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#I should just leave it like that in the final drawing
datsonyat · a month ago
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People are allowed to choose how they want to consume content. 
People are allowed to like something. 
People are allowed to dislike something. 
People are allowed to interact as they will, if they want to at all.
If something is not for you, it’s not for you. If something’s not for me, it’s not for me.
So long as no one is being publicly hateful—because I’ve been around, we all vent in private like civilized folks I’d like to believe—someone not supporting something for whatever reason they have is allowed.
Stop trying to police how people enjoy fan content, and shame on those who engage in it, frankly. 
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atu-and-zuni · 4 months ago
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getting more comfortable w/ drawing jambala's face nd nose am vry happy
#who knew practice actually worked 😳#i still have vry little practice in drawing expressions which will b Difficult#still not comfy w/ how i draw his ears solely bc theyre uneven and it looks odd when i draw them from a 3/4ths view#so i usually just leave the longer ear out even tho Technically you should be able to see it from those angles#bala's nose was one of my biggest problems when i drew him so its nice having Finally settled on sumthing simple#atu says stuff#ok but#lorewise#he shouldnt have a gauge in his fucked up ear#but i kept it in bc i like symmetry#but i like to think that when he was getting his part of his ear chopped off (to prevent infection) they told him they would#that they would have to get rid of his piercings nd he just went ''NO wtf i payed for these'' nd he just#directly goes agaisnt doctors orders jxjhf#theyre like ''if you leave those in u have a rlly high chance of getting nasty infections and losing the entire ear'' nd hes just#''i do not hear it''#in other news; semi unrelated#he used to get into fistfights a lot so its a wonder that someone hasnt yanked one of those bigass gauges out yet jsjggdjc#oc: jambala#in conclusion: hes cool 🤲#ok wait no im gunna ramble some more#i think if i were to commision ppl who dont draw trolls i probably use jambala since he barely looks like a troll at this point#mmm i take that back only non-trollish thing about him is th missing tusks and even then thats a recent development for him#i rlly need to color him so i can provide a better ref#since his ingame model doesnt have th right colors nd th last time i colored him was like a year ago i think?#out of date design nd pallette yknow#i am thinking of getting color pens to go along w/ my color pencils since digital isnt working rn#one day i swear ill switch to digital but! not today#damn what is this my DIARY 🤨🤨 shuddup
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teablade · 5 months ago
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anyways great people u should follow and love and adore and send nice things to??? @banschivs and @jokethur ur welcome
#out.#i'm on a computer but i'm literally only on a computer to watch mark's stream lMAO#anyways I've known abi since either 2013 or 2014#whenever I saw syfy alice and sb who i dont think writes anymore that was a dw rper directed me to abi#literally w the exception of jessica frm until dawn abi pmuch only writes characters that mally adores#fighty? yes. cares abt all the little nuances and handles things like addictions and depression and such incredibly well? check#jessie i met thru abi n jessie is also lovely n cares v v v deeply abt her muse and abt abi and its all lovely and great and you will not be#able to find enough good things in the world to say abt them#abi will insult herself but dont let her shes actually perfect#k back to marks stream bye again#i have slept a total of one hour today but my mom impulse bought a new ipad so now i get to keep her old one#which since im the only person who was usign it im just like gr8 i can play games on it and draw and actually semi see what i am doing#maybe i should finally put audible on it and listen to the audiobooks i spent money on and havent listened to while drawing but will i#why do that when i can listen to mark screaming as hes murdered by mutants again lol#k now brina takes another leave#shes here but not here#bc mark#hes destroyed almost everything hes build in the like hour and ah alf they've been back on the forest its so fckn funny#bob accidentally destroys marks gazebo last time and this time mark keeps accidentally dropping trees on his builds AFTER flaming wade lmao
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doycetopia · 9 years ago
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Mass Effect, Tolkien, and Your Bullshit Artistic Process
It may seem a bit odd that I’m posting this here rather than on my gaming-related blog, since it is about the Mass Effect game series and other related geekery. I debated where I should post it, but ultimately this is about writing as much or more than it’s about gaming, so here it is. Everything that follows is my opinion and, further, is infested with spoilers for both the Mass Effect series and, I suppose, The Lord of the Rings. Reader beware.
In late February, I said (on twitter) that I thought the Mass Effect universe was probably the most important science fiction of a generation.
Since then, the executive producer for Mass Effect 3 has been working tirelessly to get me to retract that statement.
If you follow gaming news at all, you’ll already know that there have been great clouds of dust kicked over this particular story — the gist of it is that Mass Effect was brought to a conclusion with the release of Mass Effect 3 (note: not brought to its conclusion, just brought to a conclusion — more on that later), and while 99% of the game was the same top-notch, engaging, tear-inducing stuff that we’ve come to expect, the last five minutes or so is a steaming, Hersey’s Kiss-sized dollop of dog shit that you are forced to ingest at the conclusion of the meal, like a mint, before they let you out the door.
It’s fair to say that it’s soured many players’ impression of the experience as a whole.
Now, I realize that many of the folks reading this may not have played through the Mass Effect series. First of all, that’s really too bad, because it is very, very good both in terms of play (which steadily improves from game to game) and story (barring one steaming exception) and (I think) completely worth the time.
But secondly, I’d like to keep you non-ME people involved in the conversation, so I’m going to draw a comparison that I think most anyone likely to visit here will understand, so that we can all proceed with reasonable understanding of the issues.
Let’s pretend for a moment that The Lord of the Rings was released not as a series of books, but a series of games. More importantly, the company behind the series decided to do something really hard but rewarding with the game — they were going to let you make decisions during play that substantively altered the elements of the story. That means that some of people playing through this Lord of the Rings story would end up with a personal game experience that was pretty much exactly like the one you and I all remember from reading the books, but that story is just sort of the default. Whole forums were filled up by fans of the series comparing notes on their versions of the game, with guides on how to get into a romantic relationship with Arwen (the obvious one), Eowyn (more difficult, as you have to go without any kind of romance option through the whole first game, but considered by many to be far more rewarding), or even Legolas (finally released as DLC for the third game).
And that’s certainly not all of possible permutations. Some players actually managed to save Boromir (though he leaves the party regardless, but gets you a whole extra army in the third game if he’s alive, and makes Denethor much less of a pain in the ass to deal with). Some folks don’t split up the party, and spend most of the game recruiting supporters through the South and North, from Aughaire down to Dol Imren. For some, Gimli dies at Helms Deep; for others only Merry escapes into Fangorn (which makes recruiting the Ents all but impossible). Hell, there are even a few weirdos who chose NOT to recruit Samwise back at the beginning of the story, and actually play through the whole first game without him (though the writers reintroduce him as a non-optional party member once you get ready to leave Lothlorien).
And what about the players who rolled the main character as a female? That changes a LOT of stuff, as you might well imagine. (Though, thankfully, all the dialogue options with Legolas are the same.)
Are you with me so far?
Okay, so you’re playing through this game — you’ve played through parts 1 and 2 several times, in fact, sometimes as a goody-two-shoes, and sometimes as a total bad-ass. You’ve got a version of the game where you’re with Arwen, one with Eowyn, one with Legolas, and one where you focus on Frodo and his subtle hand-holding bromance with Sam. You’re ready for Part Three, is what I’m saying, and out it comes.
And it’s awesome. You finally bring lasting alliance between Rohan and Gondor, you form a fragile-yet-believable peace between elves and dwarves, and even manage to recruit a significant strike-force of old Moria orcs who don’t so much like you as much as they just hate the johnny-come-lately Uruk-hai.
The final chapters open. You face down Saruman (who pretended to fund all your efforts through the second book, but then turned on you at the end of the Two Towers), which was really satisfying. You crawl up to the top of Mount Doom, collapse against a rock, and have a really touching heart to heart with Sam. It’s over. You know you have all your scores high enough to destroy the One Ring with no crisis of conscious and no lame “Gollum bit off my finger and then falls in the lava” ending, like the one you saw on the fanfic forums last year.
And then out comes this glowing figure from behind a rock, and it’s… Tom Bombadil.
And Tom explains your options.
Oh, and you're totally going to die too. And all the roads and horses throughout all of middle earth vanish. And by the way did you know that Sauron and the Nazgul all actually just work for Bombadil? True story.
Now, let’s just ignore the fact that the company behind this game has been quoted many times as saying that the game will end with no less than sixteen different endings, to honor all the various ways the story could go, and focus on these three options.
None of them have anything to do with destroying the ring, do they?
Has ‘destroying the ring’ (alternately, destroying Sauron) been pretty much THE THING you’ve been working toward the whole game? Yeah, it has. In fact, it mentions “Rings” right there in the title of the series, doesn’t it? Rather seems to make The Ring a bit of a banner item, doesn’t it?
But no, none of these options are about the Ring; they’re about one of the b-plots in the series, and one which you pretty much already laid to rest a few chapters ago.
So… okay, maybe this isn’t the END ending, you think, and you pick one of the options…
And that’s it. A bunch of cut-scenes play, Mount Doom explodes with fiery red light, you die, and the credits roll. The end.
Ohhh-kay. Maybe that was the bad ending. Let’s reload a save and pick option 2…
Same. Exact. Cut scenes. Except Mount Doom’s explosion is green. What?
Alright… umm… let’s check #3…
Nope. Mount Doom’s explosion is Blue. That’s it.
And, absolutely inexplicably, every single one of these cut scenes shows Gandalf, Aragorn, and SAMWISE escaping the explosion on one of the eagles and crash-landing somewhere in Lorien where they all pat themselves on the back and watch the sun set together.
What? But… Sam was with you. Aragorn and Gandalf… did they start running away halfway through the last fight at the Black Gate? Your boys abandoned you?
So, given this example, it’s possible — even for someone who didn’t play Mass Effect — to understand the fan’s reaction. The ending has no real connection to the rest of the story; barring the last scene and one conversation with an unnamed Nazgul in Book 3, it would lift right out with no one even noticing. It completely takes away your choices at the end of a game about making world-altering choices. It effectively destroys the Middle Earth that you were fighting for 100 hours of gameplay to preserve — no magic? Maybe a completely wiped out dwarven race? No one can travel anywhere without painstakingly rebuilding roads for a couple hundred years and replacing horses with something else? Also, no matter what, no matter how much ass you kick, you’re dead? Yeah. No thanks, man.
And that’s not even paying attention to stuff like how (and why) Sam and Gandalf and Strider ran away at the end. I mean… even if you’re going to do a shitty twist ending, don’t be so goddamn lazy about it. Don’t sit there and claim that criticism of the ending is an attack on your artistic product, because frankly that ending is full of holes and needs a rewrite and probably two more chapters to flesh out. (More on that in a bit.)
So… that’s where the Mass Effect franchise was after ME3 came out. A lot of confusion. A lot of rage. Some protests of a very interesting sort, where the gamers against the terrible ending decided to draw attention to the issue by raising something like seventy-thousand bucks for geek-related charities.
