I, destroyer of worlds

Originally Posted 9 February 2011

A little while back Greg mentioned via twitter a grammatical rule relating to the discussion of narratives. Essentially, the rule he stated (which may even be correct) is that one should always use the present tense when discussing events of a game. I immediately disagreed, and Greg responded that “narratives persist across readings”. This made me begin to think about how I think about narratives.

When I think about any narrative (game, novel, comic, etc.), I tend to speak and think about things in a strange way. If I’m discussing the premise or early setup of the work, then I tend to use the present tense. For example, from my review of Valkyria Chronicles: “Valkyria Chronicles takes place in an alternate history version of World War II.” The strange thing for me though, is that I begin to think of things as being in the past the further forward in a story you go. For instance, if I was discussing Final Fantasy VII, I might say that Sephiroth killed Aeris or that Aeris died. This tendency is even stronger for me if I am playing a game where I strongly identify with a protagonist and is most likely to occur when I begin speaking of the actions of my avatar as if they were my own (e.g., I attacked the bandit camp and managed to kill them all without wasting a single stimpack).

After reaching this realization, it started an introspective jaunt while I attempted to rationalize my absolutely contradictory verbiage. I’ve come to the conclusion that I think about narratives as something that are inherently consumed as I move through them. Since I can always go back to the beginning, that part remains ever the present. The middle and end, however, are in my own past and I tend to address them as such. To me, those actions are as set in stone as any other history. In a sense, when I move through the story, I am incrementally and permanently destroying the work–removing it from the future and throwing it into the past.

I wonder if I am the only one who thinks of narratives in such a way.

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