized) primarily “because they would render the fictional world uncomfortably paradoxical”. Walton notes that “declaring a question to be silly does not answer it; it is an excuse, however legitimate, for not answering it.” This is advice that any Star Trek fan would be wise to heed.
Examples of silly questions abound. Walton cites the fact that Shakespeare’s Othello speaks in perfect poetic verse, and that the disciples in Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper (pictured above) all sit on the same side of the table as paradigmatic cases of silly questions, and recognises that questions such as these arise from the demands of appreciators' access to fictional worlds. If the disciples were not sat on the same side of the table, it would not be possible to see all of their faces, and this requirement pre-empts our normal assumptions about sitting around the dinner table in this case. Similarly with the ubiquitous speaking of English by characters of other nationalities in novels and films: the requirement for the appreciator to understand what is said trumps the strictures of realism. Star Trek writers have attempted to paper over this crack with a MacGuffin – the universal translator – but this frequently opens the door to yet more silly questions.
The opposite of an authorised game in Walton's system is an unofficial game, one in which we devise our own rules, modify the authorised ones, or otherwise alter the principles of generation in play. He is keen to stress that there is nothing illicit in this process – certain kinds of unofficial game are perfectly natural, such as the aforementioned unofficial game in which all episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek are to be considered part of one fictional world (despite the many contradictions this entails). Indeed, in this case the writers of the shows in question participated in such an unofficial game when creating new episodes! Walton notes in respect of unofficial games:
We play special games for special purposes. Sometimes in doing so we follow unorthodox traditions of one sort or another. Sometimes we improvise on the spot. Many unauthorised games are fragmentary, our participation in them constituting a momentary turn in the course of a conversation. Sometimes – even more so than in the case of authorised games – we do not so much participate in them as merely allude to them. Nevertheless much of what we say concerning representations must be understood in terms of such games.
In dealing with unofficial games, precedents have an important role since “there are certain more or less standard patterns of implication, even when the implied games are not authorised ones.” He cites the practice of combining unrelated works in a single unofficial game as an example, as happens when sci-fi geeks debate match-ups like Death Star versus Borg cube. This is clearly an unofficial game – but it is certainly a natural one. Among many other possibilities, the pursuit of silly questions can transform an authorised game into an unofficial one – this (Walton states) is what happens “when one demands to know why the diners in Leonardo’s Last Supper all sit on one side of the table.” Just as with the principles of generation, there is likely no systematic way of determining the kinds of unofficial game that can be implied in any given case.
So far, talk of fictional worlds has been constrained to the analysis of the fictional truths that comprise these worlds, but in practice our relationship with the fictional worlds our games of make-believe generate from various props is far from as detached as this might suggest. As Walton observes:
We don’t just observe fictional worlds from without. We live in them (in the worlds of our games, not work worlds)... True, these worlds are merely fictional, and we are well aware that they are. But from inside they seem actual – what fictionally is the case is, fictionally, really the case... It is this experience that underlies much of the fascination representations have for us and their power over us... appreciators immerse themselves in fictional worlds. They are carried away by the pretence, caught up in the story.
This is not always the case, of course – sometimes we appreciate art without participation, for instance, and Walton notes that these cases are “something of a spectator sport; our stance is more akin to that of an onlooker than a participant in games of make-believe”; we observe the kind of game that might be played with such-and-such a prop. Much of our relationship with artworks (especially modern art) can take the form of such “distanced” appreciation. Yet even in such cases, make-believe is central to our experience, and Walton notes that “appreciation not involving participation is nevertheless to be understood in terms of it.”