Now, let’s go a bit deeper.
Let’s continue with this Lord of the Rings video game analogy. Let’s say that after a bit of digging, people realized that Tolkien actually left the company to work on other projects before the game was complete. He wrote up a detailed outline, though; something that clearly spelled out exactly how the main arc of the story was supposed to play out, in broad strokes, basically laying out what we would expect the ending to be, pretty much.
But Tolkien left. So they get another guy in. Someone else who’s written stuff about some kind of powerful ring…
They get Steven R. Donaldson.
(Those of you who know me and my history with the Thomas Covenant books can guess that this analogy is not going to be a positive one, because seriously: fuck Thomas Covenant.)
So they get this Donaldson guy in to helm the end of the series, and it turns out he’s the guy who comes up with the Tom Bombadil, fuck-the-continuity-of-the-series ending.
Why? Maybe he’s pissed about being the second choice. Maybe he’s not getting paid enough to give a fuck. Maybe he just really wants to do this kind of story, but can’t be arsed to write a series of his own for which it makes sense. Maybe the original ending outlined by Tolkien got leaked on a forum the year before the last game came out, so people decided it had to be changed, even if the alternative makes no sense. I don’t know.
What I do know is the there was a different ending written out for the Mass Effect series, the short version of which is that the Big Reveal in ME3 is that the Mass Effect itself — the magical black-box technology that allows interstellar travel and powers a ton of other things from weapons to expensive toothbrushes — is causing a constant increase in dark energy in the galaxy, and that’s causing all kinds of bad things (like the accelerated death of stars).
The Mass Effect — you know, the thing from which the name of the series is derived — is the secret behind the Big Reveal. Who would have thought?
So, in the end of the game-as-envisioned, you’re given a choice of saving the galaxy by sacrificing the human race (making humanity into a biomechanical, synthetic-life, communal-intelligence “Reaper” that can stop the Dark Energy decay), or telling the Reapers to screw themselves and trying to fix the problem on your own (with a handful of centuries left before the Dark Energy thing snowballs and grows out of control on its own).
Which, in a word, would have been better. Certainly FAR better than some kind of stupid Tom Bombadil/Star Child explanation where we are told that the (synthetic AI) Reapers destroy advanced organic civilizations every 50 thousand years to prevent organic civilizations from… being destroyed by synthetic AIs.
Now we don’t just have some gamer complaints about the terrible ending, we have a demonstrably better ending that was actually supposed to be the one implemented. Complicates things, doesn’t it?
But Why All the Hate?
The simple fact of the matter is that Mass Effect is a story, and it’s a very good story — in my opinion, it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever experienced. People can hem and haw about what constitutes a story — about whether a game can really be a story if people can play it — as though a story is only a story if it’s spoken or written or projected up on a movie screen. That’s like saying a person is only a person if they walk or ride a horse or drive a car… because we all know the vehicle in which the subject is conveyed changes that subject’s inherent nature.
Some people say it’s not a real story because the player’s choices can alter it. I think they’re full of crap, and I say the proof of its power as a story is right there in the story-pudding — it affects me as a story does — and that’s all the criteria met. Walks like duck, quacks like duck, therefore duck.
But the problem (if you’re BioWare) is that human beings understand stories; we know how they’re supposed to work, thanks to thousands of years of cultural training. Mass Effect (until that conclusion) is a nigh-perfect example of how a story is done correctly, thanks in part to the medium, which allows (if you’ll permit me the slaughter of a few sacred cows) a level of of immersion and connection beyond what a book or movie or any other storytelling medium up to this point in our cultural history can match, because of the fact that you can actively take part in that story from the inside. Heresy? Fine, brand me a heretic; that’s how I see it.
And since it’s such a good story, people know how the thing is supposed to proceed, and they know how it should end.
You start out in ME1 trying to stop a bad guy, Saren. He’s the guy who gets us moving (because he’s a bad guy, and that’s what they do — bad guys act, and heroes react to that and move the story along). As we try to stop him, we find out there’s something bigger going on than just a rogue cop on a rampage. The picture keeps getting bigger, the stakes keep getting higher, and we keep getting our motivation and our level of commitment tested. Are we willing to sacrifice our personal life? Yes? Okay, will we sacrifice one of our friends? Yes? Okay, how about the leaders of the current galactic government? Yes? Okay…
It goes on like that. You fucking invest, is what I’m saying, and that’s just in the first game.
In the second game, the fight continues, as we have merely blunted the point of the spear, not stopped the attack. Our choices in ME1 had consequences, and we start to see them play out, for better or worse. Meanwhile, we’re trying to stop Evil Plan #2, in a suicide mission that could literally cost us nearly every single friend we’ve made. In the end, we get the joy of victory mixed with the sadness of the loss of those who didn’t make it, and it’s all good, because it’s a strong, healthy, enjoyable emotional release.
And now it’s ME3, and the stakes are even higher. We’re not recruiting more individual allies — we’re recruiting whole peoples — whole civilizations. Planets are falling. Worlds are being erased.
In the words of Harbinger, this hurts you.
Why? Because you know these people who are dying. You’ve spent over a hundred hours traveling this setting, meeting people, helping them, learning about each of their little stories; building relationships with, literally, hundreds of individuals. Every one of these planets going up in flames has a face (even if it’s a face behind a breathmask), and no one falls in this final story that wasn’t important in some way to you or someone you know.
(By contrast, the enemy is faceless and (since the reapers harvest your former allies and force them into monstrous templates) largely indistinguishable from one another — as it should be in this kind of story. You do not care about a Husk, though you might mourn the person killed to create the thing.)
In short, you aren’t just playing this game to get the high score. You’re fighting for this galaxy of individuals you’ve grown very, very attached to; to protect it and, as much as you can, preserve it. You’ve spent several hours every day on this, for months. It matters.
"Hard to imagine galaxy. Too many People. Faceless. Statistics. Easy to depersonalize. Good when doing unpleasant work. For this fight, want personal connection. Can't anthropomorphize galaxy. But can think of favorite nephew. Fighting for him."
(Best of all, you get to shoot bad guys in the face while you’re doing it, which takes this heavy topic and makes it engaging at that level as well. It’s like soaking up all the gravitas of Schindler’s List while enjoying the BFG-toting action of Castle Wolfenstein at the same time.)
The end comes. We talk to all our friends. Everyone’s wearing their brave face, talking about what they’re going to do afterwards, which beach they’re going to retire on. You start to think that maybe the end is in sight and maybe, just maybe, you might even be able to see some of that ending.
The last big conflict starts. You fight some unkillable things and kill them. You face off against an old nemesis and finally end him.
And then…
And then you’re given three choices, none of which result in anything any different from the others, and none of which have consequences that have any connection to the goals we’ve been working on for the last hundred hours or so.
Those people you were just talking to? They’re gone. Or stranded on an alien world. Or dead. All those planets you helped? They’re gone too — cut off, or starving, or maybe just destroyed in manufactured super-novas. Nothing you did or accomplished in the last three games actually matters — it’s all been wiped out by one of three (red, green, or blue) RESET buttons you pushed, because pushing one of those buttons was the only ‘choice’ given to you at the end.
As a species, trained for thousands of years in the way stories work, we know this is a bad ending. Not “tragic”. Just bad. Poor.
This isn’t about a bunch of priviledged gamers complaining about a sad ending, because there are well-done sad endings that make contextual sense.
This is about a mechanical ending to the game that doesn’t end the story — that provides no emotional release — one so disassociated from the previous 99% of the story that the fans of the series collectively hope it will later be revealed to be a dream (or, in the context of the setting, a final Reaper Indoctrination attempt).
Dear writers: If you create something, and your readers hope that what you just gave them was, in reality, an “it was a dream all along” ending, because that would be better than what you wrote, you seriously. fucked. up.
Is the ending, as an ending (taken out of context with the game we’ve been playing), a bad one? No. It’s an interesting theme that was explored extensively in a B-plot within the series and which could certainly be the central thread of a series of its own.
But it’s not the ending of this story. Our goals — the one we’ve been fighting for — are never addressed. There is no closure, either happy or sad — we want our emotional release as it relates to the game we actually played. Maybe that means tragedy at our own stupid hands — maybe victory wrested from the biomechanical jaws of defeat (and at the cost of a greater looming danger ahead).
The ending we got? It didn’t make me angry or sad or happy. It left me unfulfilled, because it ended the game talking about something I didn’t actually care about, and left me waiting for that emotional release that ME1 or ME2 pulled off so well.
The idea that the player’s should just deal with the ending, because it’s Bioware’s ending and not theirs is one of the interesting points in this debate, simply because it rides this weird line where we don’t really have a cultural context for what the Mass Effect series is: Is it a game? Is it a story? If if it’s a game, then who cares about the story, and if it’s a story, then treat it like a book and stop pretending you get to influence it, stupid consumer.
The answer is more complicated: Is it a game or story? Yes. Moreover, it’s a game that’s welcomed player input into the narrative from the first moment, and as such, should be committed to honoring that input throughout. It’s a story, but it belongs to everyone telling it.
But It’s Art! There’s a recurring tune being played by Bioware in response to this outcry, and it goes something like this: “We might respond to these complaints, and we might flesh out the ending we presented, but we’re not going to change anything, because this is art — this is the product of artists — and as such it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces.”
Which is, speaking as a working artist, complete and utter horseshit.
If you make a movie, and you put in front of focus groups, and they categorically hate the ending, you change it. If you’re writing a book and your first readers tell you the ending is terrible, you fix it. (Ditto your second readers, your second-draft readers, your agent, your editor, your copy editor.)
Or maybe you don’t — maybe you say “this is art, and it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces”, which is certainly your choice — but don’t expect anyone to help you bring that piece of crap to print.
Anyone can tell a story. You can sit in your special writing nook and turn out page after page of perfectly unaltered, immutable art and be quite happy — you’re welcome to, in fact.
But when you decide you want to make a living off it? Even if you want to just make a little spending money?
Then the rules change. Then it’s work. Then it’s a job. More importantly, then it’s part of a business model, and those golden days of your art being inviolate and immutable blah blah blah are well and truly behind you. Name me a story that saw print, or a movie that saw the Big Screen, and I’ll show you art that changed because of input from someone other than the the original creator — from someone looking at it from the point of view of the consumer.
Bioware is a company. Making their stories into games is their business model. Hiding behind some kind of “but it’s art, so we’re not changing it” defense is insulting, disingenuous, and flat-out stupid. Worse, it perpetuates the idea that the creator’s output is in some stupid way sancrosant and, as art, cannot be “wrong” or “bad”. If you as a creator imagine that to be the case — if you think that kind of argument is going to defend your right to never do a rewrite or a revision or line edits or to ever alter, in any way, your precious Artistic Process — discard that notion.
Or become accustomed to a long life as an “undiscovered talent”.
