Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bad End lol, better luck next time

I don't like bad ends.

I haven't met a single VN bad end that would feel somehow meaningful, and they are almost always quite contrived, to get over the game over as quickly as possible. Not dragging on what eventually will be some lame way to kill one or more of the characters is not a bad idea, but I can't help feeling that the whole concept is completely lame. They are the literary equivalent of the shaggy dog story (or Bel-Airing, for the meme-savvy), the only point is making the reader feel bad and disappointed. It sucks. Adding bad ends to a VN feels like intentionally fucking over anyone who might stumble on it. It's bad writing.

Or so I thought. I had an epiphany the other day, and now I have thought about it a little. I thing I might've been approaching this from a wrong angle. The writer of a visual novel can easily start thinking of his product as more of a novel, but that's not what a VN is. You could think that bad ends are just game overs of a pseudo-game, nothing else. This seems simple and obvious, but it's not exactly so when you are trying to tell a story. Stories have rules, storytelling has certain principles, and good stories either follow them, or break them so brilliantly that nobody notices. However, many of the traditional lessons of storytelling can't be applied as such to the kind of branching, semi-interactive flow that a visual novel has. You think that your story should be made of exposition, tension, climax and resolution (in that order), and adding a sudden death by being eaten by a magical shark or tumbling off the roof (cough) breaks this holy tradition so it feels wrong. But it's not necessarily so. Bad ends are, or can be useful tools to create contrasts and to titillate the what-if sense. They can be used in a meaningful way, even if they are just some lame way to off your protagonist.

But I still don't have to like them.