Next week: Participation
Saying that all episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation are in the same universe is as much an authorized game as saying that all the scenes in any particular episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation are set in the same universe. If I've understood Walton's philosophy here, it only becomes an unofficial game when one tries to resolve the contradictions between episodes, because that is a silly game. But to say that the overall canon is "unauthorized" seems fundamentally mistaken to me. The viewer should not be surprised, for instance, when Montgomery Scott shows up in the show, but it would entirely break the game if Darth Vader showed up. If each episode is meant to be taken on its own, this should not be the case. But clearly there is a principle we need to accept that ties works together into an authorized canon. Otherwise, we would struggle to understand sequels, and spin-offs, and the entire landscape of current superhero comics. The game is incomplete (and sometimes incomprehensible) without recognizing the entire reality the authors intended to set the work in.
Posted by: Mory Buckman | May 06, 2010 at 01:55 PM
Mory: you raise a point that I wrestled with myself when I was writing this. But I chose to reflect what Walton actually says, and suppress my own thoughts to some degree.
"Saying that all episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation are in the same universe is as much an authorized game as saying that all the scenes in any particular episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation are set in the same universe."
I completely understand where this claim comes from, but Walton is explicit in suggesting that each individual work can be safest considered to have it's own individual work world, that is, that the sequel to a book or film should not necessarily be granted the status of belonging to the same work world as its predecessor.
I believe the way that his perspective works on this issue runs along the following lines: consider two books, one a sequel to the other. Walton considers it safest to claim that while the work world of the sequel may incorporate the fictional truths of the first work (by referring to it), the first work *need not* incorporate the fictional truths of the sequel into its work world. In fact, more than this, it *should not* since it still functions as a work on its own. (This protects, for instance, fans of the film Highlander from the hilarity that is Highlander II).
Therefore, you could claim that the work world of each episode of ST:TNG incorporated the fictional truths of the preceding episodes but *not* that the work world of earlier episodes incorporates the fictional truths of the later episodes. In fact, I believe we can go further because (as is often the case in television) the fictional truths of earlier episodes *are frequently contradicted* by the fictional truths of later episodes, thus any attempt to form a common work world will be badly compromised.
The classic case for me in the context of ST:TNG is perhaps Data's cat, who not only changes breed from a Somali cat to a tabby cat, but even more strangely changes from a male cat to a female cat! :D If one tries to take all the ST:TNG episodes as belonging to one work world (one universe) this is patent nonsense. But if one takes each individual episode on its own terms as having its own work world, then the problem vanishes, or perhaps, is brushed under the carpet.
Consider a parallel: the portrayal of epic myths, such as King Arthur or Robin Hood. We would not consider these as all having the same work world (same universe) because each interprets different elements of the stories in different ways - even though they are putatively about the same characters. For Walton, even a more closely constructed franchise like Star Trek falls down similar lines.
What this means overall is that Walton's system argues against treating all the components of a franchise as forming a collective work world - or rather, suggests that this collective work world is something of an unauthorised game (even though it is a quite natural one). Walton is clear that there are many kinds of unauthorised games that we play all the time - i.e. unauthorised does not mean illicit. What it does mean is that any individual franchise instance does not in and of itself have any (authorised) obligation to the various other instances that are co-branded.
It felt to me, I should add, that this is something of a grey area between authorised and unauthorised games, but since "unauthorised" need not mean "wrong" it doesn't strictly matter. We could coin a term, like semi-authorised, for the grey area, but it might just further muddy the waters.
By treating each episode of ST:TNG as having its own work world it means that flaws in a particular episode's construction are flaws in its work world, but contradictions between earlier (or future) episodes are not flaws in its work world, per se, but rather problems facing the players of the (popular and natural) unauthorised game of counting all of the episodes as having a common work world.
The weakest aspect of this choice in Walton's system happens when the boundaries between works is ambiguous. For instance, Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings as one text, but it was published in three parts because his publisher lost patience. Does that mean The Fellowship of the Ring has a separate work world from The Two Towers?