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alyssaallyrion · 9 hours ago
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Title: the course of true love (never did run smooth)
Rating: M
Summary: A soulmate AU in which Itachi and Shisui aren’t soulmates, but love, as usual, finds a way. 
Written for ShisuIta Week 2021 Day 4 Prompt: Soulmate AU
ao3 link 
Chapter 1
Itachi feels the ground under his back – a sudden pain of fall resonating through his body, knocking the air out of his lungs. Wincing, he opens his eyes and draws in a sharp breath. Shisui is over him, the red of his eyes slowly fading to black.
“Looks like I win again,” Shisui says, “Are you alright?”
“Yes,” Itachi lies – he’s still a little dizzy from the fall, “One more match?”
“I don’t know about you,” Shisui smiles brightly, “But I most certainly need a break. Not all of us can be as relentless as you.”
Shisui leans forward, offering Itachi a hand to help him up. With a sigh, Itachi grips Shisui’s forearm firmly, letting Shisui heave him to his feet.
“Let’s get some water,” Shisui offers.
Itachi hums absent-mindedly, distracted by the way Shisui’s hot skin feels under his palm. Suddenly coming to his senses, Itachi realizes that his hand has lingered longer than it should and instantly releases his grip on Shisui’s arm, feeling the heat rise in his cheeks.
In truth, Itachi too could use a break – they’ve been sparring for hours now, since the early morning – but Itachi has always felt an almost painful need to show Shisui that he can keep up with him.
Itachi wipes his forehead with the backside of his hand, wicking away the sweat. Summer has finally come to Konoha, filling the air with warmth and light. Training on the hot days was harder but necessary – years of serving in the ANBU have taught Itachi that being prepared for any conditions is essential to the survival and the success of the mission.
Itachi and Shisui walk to the posts on the edge of the training fields, where they left their belongings. Picking up his water flask, Itachi takes a large sip. The water is warm, having sat out in the sun all day, but it still feels refreshing.
“Your last move was excellent,” Shisui smiles, wiping his mouth with his hand, “I barely dodged it. Who knows, maybe with a little more practice, you’ll be able to get me one of these days.”
“Are you afraid?” Itachi chuckles, taking another sip of water.
“I should be, shouldn’t I?” Shisui laughs softly, “You are a genius after all.”
Itachi rolls his eyes and brings the flask to his lips again.
“Itachi, hold still for a moment,” Shisui says suddenly, “You have leaves in your hair.”
Itachi hardly needs Shisui’s help, but he likes Shisui’s touch, so he does as he’s told. Shisui runs his fingers deftly through Itachi’s hair, making a quick work of the offending leaves. Itachi almost regrets that there aren’t more of them so that he could feel Shisui’s touch for longer.
“There you go,” Shisui smiles, pulling his hand away.
“Thank you,” Itachi murmurs softly.
“Oh, I’ve almost forgotten,” Shisui says, closing his water flask. Reaching into his bag that rests on the ground, Shisui produces a small, rectangular box, “I’ve got you these.”
A smile blooms on Itachi’s lips as he realizes that Shisui has gotten him sweets from his favorite dessert shop in the village.
“Why did you get me sweets?” Itachi frowns, accepting the gift.
“It’s almost your birthday,” Shisui grins widely.
“My birthday isn’t for another week,” Itachi protests as he unwraps the ribbon.
“That’s true,” Shisui shrugs, then meets Itachi’s gaze, “Maybe I just like to see you smile.”
Itachi hopes that the color brought to his face by hours of sparring is bright enough to hide the blush rising in his cheeks. As he opens the box, he’s almost overwhelmed with the lovely smell. He wants to try the sweets so bad, but he knows he can’t just yet – the hour’s getting late, and Itachi had promised his mother that he and Shisui will be home in time for dinner.
“It’s too bad it’s almost dinner time,” Itachi sighs, looking wistfully at the sweets.
“I won’t tell if you won’t,” Shisui smiles mischievously.
Itachi glances between his best friend and the sweets in the box. The temptation is too much to resist.
“You’ll have to eat some too then,” Itachi says, “Just so you’re also implicated.”
“You really thought this through,” Shisui laughs as Itachi offers him the sweets.
Itachi cannot help but smile as he tries the candies – they are delicious and taste of sweet cherry and vanilla. Itachi has always had quite the sweet tooth – if it were up to him, he could likely eat his weight in sweets. Itachi wants to thank Shisui for getting him the candies, but when he glances up at him, the words die on his lips as his breath hitches in his throat.
Shisui’s mouth is sticky sweet from the sugary glaze coating the candies. Itachi watches, mesmerized, as his tongue darts out to collect the sweetness, unfamiliar yearning rising in his chest.
Then Shisui shifts and the spell is broken. Itachi shakes his head, chasing away the strange feeling. <em>What has come over him?</em>
The sun is setting slowly over the village, painting the sky red and orange. Itachi doesn’t want to walk home – the exhaustion from having spent the day sparring finally catching up with him – but he knows that his mother will be cross with them if they are late.
“We should go,” Itachi says, “It’s almost time for dinner.”
Shisui doesn’t argue.
They collect their belongings, then take the short way to Itachi’s house. The Uchiha compound is quiet in the early evening hours – most people are at home having dinner with their families before bursting back out onto the streets to enjoy a warm summer night.
They walk side by side through the streets of the compound, and Itachi feels at ease – as he usually does when Shisui is by his side. When Shisui looks at him, he doesn’t see the clan heir or the ANBU captain or a genius shinobi – he only sees him, Itachi.  
“I wonder what your mother has made,” Shisui says, distracting Itachi from his thoughts, “But then again, all her cooking is amazing.”
“You know,” Itachi looks over to Shisui, “You might be my mother’s favorite dinner guest – I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone as enthusiastic about her food.”
“Well then they must not understand anything about good food,” Shisui replies easily, “Homemade meals prepared with love are always the best!”
There is a wistful expression on Shisui’s face, and Itachi’s heart clenches. Shisui is an orphan – both his parents died when he was really young. <em>He must miss them so…</em> For all Itachi’s issues with his father, he is really grateful to have a family.
To distract Shisui from his thoughts, Itachi nudges him lightly.
“Maybe you should get married then,” he says, teasingly, “If you pick right, you could get all the homecooked meals you want.”
“And devastate half of Konoha?” Shisui laughs, glancing at him, “Such a cruel suggestion, Itachi.”
He knows that Shisui’s joking, and, yet, Itachi’s heart drops at his words – with Shisui’s good looks and charming personality, it was little wonder that so many were smitten with him. He knows he has no right to feel this way, and still, he cannot help it – he hates the thought of Shisui with someone else.
They turn the corner and find themselves outside of Itachi’s home.
“Itachi, is that you?” his mother calls from the kitchen as soon as they enter the house.
“Yes, mother,” Itachi responds as he and Shisui take off their shoes and head to the kitchen.
Mikoto’s standing by the stove, somehow tending to three different pots at the same time.
“Hello Shisui,” his mother smiles, glancing over her shoulder, “You two came just in time – the dinner is almost ready. You better be hungry – I’ve made way too much food or three people.”
“Very are famished and very excited for the food,” Shisui replies easily, earning an even brighter smile from Mikoto.
While Itachi’s father has always been somewhat apprehensive around Shisui, realizing, perhaps, that his primary loyalty was to the village rather than to the clan, his mother has always adored him.
“Is Sasuke not here tonight?” Itachi asks, frowning.
“He’s over at Kushina’s house,” Mikoto shrugs, “With Naruto.”
Itachi smiles – it’s good that Sasuke has friends his age.
“Do you need help with anything?” Shisui asks Mikoto.
“Just carry these to the table,” Mikoto nods at the few platters resting on the counter next to her.
They do as they are told.
The dinner goes well, and, as his mother recounts a story from her days as a kunoichi in response to Shisui’s amusing tale from the recent mission, Itachi finds himself wishing they’d have evenings like this more often.
“Itachi,” his mother says softly, distracting him from his thoughts, “You are unusually quiet today.”
“I’m just a little tired,” Itachi shrugs.
“I can only imagine,” Mikoto frowns, “You have been out training since the early morning without any rest. Training is important – but you two should take better care of yourself!”
Shisui shoots him a glance that can only mean, “I tell you that all the time.” Itachi rolls his eyes at him, saying without words, “Look who’s talking.”
They help Mikoto clear the table after dinner. Itachi lingers in the kitchen with his mother for a moment as Shisui heads back to the dining room to get more plates. Once Itachi puts cups into the cupboard, he turns around and notices his mother look at him intently.
“Mother, is something wrong?” Itachi asks, confused.
“No,” Mikoto shakes her head, “Not at all. It’s just that time flies so fast. I feel like only yesterday you were a tiny child in my arms, but not you are almost a man grown. To think that you are turning sixteen in a week – old enough to get your soulmate mark…”
“Mother,” Itachi interrupts her instantly.
Smile leaves Mikoto’s features, replaced by a concerned expression.
“Right,” she says, “I’m sorry.”
Itachi doesn’t want to talk about soulmates – especially not around Shisui. Everyone in the village had their soulmate mark appear on their sixteenth birthday, but, somehow, in a cruel twist of fate, Shisui never got one. Itachi always thought this unfair – Shisui was an incredible person and deserved to be loved.
Itachi remembers the day of Shisui’s sixteenth birthday all too well. Shisui was supposed to return from the mission late that night, but Itachi’s heart was fluttering with nervous anticipation, and he realized that he could not wait till the morning to see him. Instead, he got Shisui’s favorite cake and went to his apartment to wait for him there.
Time stretched slowly, and it was well past midnight when he’d finally heard the front door open. When he saw Shisui, Itachi felt a lump in his throat – his friend looked utterly exhausted, and there was a strange sadness in his gaze. Itachi’s never seen him look like that.
The instant Shisui’s eyes fell upon Itachi, his face lit up.
“Itachi!” he exclaimed, “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to be the first one to wish you happy birthday,” Itachi smiled at him.
It wasn’t technically Shisui’s birthday anymore since it was well past midnight, but Itachi thought it was close enough.
“Thank you,” Shisui breathed out, walking over to Itachi and pulling him in for a hug. Itachi’s heart fluttered in his throat as he buried his face in Shisui’s chest. Only one question was burning in his mind, but somehow, Itachi couldn’t find the courage to ask.
The thought of Shisui having someone else’s name on his skin burned his heart. Back then, he thought it was because they were close friends – after all, it was not uncommon for people who have just found their soulmates to spend time with them and neglect other people in their lives, at least for a while. Itachi always loved spending time with Shisui, so the thought of being apart from him was painful. It took too long for Itachi to realize that this wasn’t mere jealousy of a friend – that he’d been in love with Shisui all those years.
Once he had let Itachi go, Shisui headed to the shower, as he usually did after the mission. Afterward, they settled at his kitchen table and ate the cake Itachi brought. Itachi noticed a deep, fresh scar running up Shisui’s forearm, and his breath hitched in his throat – so close to the artery, it’s good that they had a medic on their team.