Similarly, Moorcock wrote much of his Eternal Champion stories as shorts published in New Worlds magazine. Later, they were collected into books (combining about three stories at a time). Later still, they were collected into anthologies collecting all the stories featuring one incarnation at a time. So what's the status of "Dead God's Homecoming" (short story) versus "Stormbringer" (book) versus "Eternal Champion: Elric" (anthology)? It's far from clear how to divide the lines in such cases.
I believe Walton would say that the short story as a short story has its own work world, the book has its own work world as a book and the anthology has its own work world as an anthology. So does a boxed set of Star Trek: The Next Generation have its own work world? You can see this issue only gets more complicated the more you dig into it! :)
You mention superhero comics - but of course, these for the most part cannot be coherently resolved into a single work world, because the issues of contradictions becomes absolutely mind-blowing with the rampant use of retcons (retroactive continuity) and storylines that rewrite almost every detail of the associated world with astonishing regularity!
Let me close with a line from your comment:
"But clearly there is a principle we need to accept that ties works together into an authorized canon. Otherwise, we would struggle to understand sequels, and spin-offs..."
I think it's clear that there's a principle we *could* accept that is supposed to produce an authorised canon. Yet, despite this, an authorised canon in fiction *never* rises to the level of consistency of, say, theories of physical laws. And it's not clear to me that one *has* to accept such a principle to understand the fiction of sequels, series etc. I only watched one episode of "Walker: Texas Ranger"; I still understood it. So too with the one issue of "Superman" (strictly, "Action Comics") I read.
Is it that we *must* accept this "canonical principle" - or is it rather that we geeks have an irrepressible need to deploy it, no matter how ridiculous its consequences? I favour the latter. But I welcome strong arguments in favour of the former!
Many thanks for a thoughtful and cogently argued comment - and so much more concise than I have been able to manage in response! :)
All the best!
Posted by: Chris | May 07, 2010 at 08:42 AM
Data's cat having kittens was a mistake and everyone understands it's a mistake and asking "How did Spot switch genders?" is a silly question.
"So does a boxed set of Star Trek: The Next Generation have its own work world? You can see this issue only gets more complicated the more you dig into it!"
It certainly does, because the rule you're setting up is entirely arbitrary and the harder you try to "enforce" it the harder it gets. Why are we saying that the pause between one week and the next in a TV show is enough to switch worlds, but the commercial break is not?
You say that you can understand an episode of "Walker, Texas Ranger" on its own, but what about an episode of LOST? There's a blog called "The Final Season of LOST as Seen by Someone Who Has Never Seen LOST", and it's amusing to see just how badly the writer misinterprets everything that ever happens because he doesn't have the context the writers are transparently assuming he has. If you don't watch every episode, the story does not make sense. And certainly when the whole show ends and we can see the entire story, there are guaranteed to be plot holes. But that's no reason to willfully ignore the ways that the story does work.
You use the word "authorized" a lot, and I wonder, who is it that's doing the authorizing? I think you're trying too hard to figure out what's authorized by Walton, and not what's authorized by the creators of the work, which is much more important. The writer of the LOST blog is playing an unofficial game, and everyone understands that he's playing an unofficial game.
You insist on likening episodes of Star Trek to retold myths, but even in the case where this is most clearly true -the recent Star Trek movie- we are still expected to connect the dots with the earlier series. If you watch the movie telling yourself that the older Spock is the same Spock who we're seeing grow up, then you are playing an unauthorized game! What the creators intended, and what everyone understands that the creators intended, is that the Spock played by Leonard Nimoy is the Spock of the original series. Refusing to acknowledge this just because it is never made explicit is misunderstanding the world of the movie.