Itachi looked Shisui in the face, the question burning on the tip of his tongue. Finally, he could not handle the uncertainty any longer.
“So…” Itachi started slowly, “Have you…?”
Shisui met his gaze calmly, then smiled.
“No,” he shrugged, “I didn’t. Looks like I don’t have one.”
Itachi looked at him in stunned silence. Shisui’s tone was so casual that it seemed he was talking about the weather and not about not having a soulmate. Itachi felt conflicted – a part of him was overcome with sadness for his friend, but another, selfish part, was almost relieved. There was another feeling niggling at Itachi’s heart that he could not yet– now he knows it was the anguish of not being Shisui’s soulmate.  
The next few days passed in a strange haze – Itachi was both terrified and hopeful that the mark could still appear. But days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, then years, and Shisui still never got a soulmate mark.
People were, of course, surprised and sympathetic – it was almost unheard of for someone to never receive their soulmate mark. Shisui was the pride and joy of their clan, and everyone was waiting with bated breath to find out who his soulmate was, and, when it turned out he didn’t have one…People haven’t looked at him the same.
It always angered Itachi – to him, Shisui was the most incredible person. What did it matter if there was no soulmate mark on his skin?
Dread rises in Itachi’s chest at the thought of his own fast-approaching birthday. Ever since he learned that Shisui didn’t have a soulmate, he has hoped that he, too, won’t get a soulmate mark. He didn’t need a soulmate mark to tell him who to love – for so many years, he’s only loved Shisui, only wanted Shisui. And Itachi would never let some stupid mark change the way he feels.
The thought of someone else’s name on his skin makes bile rise in Itachi’s throat. He wants to be with Shisui - or no one at all. He knows that Shisui – his selfless Shisui – will never be with him if he got someone else’s name, all in a misguided attempt to make Itachi happy. But what if being with Shisui is all Itachi ever wanted?
Itachi pushes the thoughts away – there is nothing he can do now, with his birthday still a week away. His exhaustion finally catches up with him, making him dizzy. His mother notices immediately and shoos Shisui and him upstairs to sleep.
They part at the top of the stairs – Itachi heads to his own room and Shisui to the guest quarters. When they were younger, they used to sleep in the same room whenever Shisui stayed over, but with time Itachi’s parents thought it more proper that each had their own space.
In his room, Itachi switches into his sleeping clothes and crawls into his bed. He’s exhausted, yet somehow, sleep doesn’t come. Despite the warm day, his bed feels cold, and he keeps twisting and turning, trying to find a comfortable position. Itachi gives up with a sigh, then gets out of bed and heads out of his room.
He knows he shouldn’t do this – not now that he’s realized that he has feelings for Shisui, but he cannot stop himself. Not when sleeping in Shisui’s arms always felt so safe and comfortable. He wonders briefly if it’s improper but pushes the thoughts away – when he and Shisui are together, nothing ever feels wrong.
Itachi finally reaches the guestroom and opens the door quietly. Shisui is lying on the futon, fast asleep, his curls strewn across the pillow, his mouth slightly open.
“Shisui,” Itachi murmurs, stepping into the room.
Shisui shifts slightly then opens his eyes.
“Itachi,” he whispers, voice hoarse, “Can’t sleep?”
“Yeah,” Itachi nods, then gestures at the futon, “Can I…?”
“Of course,” Shisui smiles, moving to the side, “Just don’t poke me with your elbow again.”
Itachi scoffs, crawling into the bed next to Shisui. They’ve grown quite a bit in the recent years – once upon a time, this futon was big enough for both of them to sprawl out without touching, but now they end up pressed close together. The warmth radiating from Shisui makes Itachi’s skin tingle as he shifts closer, leaning against Shisui’s side.
As soon as Itachi’s head touches the pillow, he starts to drift off.
“Comfortable?” he hears Shisui whisper against the crown of his head.
“Yes,” Itachi mumbles sleepily, “I wish it was always just the two of us.”
“Well, I’m not going anywhere,” Shisui replies softly.
With that, Itachi finally falls asleep.
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misscakepop · 19 hours ago
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Objects Alive Chapter 7: Day of the Living Math Homework
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A few days had passed since the museum robbery, and Loser still hadn’t been found. Aside from that, Lacey was coping well with her new abilities, using them to help objects in whatever ways she could. Meanwhile, Oak was experimenting with the magic that brought objects to life, wanting to know more about how it worked.
“You sure you should be doing all these experiments?” Lollipop asked. “It might lead to something bad…”
“Exactly. The worse, the better it gets!” Oak could get extremely reckless sometimes.
Lollipop sighed. “This can only end in tears.” She glanced over at a sheet of paper on Oak’s desk. “Shouldn’t you be doing your homework?”
“I’ll just do it later, the math is way too easy anyways.” he replied. One of the questions was 4 x 0, and that one didn’t take a genius to figure out. Suddenly, Oak had an idea and stared at the problem on the sheet.
“What if I could bring numbers to life?” he pondered. Lollipop looked doubtful.
“Come on, would that really work?” she said doubtfully.
“Well that’s why experiments happen, Lolli.” Oak replied while grabbing a blank piece of paper and drawing a 4 on it. “And I’ll make sure it has more than a stick body if it does.” He proceeded to grab some blue paint and mix it with the liquefied magic, using it to color in the 4. He then repeated this process, but this time with an X he colored yellow.
For a second Oak doubted that this would result in what he wanted, as it was more likely for the paper itself to be brought to life. Then, to his delight and Lollipop’s shock, the number and letter started popping off the page, gaining arms, legs and finally faces. When it was all over the 4 and the X were standing upright, though they still looked 2D.
“Wow! It worked!” Oak exclaimed, amazed that his random idea had actually garnered this result. The other objects in the room stared in shock and awe.
“Where are we?” asked the X in a high-pitched voice. The 4 turned their attention towards Oak.
“Hello, human!” said the 4. “Thanks for bringing us both to life!”
Gelatin was so terrified by these strange beings that he raised up a fork he’d been holding and threw it at the 4. The number barely felt it, and responded by shooting a bolt of electricity at Gelatin, stunning him.
Oak was almost speechless. “I have to show you guys to Lacey!”
---
When Oak visited Lacey’s apartment, she was not prepared for what he brought along with him. She stared in confusion at Four and X, unable to believe that Oak had actually brought a number and a letter to life. It made her wonder what else this life-giving magic worked on.
Lacey’s objects observed Four with caution, having been told what Four did to Gelatin. None of them wanted to be on the receiving end of his zapping. Lacey herself was kind of freaked out about Four’s lightning ability.
“How did he get the power to shoot lightning?” she asked Oak.
“Good question. I don’t even know how that happened, though it’s probably something to do with recessive traits again,” he replied.
Lacey didn’t think this made any sense, but she just rolled with it. She then pointed to X and asked, “Does X have any powers?”
“Let me try!” X held out his hand and tried to replicate Four’s zapping, but nothing happened. He drooped a bit. “Drat. Maybe I’ll learn.”
Just then, Naomi came into the room. Lacey hadn’t expected her to see anything out of the ordinary, but her sister gave a huge gasp. “Are those living cartoon characters?” She pointed at Four and X.
Oak whipped his head to face her, eyes wide. He was speechless at the thought that she could see them as well.
“Hello!” X waved at her while Lacey was starting to panic.
“Oh no. Oh no. Naomi, please leave and forget you saw this!”
“But I wanna play with them!” Naomi protested.
“Naomi, you really shouldn’t get too close to them, especially the blue one!” Lacey warned.
Oak had an idea. “You’re dreaming… go back to bed…” he tried fooling Naomi, but she wasn’t having it.
Naomi crossed her arms. “You really think I’ll believe that?” Four giggled at this.
“It was worth a shot.” Oak replied.
“How’d you get these cartoons?” asked Naomi, inching closer despite Lacey’s warning.
“Oak brought us to life!” answered X. “With the same magic that brings objects to life!” Lacey facepalmed. X just had to let that slip, didn’t he?
“Wait a second…” Oak reached and grabbed the fork that was still stuck inside of Four, who didn’t even flinch. “How’d that fork get stuck in him?” Naomi asked. X started to say something, before Oak interrupted.
“We have to go!” Oak suddenly exclaimed.
As Oak shoved Four and X inside of his bag and started to leave, Naomi still had a lot of questions. “There’s magic that brings objects to life? Where are the living objects?”
Oak thought for a second. “Wait here.” Then he rushed out of the house, leaving his bag behind. Lacey and Naomi watched him leave, curious as to what he was planning. Four and X wriggled out of the bag, and X slipped out of Four’s sight and opened the window. Seeing the wonders of the outside, he decided to sneak out to explore a bit.
X went past Flower, who immediately got Lacey’s attention. “Lacey! X escaped!”
Lacey’s eyes widened. “Naomi, stay here and don’t do anything to upset Four!” She ran outside to find X, hoping nobody else would see him.
(Chapter 6)
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unfortunatelyme · a day ago
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I had this bathroom shelf laying around cause I didn’t have the energy to read the manual and then put it somewhere but then I was like just fucking do it now you will feel better even if you don’t think so. So first of all I put the adhesive tape on the wall instead of the shelf cause I don’t have the patience and concentration for the manual but I didn’t know if the glue should stick to the wall and then I was overwhelmed with the manual drawings I mean they are always confusing gets me so mad sometimes and I was about to just give up but it’s a stupid simple manual so I read it again and got it and then I put the glue on and I smeared with my fucking bare fingers on there cause it came out of sack not a stick like the manual was showing so I had this strong glue all over my hands and then I finally put the shelf on the wall … upside down… it was funny looking at it I tried ripping it off again but it was so stuck lol I was considering leaving it like that but I would be so annoyed so I ripped it off forcefully after trying to get the glue off my hands before it dries and quickly put it on the right side hopefully it will hold up lol
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doycetopia · 9 years ago
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Mass Effect, Tolkien, and Your Bullshit Artistic Process
It may seem a bit odd that I’m posting this here rather than on my gaming-related blog, since it is about the Mass Effect game series and other related geekery. I debated where I should post it, but ultimately this is about writing as much or more than it’s about gaming, so here it is. Everything that follows is my opinion and, further, is infested with spoilers for both the Mass Effect series and, I suppose, The Lord of the Rings. Reader beware.
In late February, I said (on twitter) that I thought the Mass Effect universe was probably the most important science fiction of a generation.
Since then, the executive producer for Mass Effect 3 has been working tirelessly to get me to retract that statement.
If you follow gaming news at all, you’ll already know that there have been great clouds of dust kicked over this particular story — the gist of it is that Mass Effect was brought to a conclusion with the release of Mass Effect 3 (note: not brought to its conclusion, just brought to a conclusion — more on that later), and while 99% of the game was the same top-notch, engaging, tear-inducing stuff that we’ve come to expect, the last five minutes or so is a steaming, Hersey’s Kiss-sized dollop of dog shit that you are forced to ingest at the conclusion of the meal, like a mint, before they let you out the door.