Let me describe the current state of Marvel comics, something I love but which I get the feeling Walton would disapprove of. At the beginning of every issue there's a long recap of events, some from the same comic and some from other comics. This often does not provide sufficient information to understand everything that's going on in the comic, for reasons that I'll explain, but it allows the new reader to not be entirely confused. The actual content of the issue is set in a universe shared by almost all other Marvel comics going back to the 1930s. And yes, that leads to a hell of a lot of contradictions, but it's also the intended understanding of the story. So if there's some threat which is too big for one superhero to face, either other superheroes will show up (from other books!) to help him, or there will be an explanation for why they can't be reached. If other characters show up, their appearance may or may not be acknowledged in their own book. Sometimes things happen in one comic book that are then paid off in another comic, written years later by a different writer. Sometimes one writer will leave a plot point dangling in his own series, and some other comic will pick it up and expect you to know what's happened so far. And sometimes a writer will make a mistake and leave a plot hole, and another writer will add an explanation in his own book so that the contradiction is resolved. At the end of most issues there's a cliffhanger of some sort, and the reader understands that the story is not over but will continue in a month.
If you don't understand that this is what's going on, you are misreading Marvel comics and playing your own game, not the intended one.
Now, it's certainly true that Marvel retells their myths. There's an "Ultimate Spider-Man" and "Marvel Adventures Spider-Man" which are separate continuities, and there are some standalone Spider-Man miniseries which aren't in any continuity, and there are "Spider-Man Noir" and "Spider-Man 1602" and "Spider-Man 2099" and the movies and the cartoons and so on and so forth. And certainly, to imagine that they are all the same Spider-Man is an unauthorized game. But it's unauthorized because Marvel doesn't authorize it, not because different stories can't be set in the same universe. It is usually clear when a Spider-Man comic is set in the main Marvel Universe, and when it is it is understood by writer and reader alike that every previous Spider-Man comic set in the Marvel Universe (plus innumerable non-Spider-Man comics) are the backstory and can be drawn from at any moment.
This is not an unauthorized game, it is not a rare occurrence, it is the usual way of business with Marvel comics. If Walton's philosophies do not allow us to understand what these comics are doing, then I say Walton's philosophies are inadequate.
Posted by: Mory Buckman | May 07, 2010 at 11:01 AM
Mory: thanks for returning to this topic! I'm trying to unravel this issue for myself in discussion with you, so please forgive me if I renege on earlier claims as the concepts fall out in new ways...
I need to make the point that in adapting Walton's theories to subjects such as Star Trek, I am slightly exceeding my remit of presenting Walton's philosophy - but I did so in the hope to make his ideas more accessible to my readers. But Walton's own chosen examples are in terms of famous paintings, plays, novels and movies... In insisting that his theory stands or falls by how *I* have adapted it to interpret TV shows we may both be overstepping the mark! :)
"Data's cat having kittens was a mistake and everyone understands it's a mistake and asking 'How did Spot switch genders?' is a silly question."
I agree that it's a silly question, but it's not so clear to me that it's a mistake, nor what qualifies as a mistake in this context. It seems just as likely to me (as a professional writer, with some experience of the nonsense the profession involves!) that the writing team needed a plot device, pragmatically, for the episode "Genesis", and that this plot device was delivered most easily if Spot was female and could be pregnant. It is more likely to me that they *chose* to retcon Spot's gender, than that they simply forgot. (Similar situations also abound in comics, of course...)
It seems to me that you conclude this was a mistake because you predicate the "canonical principle". Comic books, sci fi and fantasy are the places where issues of canonicity thrive and these matters rarely if ever matter to anything like the same degree to the people who work on these stories as they do to their fans. For the creative personnel, it's more usually the case that the needs of the current project (episode, comic, game etc.) generally outweigh any assumed obligation to canonicity, which I claim is far more usually a minority fan concern.
"This is not an unauthorized game, it is not a rare occurrence, it is the usual way of business with Marvel comics."
When you say this, you are presuming a specific meaning of "unauthorised", one that clashes with how Walton deploys the word in the specific context of his theory. This may speak against his choice of word, but it cannot, as such, speak against his theory.
It seems to bother you that the normal order of business for Marvel (and no less for DC, let's be honest) has been termed by me as an "unauthorised game" in Walton's system. I may have been hasty in presenting this case, so let me clarify.
What I am saying is that, yes, in the terms Walton has defined, the way that stories are developed in an expansive fan-supported context like the Marvel universe involves a game that is unauthorised by the *individual* comics taken apart. But I reiterate: unauthorised *does not mean illicit*. There is nothing wrong with this unauthorised game (with respect to the individual comic)... but to play it you must frequently go far beyond the content of any individual comic, and you rapidly enter an interpretive nightmare of infinite silly questions.
You raise two specific major points I'd like to discuss - one I greatly sympathise with, and one which is a can of worms...
"You use the word 'authorized' a lot, and I wonder, who is it that's doing the authorizing? I think you're trying too hard to figure out what's authorized by Walton, and not what's authorized by the creators of the work, which is much more important."
You and I are using authorised in two *completely* distinct contexts here. You want authorised to mean "this is what the creator(s) meant", which is understandable. But authorisation, in Walton's sense, is not wholly about this (although it forms a principal part of it). It is about the socially validated meaning of an artwork, involving both the intentions of the artist and the culture the artist comes from, and more besides. Remember, for many artworks we do not have access to the artists thoughts for comparison - and even for those that we do, some accounts the creators provide are sometimes very hard to square with their specific creations... it's not always clear that the creator of an artwork has the claim to authority (e.g. by the time they offer an interpretation, they may be a very different person from the one who actually made the artwork...).
My point in this regard is what is authorised by the creator of a work is (the vast majority of times) also what is authorised in Walton's terms - but what happens when a fan treats all the Marvel Comics as part of one work world is *not* an authorised game for any *individual* comic - even though, this unauthorised game (with respect to each individual comic) may well be the authorised game for *all Marvel comics taken together*. I believe it is this to which you allude.
In other words "authorised" and "unauthorised" in Walton's terms are properties of artworks, but the boundaries of those artworks *are* fundamentally subjective in cases of sequential art. And furthermore, the capacity to derive a viable authorised game becomes harder and harder the more content you allow in. This is the problem with Star Trek/ST:TNG... and the writers of these shows did not, for the most part, care anywhere near as much as the fans do about the relationships between distant episodes - but they *did* care about the integrity of *each* episode, and certain specific fictional truths inherent to the shows in question. So in the case of singling out the episode as a unit, I believe this is the easiest way to deduce an authorised game, but it is by no means the only choice (you give the example of taking each Act as a separate artwork - which you could also do, just as you could a scene, or a season).
But this leads to the second point, the one for which I have much sympathy, which is that in sequential storytelling media the options for what to take as the prop are so varied that at first glance it seems insurmountably problematic. But the problem here is only which game you are playing - are you playing the game of make-believe for the individual comic and episode, or are you playing the game for the franchise?
The game for the franchise is essentially *guaranteed* to lead to more silly questions than the game for an individual comic or episode... But nothing stops you from calling that the artwork/prop you are playing with. In the case you cite above for a hypothetical Marvel comic, it may even be the most viable option. What it does do, however, is relegate the hopes of establishing the fictional truths implicit to an authorised game to near impossibility when the content to be rationalised is so eclectic and contradictory.
And so it is with Star Trek if you try and treat all the franchises as belonging to one work world. Sure, you can do it - there is an authorised game of some kind to be had there - but just what the fictional truths are in this vipers nest of silly questions is far more likely to be the subject of geeky arguments than it is to be of critical appraisal! :)
Incidentally, I have many boxes of Marvel and other comics I collected in the 1980s and early 1990s but I stopped buying comics entirely when Marvel began to make ubiquitous the crossover as a means of making me buy more comics. I was reading principally Claremont's Uncanny X-Men, and you could quite comfortably say that the game of make-believe I was playing was with Claremont's X-men (not Stan Lee's X-men that preceded it, nor the post-Claremont X-men that followed it). The more I was forced to extend my game to include other comics about which my interest was marginal at best, the harder it became to enjoy my game. And shortly after Claremont left, I called it a day. I think I can comfortably consider that there was and is an authorised game I can play with Claremont's X-men comics that is unabashedly ruined if I am forced to accept *all* the other Marvel comics as part of my game. And in this respect, Walton's use of authorised makes perfect sense to me, and any other X-Men fan has access to the same authorised game I would play, should they want to play that particular game, even if it is "official" from Marvel HQ that all of the comics must be understood collectively.