It’s fair to say that it’s soured many players’ impression of the experience as a whole.
Now, I realize that many of the folks reading this may not have played through the Mass Effect series. First of all, that’s really too bad, because it is very, very good both in terms of play (which steadily improves from game to game) and story (barring one steaming exception) and (I think) completely worth the time.
But secondly, I’d like to keep you non-ME people involved in the conversation, so I’m going to draw a comparison that I think most anyone likely to visit here will understand, so that we can all proceed with reasonable understanding of the issues.
Let’s pretend for a moment that The Lord of the Rings was released not as a series of books, but a series of games. More importantly, the company behind the series decided to do something really hard but rewarding with the game — they were going to let you make decisions during play that substantively altered the elements of the story. That means that some of people playing through this Lord of the Rings story would end up with a personal game experience that was pretty much exactly like the one you and I all remember from reading the books, but that story is just sort of the default. Whole forums were filled up by fans of the series comparing notes on their versions of the game, with guides on how to get into a romantic relationship with Arwen (the obvious one), Eowyn (more difficult, as you have to go without any kind of romance option through the whole first game, but considered by many to be far more rewarding), or even Legolas (finally released as DLC for the third game).
And that’s certainly not all of possible permutations. Some players actually managed to save Boromir (though he leaves the party regardless, but gets you a whole extra army in the third game if he’s alive, and makes Denethor much less of a pain in the ass to deal with). Some folks don’t split up the party, and spend most of the game recruiting supporters through the South and North, from Aughaire down to Dol Imren. For some, Gimli dies at Helms Deep; for others only Merry escapes into Fangorn (which makes recruiting the Ents all but impossible). Hell, there are even a few weirdos who chose NOT to recruit Samwise back at the beginning of the story, and actually play through the whole first game without him (though the writers reintroduce him as a non-optional party member once you get ready to leave Lothlorien).
And what about the players who rolled the main character as a female? That changes a LOT of stuff, as you might well imagine. (Though, thankfully, all the dialogue options with Legolas are the same.)
Are you with me so far?
Okay, so you’re playing through this game — you’ve played through parts 1 and 2 several times, in fact, sometimes as a goody-two-shoes, and sometimes as a total bad-ass. You’ve got a version of the game where you’re with Arwen, one with Eowyn, one with Legolas, and one where you focus on Frodo and his subtle hand-holding bromance with Sam. You’re ready for Part Three, is what I’m saying, and out it comes.
And it’s awesome. You finally bring lasting alliance between Rohan and Gondor, you form a fragile-yet-believable peace between elves and dwarves, and even manage to recruit a significant strike-force of old Moria orcs who don’t so much like you as much as they just hate the johnny-come-lately Uruk-hai.
The final chapters open. You face down Saruman (who pretended to fund all your efforts through the second book, but then turned on you at the end of the Two Towers), which was really satisfying. You crawl up to the top of Mount Doom, collapse against a rock, and have a really touching heart to heart with Sam. It’s over. You know you have all your scores high enough to destroy the One Ring with no crisis of conscious and no lame “Gollum bit off my finger and then falls in the lava” ending, like the one you saw on the fanfic forums last year.
And then out comes this glowing figure from behind a rock, and it’s… Tom Bombadil.
And Tom explains your options.
Oh, and you're totally going to die too. And all the roads and horses throughout all of middle earth vanish. And by the way did you know that Sauron and the Nazgul all actually just work for Bombadil? True story.
Now, let’s just ignore the fact that the company behind this game has been quoted many times as saying that the game will end with no less than sixteen different endings, to honor all the various ways the story could go, and focus on these three options.
None of them have anything to do with destroying the ring, do they?
Has ‘destroying the ring’ (alternately, destroying Sauron) been pretty much THE THING you’ve been working toward the whole game? Yeah, it has. In fact, it mentions “Rings” right there in the title of the series, doesn’t it? Rather seems to make The Ring a bit of a banner item, doesn’t it?
But no, none of these options are about the Ring; they’re about one of the b-plots in the series, and one which you pretty much already laid to rest a few chapters ago.
So… okay, maybe this isn’t the END ending, you think, and you pick one of the options…
And that’s it. A bunch of cut-scenes play, Mount Doom explodes with fiery red light, you die, and the credits roll. The end.
Ohhh-kay. Maybe that was the bad ending. Let’s reload a save and pick option 2…
Same. Exact. Cut scenes. Except Mount Doom’s explosion is green. What?
Alright… umm… let’s check #3…
Nope. Mount Doom’s explosion is Blue. That’s it.
And, absolutely inexplicably, every single one of these cut scenes shows Gandalf, Aragorn, and SAMWISE escaping the explosion on one of the eagles and crash-landing somewhere in Lorien where they all pat themselves on the back and watch the sun set together.
What? But… Sam was with you. Aragorn and Gandalf… did they start running away halfway through the last fight at the Black Gate? Your boys abandoned you?
So, given this example, it’s possible — even for someone who didn’t play Mass Effect — to understand the fan’s reaction. The ending has no real connection to the rest of the story; barring the last scene and one conversation with an unnamed Nazgul in Book 3, it would lift right out with no one even noticing. It completely takes away your choices at the end of a game about making world-altering choices. It effectively destroys the Middle Earth that you were fighting for 100 hours of gameplay to preserve — no magic? Maybe a completely wiped out dwarven race? No one can travel anywhere without painstakingly rebuilding roads for a couple hundred years and replacing horses with something else? Also, no matter what, no matter how much ass you kick, you’re dead? Yeah. No thanks, man.
And that’s not even paying attention to stuff like how (and why) Sam and Gandalf and Strider ran away at the end. I mean… even if you’re going to do a shitty twist ending, don’t be so goddamn lazy about it. Don’t sit there and claim that criticism of the ending is an attack on your artistic product, because frankly that ending is full of holes and needs a rewrite and probably two more chapters to flesh out. (More on that in a bit.)
So… that’s where the Mass Effect franchise was after ME3 came out. A lot of confusion. A lot of rage. Some protests of a very interesting sort, where the gamers against the terrible ending decided to draw attention to the issue by raising something like seventy-thousand bucks for geek-related charities.
Now, let’s go a bit deeper.
Let’s continue with this Lord of the Rings video game analogy. Let’s say that after a bit of digging, people realized that Tolkien actually left the company to work on other projects before the game was complete. He wrote up a detailed outline, though; something that clearly spelled out exactly how the main arc of the story was supposed to play out, in broad strokes, basically laying out what we would expect the ending to be, pretty much.
But Tolkien left. So they get another guy in. Someone else who’s written stuff about some kind of powerful ring…
They get Steven R. Donaldson.
(Those of you who know me and my history with the Thomas Covenant books can guess that this analogy is not going to be a positive one, because seriously: fuck Thomas Covenant.)
So they get this Donaldson guy in to helm the end of the series, and it turns out he’s the guy who comes up with the Tom Bombadil, fuck-the-continuity-of-the-series ending.
Why? Maybe he’s pissed about being the second choice. Maybe he’s not getting paid enough to give a fuck. Maybe he just really wants to do this kind of story, but can’t be arsed to write a series of his own for which it makes sense. Maybe the original ending outlined by Tolkien got leaked on a forum the year before the last game came out, so people decided it had to be changed, even if the alternative makes no sense. I don’t know.
What I do know is the there was a different ending written out for the Mass Effect series, the short version of which is that the Big Reveal in ME3 is that the Mass Effect itself — the magical black-box technology that allows interstellar travel and powers a ton of other things from weapons to expensive toothbrushes — is causing a constant increase in dark energy in the galaxy, and that’s causing all kinds of bad things (like the accelerated death of stars).
The Mass Effect — you know, the thing from which the name of the series is derived — is the secret behind the Big Reveal. Who would have thought?
So, in the end of the game-as-envisioned, you’re given a choice of saving the galaxy by sacrificing the human race (making humanity into a biomechanical, synthetic-life, communal-intelligence “Reaper” that can stop the Dark Energy decay), or telling the Reapers to screw themselves and trying to fix the problem on your own (with a handful of centuries left before the Dark Energy thing snowballs and grows out of control on its own).
Which, in a word, would have been better. Certainly FAR better than some kind of stupid Tom Bombadil/Star Child explanation where we are told that the (synthetic AI) Reapers destroy advanced organic civilizations every 50 thousand years to prevent organic civilizations from… being destroyed by synthetic AIs.
Now we don’t just have some gamer complaints about the terrible ending, we have a demonstrably better ending that was actually supposed to be the one implemented. Complicates things, doesn’t it?
But Why All the Hate?
The simple fact of the matter is that Mass Effect is a story, and it’s a very good story — in my opinion, it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever experienced. People can hem and haw about what constitutes a story — about whether a game can really be a story if people can play it — as though a story is only a story if it’s spoken or written or projected up on a movie screen. That’s like saying a person is only a person if they walk or ride a horse or drive a car… because we all know the vehicle in which the subject is conveyed changes that subject’s inherent nature.
Some people say it’s not a real story because the player’s choices can alter it. I think they’re full of crap, and I say the proof of its power as a story is right there in the story-pudding — it affects me as a story does — and that’s all the criteria met. Walks like duck, quacks like duck, therefore duck.
But the problem (if you’re BioWare) is that human beings understand stories; we know how they’re supposed to work, thanks to thousands of years of cultural training. Mass Effect (until that conclusion) is a nigh-perfect example of how a story is done correctly, thanks in part to the medium, which allows (if you’ll permit me the slaughter of a few sacred cows) a level of of immersion and connection beyond what a book or movie or any other storytelling medium up to this point in our cultural history can match, because of the fact that you can actively take part in that story from the inside. Heresy? Fine, brand me a heretic; that’s how I see it.
And since it’s such a good story, people know how the thing is supposed to proceed, and they know how it should end.
You start out in ME1 trying to stop a bad guy, Saren. He’s the guy who gets us moving (because he’s a bad guy, and that’s what they do — bad guys act, and heroes react to that and move the story along). As we try to stop him, we find out there’s something bigger going on than just a rogue cop on a rampage. The picture keeps getting bigger, the stakes keep getting higher, and we keep getting our motivation and our level of commitment tested. Are we willing to sacrifice our personal life? Yes? Okay, will we sacrifice one of our friends? Yes? Okay, how about the leaders of the current galactic government? Yes? Okay…
It goes on like that. You fucking invest, is what I’m saying, and that’s just in the first game.
In the second game, the fight continues, as we have merely blunted the point of the spear, not stopped the attack. Our choices in ME1 had consequences, and we start to see them play out, for better or worse. Meanwhile, we’re trying to stop Evil Plan #2, in a suicide mission that could literally cost us nearly every single friend we’ve made. In the end, we get the joy of victory mixed with the sadness of the loss of those who didn’t make it, and it’s all good, because it’s a strong, healthy, enjoyable emotional release.
And now it’s ME3, and the stakes are even higher. We’re not recruiting more individual allies — we’re recruiting whole peoples — whole civilizations. Planets are falling. Worlds are being erased.
In the words of Harbinger, this hurts you.
Why? Because you know these people who are dying. You’ve spent over a hundred hours traveling this setting, meeting people, helping them, learning about each of their little stories; building relationships with, literally, hundreds of individuals. Every one of these planets going up in flames has a face (even if it’s a face behind a breathmask), and no one falls in this final story that wasn’t important in some way to you or someone you know.
(By contrast, the enemy is faceless and (since the reapers harvest your former allies and force them into monstrous templates) largely indistinguishable from one another — as it should be in this kind of story. You do not care about a Husk, though you might mourn the person killed to create the thing.)
In short, you aren’t just playing this game to get the high score. You’re fighting for this galaxy of individuals you’ve grown very, very attached to; to protect it and, as much as you can, preserve it. You’ve spent several hours every day on this, for months. It matters.
"Hard to imagine galaxy. Too many People. Faceless. Statistics. Easy to depersonalize. Good when doing unpleasant work. For this fight, want personal connection. Can't anthropomorphize galaxy. But can think of favorite nephew. Fighting for him."
(Best of all, you get to shoot bad guys in the face while you’re doing it, which takes this heavy topic and makes it engaging at that level as well. It’s like soaking up all the gravitas of Schindler’s List while enjoying the BFG-toting action of Castle Wolfenstein at the same time.)
The end comes. We talk to all our friends. Everyone’s wearing their brave face, talking about what they’re going to do afterwards, which beach they’re going to retire on. You start to think that maybe the end is in sight and maybe, just maybe, you might even be able to see some of that ending.
The last big conflict starts. You fight some unkillable things and kill them. You face off against an old nemesis and finally end him.
And then…
And then you’re given three choices, none of which result in anything any different from the others, and none of which have consequences that have any connection to the goals we’ve been working on for the last hundred hours or so.
Those people you were just talking to? They’re gone. Or stranded on an alien world. Or dead. All those planets you helped? They’re gone too — cut off, or starving, or maybe just destroyed in manufactured super-novas. Nothing you did or accomplished in the last three games actually matters — it’s all been wiped out by one of three (red, green, or blue) RESET buttons you pushed, because pushing one of those buttons was the only ‘choice’ given to you at the end.
As a species, trained for thousands of years in the way stories work, we know this is a bad ending. Not “tragic”. Just bad. Poor.
This isn’t about a bunch of priviledged gamers complaining about a sad ending, because there are well-done sad endings that make contextual sense.
This is about a mechanical ending to the game that doesn’t end the story — that provides no emotional release — one so disassociated from the previous 99% of the story that the fans of the series collectively hope it will later be revealed to be a dream (or, in the context of the setting, a final Reaper Indoctrination attempt).
Dear writers: If you create something, and your readers hope that what you just gave them was, in reality, an “it was a dream all along” ending, because that would be better than what you wrote, you seriously. fucked. up.
Is the ending, as an ending (taken out of context with the game we’ve been playing), a bad one? No. It’s an interesting theme that was explored extensively in a B-plot within the series and which could certainly be the central thread of a series of its own.
But it’s not the ending of this story. Our goals — the one we’ve been fighting for — are never addressed. There is no closure, either happy or sad — we want our emotional release as it relates to the game we actually played. Maybe that means tragedy at our own stupid hands — maybe victory wrested from the biomechanical jaws of defeat (and at the cost of a greater looming danger ahead).
The ending we got? It didn’t make me angry or sad or happy. It left me unfulfilled, because it ended the game talking about something I didn’t actually care about, and left me waiting for that emotional release that ME1 or ME2 pulled off so well.
The idea that the player’s should just deal with the ending, because it’s Bioware’s ending and not theirs is one of the interesting points in this debate, simply because it rides this weird line where we don’t really have a cultural context for what the Mass Effect series is: Is it a game? Is it a story? If if it’s a game, then who cares about the story, and if it’s a story, then treat it like a book and stop pretending you get to influence it, stupid consumer.
The answer is more complicated: Is it a game or story? Yes. Moreover, it’s a game that’s welcomed player input into the narrative from the first moment, and as such, should be committed to honoring that input throughout. It’s a story, but it belongs to everyone telling it.
But It’s Art! There’s a recurring tune being played by Bioware in response to this outcry, and it goes something like this: “We might respond to these complaints, and we might flesh out the ending we presented, but we’re not going to change anything, because this is art — this is the product of artists — and as such it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces.”
Which is, speaking as a working artist, complete and utter horseshit.
If you make a movie, and you put in front of focus groups, and they categorically hate the ending, you change it. If you’re writing a book and your first readers tell you the ending is terrible, you fix it. (Ditto your second readers, your second-draft readers, your agent, your editor, your copy editor.)
Or maybe you don’t — maybe you say “this is art, and it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces”, which is certainly your choice — but don’t expect anyone to help you bring that piece of crap to print.
Anyone can tell a story. You can sit in your special writing nook and turn out page after page of perfectly unaltered, immutable art and be quite happy — you’re welcome to, in fact.
But when you decide you want to make a living off it? Even if you want to just make a little spending money?
Then the rules change. Then it’s work. Then it’s a job. More importantly, then it’s part of a business model, and those golden days of your art being inviolate and immutable blah blah blah are well and truly behind you. Name me a story that saw print, or a movie that saw the Big Screen, and I’ll show you art that changed because of input from someone other than the the original creator — from someone looking at it from the point of view of the consumer.
Bioware is a company. Making their stories into games is their business model. Hiding behind some kind of “but it’s art, so we’re not changing it” defense is insulting, disingenuous, and flat-out stupid. Worse, it perpetuates the idea that the creator’s output is in some stupid way sancrosant and, as art, cannot be “wrong” or “bad”. If you as a creator imagine that to be the case — if you think that kind of argument is going to defend your right to never do a rewrite or a revision or line edits or to ever alter, in any way, your precious Artistic Process — discard that notion.
Or become accustomed to a long life as an “undiscovered talent”.
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allfiguredout · a day ago
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Begging To Stay
Lena Luthor x Fem!Reader
Prompt: is it possible for the part 2 of the Lena x Reader fic where Lena trying to get used to being married to reader in the new earth for public reasons and Lena overhead Reader being offered a chance to remember the other reader's memories from Lena's earth?
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A/N: Someone really hit the angst button! Anyways, I hope you enjoy this fic! It took longer to write than I expected. It’s been a while since I started a Lena fic down since Marvel started pumping out content again.
Warning: I don’t own DC.
_________________________________
It was a strange reality for her to deal with, but nevertheless, she dealt with it. The two of you still shared the same bed from time to time, but the tension was still there. Granted that tension mainly came from Lena as opposed to you. But with time, Lena found herself slowly, but surely getting used to this new life. She learned not to blame this version of you for an event you were never even aware of. At the same time, she got used to you calling her ‘honey’ or ‘sweetie,’ a habit that you couldn’t get yourself out of. 
Despite Lena adjusting, what she didn’t know was your slowly crumbling mental health. Ever since you discovered Lena’s doubt of her love towards you, you couldn’t but feel as if this new Lena felt stuck with you. You started to believe that your presence was making Lena more unhappy by the second. You know yourself and Lena has reassured you time and time again that she doesn’t blame this version of you for lying to her because truthfully, you didn’t even lie with her, to begin with. 
Lena was at work one day and she had been specifically looking for you for a referral over a trustworthy recruit who would oversee the security department. Since you knew the people better than her at the moment, she always asked you for opinions. She manages to find you in Alex’s office accompanied by J’onn.
“Y/N, I don’t think you would understand what will happen if I do it,” J’onn warns. 
“I don’t think you understand either. She is hurting, J’onn, and I know she’s still carrying that burden whenever wherever go. She isn’t happy where she is.”
Alex shakes her head in disbelief. “And how would you know that? You should know that woman hated your guts when she found out the other version of you was hiding Kara’s secret; as in neither of you spoke to each other in months because of it. Would you really jeopardize your relationship like that?”
“I think my relationship with Lena died when she woke up.”
J’onn points at you angrily, “no it didn’t. She is still there. She’s starting to love you all over again. Lena isn’t blaming you for something a different version of you had done. You can’t just impulsively throw your happiness away like this.”
“If she’s not happy, I’m not happy. You’re giving me my memories back and that’s final.” You put your foot down sternly, your eyes cold and unchanged.
J’onn sighs heavily, eventually nodding in defeat. “Fine,”
Crossing her expression in disbelief, Alex does her best to try to contradict you, “J’onn, no!” Yet, it seems that J’onn had ignored Alex’s plea.
“Meet me here by tomorrow if you’re still willing to do it.”
You smile in victory. Thanking the both of them, you leave with a smile on your face, not noticing Lena who hid behind the door, listening to your conversation.
________________________________________
You finally arrive home, sighing heavily. Yet the moment you saw Lena standing by the door, the corners of your lips draw up to a force smile. “You’re home early,” you comment.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Lena’s voice was as cold as ice, and the arctic tone was enough to numb a piece of your heart. Shit, she found out.
“Lena-“
She recoils when you try to take a step towards her. “How could you do this?”
“I-I just thought-“ The words could barely come out of your mouth.
“You thought what?” She asks impatiently. “Tell me, Y/N!” Lena’s eyes burn from the pain, from the feeling of betrayal. For a moment, it was as if she was reliving the moment all over again with you and the memories were only beginning to flood Lena’s mind. 
You throw your hands up exasperated and somewhat desperate as you try to maintain your composure. “Because I thought this was what you needed.”
Lena shakes her head in denial. “No, that isn’t true.”
"Things aren’t the same as it was between us and it’s clear that you don’t love me or want me. It would make things easier for the both of us if I just forgot this world existed and you have the right Y/N in front of you.”
“You are the right Y/N. You weren't the one that betrayed me to Lex. Stop trying to associate yourself with someone that isn’t you.”
“But when you look at me, all you see is that version of me. I know you front and back, Lena. When there’s something wrong, I’m the first one to notice, and I know you aren’t happy with where you are.”
“You can’t just make that call yourself. I’m not happy because I’m trying to figure out this new world that we’re all living in and why Lex is still alive. I’m not happy because I’m frustrated with Supergirl and the DEO and how they handled the Crisis. The only reason why I haven’t broken down yet is because I have someone who is always there to help me, who is always trying to do what’s best for me. That’s you, Y/N, it has always been.”
You avert your eyes from her, unable to look. If you stay any longer, the small voice in the back of your head would start growing and your mind was going to change. You can’t, you have to suppress it. She approaches you, placing both her hands on your shoulders which causes your muscles to tense where the warmth from her hands makes contact. “Lena-“
“I need you Y/N. If you follow through with this tomorrow, I won't know who I can turn to. You make this reality less daunting and more bearable than the last. Please,” she pleads. “Please don’t leave me.”