Hopefully, I have presented a case here that makes your issues with my claims less problematic. My apologies for muddying the waters above by slavishly sticking to how "Mimesis as Make-Believe" is presented - in doing so I did a disservice to Walton's theory, which I contend will comfortably adapt to the kind of problems you raised, as I hope I have now shown.
Enjoy your weekend!
Posted by: Chris | May 07, 2010 at 06:41 PM
Yes, this does make sense to me, and the idea that there can be many different authorized games depending on how much you're looking at is intriguing to me. Is there an authorized game for the half of a videogame before it starts getting tough, being the half of a videogame that the majority of people will actually play? And if we accept that idea, then don't we logically have to say that the end of any story isn't part of the game of make-believe until you get to it? Until you actually experience a part of the story, it is not fictionally true. But maybe I've gone too far in making that leap of logic, because at that point this starts getting strange. If every player of a game has a different authorized game depending on how far they get, then how is any game of make-believe not unofficial? How is saying "I will accept only the first two years of comics into my game.", which you call an authorized game of some sort, different from saying "I will ignore every other scene in my game.", which is clearly unofficial?
By the way, you may be interested to know that your game of only accepting Chris Claremont issues of X-Men is not so unique. There's a current comic series called "X-Men Forever", which is written by Claremont and picks up right after his last issue, disregarding everything that's happened in the decades since. In effect, it's a comic which expects the reader to play the same game of make-believe you've been playing!
On an unrelated note, you noticed I was talking about Marvel and not DC. This is because DC's continuity is so incomprehensible that if I included it I didn't think I'd believe my own argument.
Posted by: Mory Buckman | May 08, 2010 at 10:31 PM
Mory: glad I was able to get to a point of making sense! :)
"...the idea that there can be many different authorized games depending on how much you're looking at is intriguing to me."
It was this idea that I have been trying to hone in on myself, but I am now confident this is the way to take Walton's use of "authorised" when looking at these kinds of situations, authorisation being a consequence of the (socially-embedded) implications of a specific artwork/prop, and the options for what you take as the boundaries being a question for the individual appreciator to make on essentially a case-by-case basis.
"Is there an authorized game for the half of a videogame before it starts getting tough, being the half of a videogame that the majority of people will actually play?"
Ha, it's an interesting question. What we're asking is a kind of "Schroedinger's Cat" of videogame stories - if the player never reaches the rest of the story, is it still part of it? But since the concept of "work world" belongs to the artwork, and not the individual game of make-believe, I think perhaps it would be a torturous exercise to extract a work world that favoured what an individual had played. You could perhaps do it, but that doesn't necessarily make it a sane thing to do! :)
It's right up there with tearing out the last five pages of a book in order to enjoy the experience of frustratingly not knowing how it will end! That there are five pages missing from your copy of the book isn't necessarily an argument for treating that specific book as having a different work world from other editions... but then, what if you put that version into an art museum as an exhibit... (And so on and so forth). :D
I had heard that Claremont had been given an X-men comic, but didn't quite realise its connection to the earlier run! Although I'm intrigued, for my own sanity I think I will have to pretend this doesn't exist... at least for now. ;)
As for DC's continuity - well, to be fair, compared to Marvel they do have an extra 27 years of tortuously confused storylines to unravel! >:)
All the best!
Posted by: Chris | May 10, 2010 at 11:35 AM
As you suggested, I´m reading this series to understand Walton´s prop theory.