You finally go to look at her, staring deeply into her eyes, seeing them water at the brim. She was threatening to cry, she was about to cry. You bite your lip as the tears in your eyes were ready to pool over, too. In those moments, you wish that things were back to normal again and you curse whoever gave you this fate. 
“Say something, Y/N.”
You place your hand on your shoulder, on top of her hand, squeezing it gently, rubbing her knuckles in your best attempt to comfort her. The voice in your head was blaring in your ears, deafening you from your old intentions. Stay. That’s what you want. She still waits for your response. From Lena’s eyes, she could see a shift in your eyes as the walls of your feelings start to crumble down. That’s when she knew, you didn’t want to do what you were going to do tomorrow. 
“Is this what you want?” You ask her.
“This is what I need,” she corrects. “I can’t do this without you. Maybe you don’t want to hear it now, but I just want you to know that I love you. I fell in love with you, all over again. Ever since I had woken up to now, all I think about is you and how lucky I am to have you. I wouldn’t have this if you go to J’onn tomorrow. You make me so happy, Y/N.”
You couldn’t help but laugh a little which causes some concern to rise in Lena’s eyes. Yet, you were quick to reassure her. “It’s like you recited our wedding day vows,” you joke. The joke was enough to have the corner of Lena’s lips curl into a smile, and in return, you smile a little too. She squeezes your hand back, which causes you to only her hand back, too. “I love you, too, Lena. I haven’t stopped loving you.”
She sighs in relief. Suddenly, you feel your lips occupied. Lena’s arms wrap around your frame and you instantly feel your body relax under the hold. It felt forever and another eternity since the last time you had felt the feeling of warmth touch your lips. Deepening the kiss, you hadn’t realized how much you had been longing for Lena’s loving touch. Lena, on the other hand, was absorbing the moment once more. For her, she hasn’t been able to do this to you since forever and eternity. The passion burns between the both of you, and finally, you both realize that this is what you two need. Love. You needed each other. 
When the two of you pull away, the tears that have been waiting to fall finally fall on both of your cheeks. The emotions were too overbearing. “Please stay,” she pleads.
You only wrap your arms around her to pull her closer to you, “For you, always.”
________________________________________________________
Thanks for reading! I haven’t seen Lena in FOREVER. Anyways, I hope you have a great day/night, and may you always stay safe. If you need anything, I’ll be right here. :) -Bolts
Word count: 1460
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doycetopia · 9 years ago
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Mass Effect, Tolkien, and Your Bullshit Artistic Process
It may seem a bit odd that I’m posting this here rather than on my gaming-related blog, since it is about the Mass Effect game series and other related geekery. I debated where I should post it, but ultimately this is about writing as much or more than it’s about gaming, so here it is. Everything that follows is my opinion and, further, is infested with spoilers for both the Mass Effect series and, I suppose, The Lord of the Rings. Reader beware.
In late February, I said (on twitter) that I thought the Mass Effect universe was probably the most important science fiction of a generation.
Since then, the executive producer for Mass Effect 3 has been working tirelessly to get me to retract that statement.
If you follow gaming news at all, you’ll already know that there have been great clouds of dust kicked over this particular story — the gist of it is that Mass Effect was brought to a conclusion with the release of Mass Effect 3 (note: not brought to its conclusion, just brought to a conclusion — more on that later), and while 99% of the game was the same top-notch, engaging, tear-inducing stuff that we’ve come to expect, the last five minutes or so is a steaming, Hersey’s Kiss-sized dollop of dog shit that you are forced to ingest at the conclusion of the meal, like a mint, before they let you out the door.
It’s fair to say that it’s soured many players’ impression of the experience as a whole.
Now, I realize that many of the folks reading this may not have played through the Mass Effect series. First of all, that’s really too bad, because it is very, very good both in terms of play (which steadily improves from game to game) and story (barring one steaming exception) and (I think) completely worth the time.
But secondly, I’d like to keep you non-ME people involved in the conversation, so I’m going to draw a comparison that I think most anyone likely to visit here will understand, so that we can all proceed with reasonable understanding of the issues.
Let’s pretend for a moment that The Lord of the Rings was released not as a series of books, but a series of games. More importantly, the company behind the series decided to do something really hard but rewarding with the game — they were going to let you make decisions during play that substantively altered the elements of the story. That means that some of people playing through this Lord of the Rings story would end up with a personal game experience that was pretty much exactly like the one you and I all remember from reading the books, but that story is just sort of the default. Whole forums were filled up by fans of the series comparing notes on their versions of the game, with guides on how to get into a romantic relationship with Arwen (the obvious one), Eowyn (more difficult, as you have to go without any kind of romance option through the whole first game, but considered by many to be far more rewarding), or even Legolas (finally released as DLC for the third game).
And that’s certainly not all of possible permutations. Some players actually managed to save Boromir (though he leaves the party regardless, but gets you a whole extra army in the third game if he’s alive, and makes Denethor much less of a pain in the ass to deal with). Some folks don’t split up the party, and spend most of the game recruiting supporters through the South and North, from Aughaire down to Dol Imren. For some, Gimli dies at Helms Deep; for others only Merry escapes into Fangorn (which makes recruiting the Ents all but impossible). Hell, there are even a few weirdos who chose NOT to recruit Samwise back at the beginning of the story, and actually play through the whole first game without him (though the writers reintroduce him as a non-optional party member once you get ready to leave Lothlorien).
And what about the players who rolled the main character as a female? That changes a LOT of stuff, as you might well imagine. (Though, thankfully, all the dialogue options with Legolas are the same.)
Are you with me so far?
Okay, so you’re playing through this game — you’ve played through parts 1 and 2 several times, in fact, sometimes as a goody-two-shoes, and sometimes as a total bad-ass. You’ve got a version of the game where you’re with Arwen, one with Eowyn, one with Legolas, and one where you focus on Frodo and his subtle hand-holding bromance with Sam. You’re ready for Part Three, is what I’m saying, and out it comes.
And it’s awesome. You finally bring lasting alliance between Rohan and Gondor, you form a fragile-yet-believable peace between elves and dwarves, and even manage to recruit a significant strike-force of old Moria orcs who don’t so much like you as much as they just hate the johnny-come-lately Uruk-hai.
The final chapters open. You face down Saruman (who pretended to fund all your efforts through the second book, but then turned on you at the end of the Two Towers), which was really satisfying. You crawl up to the top of Mount Doom, collapse against a rock, and have a really touching heart to heart with Sam. It’s over. You know you have all your scores high enough to destroy the One Ring with no crisis of conscious and no lame “Gollum bit off my finger and then falls in the lava” ending, like the one you saw on the fanfic forums last year.
And then out comes this glowing figure from behind a rock, and it’s… Tom Bombadil.
And Tom explains your options.
Oh, and you're totally going to die too. And all the roads and horses throughout all of middle earth vanish. And by the way did you know that Sauron and the Nazgul all actually just work for Bombadil? True story.
Now, let’s just ignore the fact that the company behind this game has been quoted many times as saying that the game will end with no less than sixteen different endings, to honor all the various ways the story could go, and focus on these three options.
None of them have anything to do with destroying the ring, do they?
Has ‘destroying the ring’ (alternately, destroying Sauron) been pretty much THE THING you’ve been working toward the whole game? Yeah, it has. In fact, it mentions “Rings” right there in the title of the series, doesn’t it? Rather seems to make The Ring a bit of a banner item, doesn’t it?
But no, none of these options are about the Ring; they’re about one of the b-plots in the series, and one which you pretty much already laid to rest a few chapters ago.
So… okay, maybe this isn’t the END ending, you think, and you pick one of the options…
And that’s it. A bunch of cut-scenes play, Mount Doom explodes with fiery red light, you die, and the credits roll. The end.
Ohhh-kay. Maybe that was the bad ending. Let’s reload a save and pick option 2…
Same. Exact. Cut scenes. Except Mount Doom’s explosion is green. What?
Alright… umm… let’s check #3…
Nope. Mount Doom’s explosion is Blue. That’s it.
And, absolutely inexplicably, every single one of these cut scenes shows Gandalf, Aragorn, and SAMWISE escaping the explosion on one of the eagles and crash-landing somewhere in Lorien where they all pat themselves on the back and watch the sun set together.
What? But… Sam was with you. Aragorn and Gandalf… did they start running away halfway through the last fight at the Black Gate? Your boys abandoned you?
So, given this example, it’s possible — even for someone who didn’t play Mass Effect — to understand the fan’s reaction. The ending has no real connection to the rest of the story; barring the last scene and one conversation with an unnamed Nazgul in Book 3, it would lift right out with no one even noticing. It completely takes away your choices at the end of a game about making world-altering choices. It effectively destroys the Middle Earth that you were fighting for 100 hours of gameplay to preserve — no magic? Maybe a completely wiped out dwarven race? No one can travel anywhere without painstakingly rebuilding roads for a couple hundred years and replacing horses with something else? Also, no matter what, no matter how much ass you kick, you’re dead? Yeah. No thanks, man.
And that’s not even paying attention to stuff like how (and why) Sam and Gandalf and Strider ran away at the end. I mean… even if you’re going to do a shitty twist ending, don’t be so goddamn lazy about it. Don’t sit there and claim that criticism of the ending is an attack on your artistic product, because frankly that ending is full of holes and needs a rewrite and probably two more chapters to flesh out. (More on that in a bit.)
So… that’s where the Mass Effect franchise was after ME3 came out. A lot of confusion. A lot of rage. Some protests of a very interesting sort, where the gamers against the terrible ending decided to draw attention to the issue by raising something like seventy-thousand bucks for geek-related charities.
Now, let’s go a bit deeper.
Let’s continue with this Lord of the Rings video game analogy. Let’s say that after a bit of digging, people realized that Tolkien actually left the company to work on other projects before the game was complete. He wrote up a detailed outline, though; something that clearly spelled out exactly how the main arc of the story was supposed to play out, in broad strokes, basically laying out what we would expect the ending to be, pretty much.
But Tolkien left. So they get another guy in. Someone else who’s written stuff about some kind of powerful ring…
They get Steven R. Donaldson.
(Those of you who know me and my history with the Thomas Covenant books can guess that this analogy is not going to be a positive one, because seriously: fuck Thomas Covenant.)
So they get this Donaldson guy in to helm the end of the series, and it turns out he’s the guy who comes up with the Tom Bombadil, fuck-the-continuity-of-the-series ending.
Why? Maybe he’s pissed about being the second choice. Maybe he’s not getting paid enough to give a fuck. Maybe he just really wants to do this kind of story, but can’t be arsed to write a series of his own for which it makes sense. Maybe the original ending outlined by Tolkien got leaked on a forum the year before the last game came out, so people decided it had to be changed, even if the alternative makes no sense. I don’t know.