The questions that came up in my mind are:
- of what practical use are these theories?
- isn´t Walton using the word "un-authorized" in a way that contradicts it´s ordinary meaning?
There are theories which allow you to understand the world better and so to interact better with the people around you.
But for you as a game developer can categorizing fictional "generation" between "Reality Principle" and "Mutual Believe Principle" actually help you to develope better games?
or categorizing different kind of "work-worlds" -
it sounds complicated, but if you don´t use that word as a category, it would be far more easy and understandable to say, that a reader or a viewer of a fiction series expects that a sequel or a latter season will not contradict the original movie (or book) or the former seasons of the show.
If there are contradictions readership or audience will be frustrated.
And most sequel writers and even (teen-age) fan-fiction writers know that, and they´ll try to stay within the paradigm created in the earlier part. And if they stray from it, they try to give a plausible explanation within the fictional world.
And about the "authorized" and "un-authorized" use of art or fiction:
Children will use their toys any way they want. And if the brother needs a space alien for a certain game, he´ll use his sister´s baby-doll, unless the owner of the doll objects and runs to Mom to complain. It´s then the little girl, the owner who has authority over the doll´s use and Mom is the highest authority, the supreme court.
But the doll-maker, nowadays usually some factory in China, has no longer any authority over the doll at all.
If the little girl is included her brother´s game, she might be quite happy to allow her doll to be cast as the space alien monster.
Or say a work of art:
Most people will try to figure out what the artist meant, except maybe the kid who is dragged into the museum against his will.
He might try to see something really nasty in the picture just to annoy whoever dragged him there. His teacher or relative who forced him to go along into the museum might have authority over the kid, but the artist definitely does not.
The only unauthorized use of the painting would be, if someone damages or destroys it without owning it first.
But after he sold his work the artist has no authority over what the owners or viewers do with his painting. Hanging it up on the bathroom wall or flashing it down....
And while the producers of a movie or a TV show surely have a copyright, they still do not have authority over the audience of how they talk about it or what "silly questions" they might ask.
"unauthorized use" seems surely to be the wrong word for what the Mr Walton meant.
Posted by: Notsylvia.wordpress.com | May 04, 2011 at 04:30 PM
Notsylvia: thanks for taking an interest in my work adapting and promulgating Professor Walton's theory!
"The questions that came up in my mind are:
- of what practical use are these theories?
- isn´t Walton using the word "un-authorized" in a way that contradicts it´s ordinary meaning? "
Walton's theory provides an explanation of how representations work, their connection to culture, and the relationship between play and art. I find all of these valuable - in fact, I have written a book about it! :) It has also irrevocably changed the way I think about games and game design. More of the game design content can be found on one of my other blogs, ihobo.com.
"But for you as a game developer can categorizing fictional "generation" between 'Reality Principle' and 'Mutual Believe Principle' actually help you to develope better games?"
Yes, definitely. See: http://blog.ihobo.com/2010/05/game-design-as-makebelieve-3-principles-of-generation.html
"And about the 'authorized' and 'un-authorized' use of art or fiction:
Children will use their toys any way they want."
Authority, in the sense Walton uses, is not a property of the artist or creator. What is an authorised game of make-believe for a doll is *not* what the doll makers want or expect, it is what is culturally normal for a doll. It is an authorised game of make-believe for a baby doll that it prescribes that participants in such a game interpret the doll *as a baby*. It is an unauthorised game that it is a robot baby.
Kids can play both games, and it doesn't matter one way or another if its authorised or not! But it *starts* to matter with artwork, where the authorised games have more weight in the interpretation of the artwork than the unauthorised games (although even here, there are other aspects to consider!)
As to whether "authorised" was the right choice of word - I'm open to this cricism. I have preferred the term "normal game" (see Prop Theory in a Nutshell).
Thanks for taking an interest!
Posted by: Chris | May 06, 2011 at 10:49 AM