What I do know is the there was a different ending written out for the Mass Effect series, the short version of which is that the Big Reveal in ME3 is that the Mass Effect itself — the magical black-box technology that allows interstellar travel and powers a ton of other things from weapons to expensive toothbrushes — is causing a constant increase in dark energy in the galaxy, and that’s causing all kinds of bad things (like the accelerated death of stars).
The Mass Effect — you know, the thing from which the name of the series is derived — is the secret behind the Big Reveal. Who would have thought?
So, in the end of the game-as-envisioned, you’re given a choice of saving the galaxy by sacrificing the human race (making humanity into a biomechanical, synthetic-life, communal-intelligence “Reaper” that can stop the Dark Energy decay), or telling the Reapers to screw themselves and trying to fix the problem on your own (with a handful of centuries left before the Dark Energy thing snowballs and grows out of control on its own).
Which, in a word, would have been better. Certainly FAR better than some kind of stupid Tom Bombadil/Star Child explanation where we are told that the (synthetic AI) Reapers destroy advanced organic civilizations every 50 thousand years to prevent organic civilizations from… being destroyed by synthetic AIs.
Now we don’t just have some gamer complaints about the terrible ending, we have a demonstrably better ending that was actually supposed to be the one implemented. Complicates things, doesn’t it?
But Why All the Hate?
The simple fact of the matter is that Mass Effect is a story, and it’s a very good story — in my opinion, it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever experienced. People can hem and haw about what constitutes a story — about whether a game can really be a story if people can play it — as though a story is only a story if it’s spoken or written or projected up on a movie screen. That’s like saying a person is only a person if they walk or ride a horse or drive a car… because we all know the vehicle in which the subject is conveyed changes that subject’s inherent nature.
Some people say it’s not a real story because the player’s choices can alter it. I think they’re full of crap, and I say the proof of its power as a story is right there in the story-pudding — it affects me as a story does — and that’s all the criteria met. Walks like duck, quacks like duck, therefore duck.
But the problem (if you’re BioWare) is that human beings understand stories; we know how they’re supposed to work, thanks to thousands of years of cultural training. Mass Effect (until that conclusion) is a nigh-perfect example of how a story is done correctly, thanks in part to the medium, which allows (if you’ll permit me the slaughter of a few sacred cows) a level of of immersion and connection beyond what a book or movie or any other storytelling medium up to this point in our cultural history can match, because of the fact that you can actively take part in that story from the inside. Heresy? Fine, brand me a heretic; that’s how I see it.
And since it’s such a good story, people know how the thing is supposed to proceed, and they know how it should end.
You start out in ME1 trying to stop a bad guy, Saren. He’s the guy who gets us moving (because he’s a bad guy, and that’s what they do — bad guys act, and heroes react to that and move the story along). As we try to stop him, we find out there’s something bigger going on than just a rogue cop on a rampage. The picture keeps getting bigger, the stakes keep getting higher, and we keep getting our motivation and our level of commitment tested. Are we willing to sacrifice our personal life? Yes? Okay, will we sacrifice one of our friends? Yes? Okay, how about the leaders of the current galactic government? Yes? Okay…
It goes on like that. You fucking invest, is what I’m saying, and that’s just in the first game.
In the second game, the fight continues, as we have merely blunted the point of the spear, not stopped the attack. Our choices in ME1 had consequences, and we start to see them play out, for better or worse. Meanwhile, we’re trying to stop Evil Plan #2, in a suicide mission that could literally cost us nearly every single friend we’ve made. In the end, we get the joy of victory mixed with the sadness of the loss of those who didn’t make it, and it’s all good, because it’s a strong, healthy, enjoyable emotional release.
And now it’s ME3, and the stakes are even higher. We’re not recruiting more individual allies — we’re recruiting whole peoples — whole civilizations. Planets are falling. Worlds are being erased.
In the words of Harbinger, this hurts you.
Why? Because you know these people who are dying. You’ve spent over a hundred hours traveling this setting, meeting people, helping them, learning about each of their little stories; building relationships with, literally, hundreds of individuals. Every one of these planets going up in flames has a face (even if it’s a face behind a breathmask), and no one falls in this final story that wasn’t important in some way to you or someone you know.
(By contrast, the enemy is faceless and (since the reapers harvest your former allies and force them into monstrous templates) largely indistinguishable from one another — as it should be in this kind of story. You do not care about a Husk, though you might mourn the person killed to create the thing.)
In short, you aren’t just playing this game to get the high score. You’re fighting for this galaxy of individuals you’ve grown very, very attached to; to protect it and, as much as you can, preserve it. You’ve spent several hours every day on this, for months. It matters.
"Hard to imagine galaxy. Too many People. Faceless. Statistics. Easy to depersonalize. Good when doing unpleasant work. For this fight, want personal connection. Can't anthropomorphize galaxy. But can think of favorite nephew. Fighting for him."
(Best of all, you get to shoot bad guys in the face while you’re doing it, which takes this heavy topic and makes it engaging at that level as well. It’s like soaking up all the gravitas of Schindler’s List while enjoying the BFG-toting action of Castle Wolfenstein at the same time.)
The end comes. We talk to all our friends. Everyone’s wearing their brave face, talking about what they’re going to do afterwards, which beach they’re going to retire on. You start to think that maybe the end is in sight and maybe, just maybe, you might even be able to see some of that ending.
The last big conflict starts. You fight some unkillable things and kill them. You face off against an old nemesis and finally end him.
And then…
And then you’re given three choices, none of which result in anything any different from the others, and none of which have consequences that have any connection to the goals we’ve been working on for the last hundred hours or so.
Those people you were just talking to? They’re gone. Or stranded on an alien world. Or dead. All those planets you helped? They’re gone too — cut off, or starving, or maybe just destroyed in manufactured super-novas. Nothing you did or accomplished in the last three games actually matters — it’s all been wiped out by one of three (red, green, or blue) RESET buttons you pushed, because pushing one of those buttons was the only ‘choice’ given to you at the end.
As a species, trained for thousands of years in the way stories work, we know this is a bad ending. Not “tragic”. Just bad. Poor.
This isn’t about a bunch of priviledged gamers complaining about a sad ending, because there are well-done sad endings that make contextual sense.
This is about a mechanical ending to the game that doesn’t end the story — that provides no emotional release — one so disassociated from the previous 99% of the story that the fans of the series collectively hope it will later be revealed to be a dream (or, in the context of the setting, a final Reaper Indoctrination attempt).
Dear writers: If you create something, and your readers hope that what you just gave them was, in reality, an “it was a dream all along” ending, because that would be better than what you wrote, you seriously. fucked. up.
Is the ending, as an ending (taken out of context with the game we’ve been playing), a bad one? No. It’s an interesting theme that was explored extensively in a B-plot within the series and which could certainly be the central thread of a series of its own.
But it’s not the ending of this story. Our goals — the one we’ve been fighting for — are never addressed. There is no closure, either happy or sad — we want our emotional release as it relates to the game we actually played. Maybe that means tragedy at our own stupid hands — maybe victory wrested from the biomechanical jaws of defeat (and at the cost of a greater looming danger ahead).
The ending we got? It didn’t make me angry or sad or happy. It left me unfulfilled, because it ended the game talking about something I didn’t actually care about, and left me waiting for that emotional release that ME1 or ME2 pulled off so well.
The idea that the player’s should just deal with the ending, because it’s Bioware’s ending and not theirs is one of the interesting points in this debate, simply because it rides this weird line where we don’t really have a cultural context for what the Mass Effect series is: Is it a game? Is it a story? If if it’s a game, then who cares about the story, and if it’s a story, then treat it like a book and stop pretending you get to influence it, stupid consumer.
The answer is more complicated: Is it a game or story? Yes. Moreover, it’s a game that’s welcomed player input into the narrative from the first moment, and as such, should be committed to honoring that input throughout. It’s a story, but it belongs to everyone telling it.
But It’s Art! There’s a recurring tune being played by Bioware in response to this outcry, and it goes something like this: “We might respond to these complaints, and we might flesh out the ending we presented, but we’re not going to change anything, because this is art — this is the product of artists — and as such it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces.”
Which is, speaking as a working artist, complete and utter horseshit.
If you make a movie, and you put in front of focus groups, and they categorically hate the ending, you change it. If you’re writing a book and your first readers tell you the ending is terrible, you fix it. (Ditto your second readers, your second-draft readers, your agent, your editor, your copy editor.)
Or maybe you don’t — maybe you say “this is art, and it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces”, which is certainly your choice — but don’t expect anyone to help you bring that piece of crap to print.
Anyone can tell a story. You can sit in your special writing nook and turn out page after page of perfectly unaltered, immutable art and be quite happy — you’re welcome to, in fact.
But when you decide you want to make a living off it? Even if you want to just make a little spending money?
Then the rules change. Then it’s work. Then it’s a job. More importantly, then it’s part of a business model, and those golden days of your art being inviolate and immutable blah blah blah are well and truly behind you. Name me a story that saw print, or a movie that saw the Big Screen, and I’ll show you art that changed because of input from someone other than the the original creator — from someone looking at it from the point of view of the consumer.
Bioware is a company. Making their stories into games is their business model. Hiding behind some kind of “but it’s art, so we’re not changing it” defense is insulting, disingenuous, and flat-out stupid. Worse, it perpetuates the idea that the creator’s output is in some stupid way sancrosant and, as art, cannot be “wrong” or “bad”. If you as a creator imagine that to be the case — if you think that kind of argument is going to defend your right to never do a rewrite or a revision or line edits or to ever alter, in any way, your precious Artistic Process — discard that notion.
Or become accustomed to a long life as an “undiscovered talent”.
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doycetopia · 9 years ago
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Mass Effect, Tolkien, and Your Bullshit Artistic Process
It may seem a bit odd that I’m posting this here rather than on my gaming-related blog, since it is about the Mass Effect game series and other related geekery. I debated where I should post it, but ultimately this is about writing as much or more than it’s about gaming, so here it is. Everything that follows is my opinion and, further, is infested with spoilers for both the Mass Effect series and, I suppose, The Lord of the Rings. Reader beware.
In late February, I said (on twitter) that I thought the Mass Effect universe was probably the most important science fiction of a generation.
Since then, the executive producer for Mass Effect 3 has been working tirelessly to get me to retract that statement.
If you follow gaming news at all, you’ll already know that there have been great clouds of dust kicked over this particular story — the gist of it is that Mass Effect was brought to a conclusion with the release of Mass Effect 3 (note: not brought to its conclusion, just brought to a conclusion — more on that later), and while 99% of the game was the same top-notch, engaging, tear-inducing stuff that we’ve come to expect, the last five minutes or so is a steaming, Hersey’s Kiss-sized dollop of dog shit that you are forced to ingest at the conclusion of the meal, like a mint, before they let you out the door.
It’s fair to say that it’s soured many players’ impression of the experience as a whole.
Now, I realize that many of the folks reading this may not have played through the Mass Effect series. First of all, that’s really too bad, because it is very, very good both in terms of play (which steadily improves from game to game) and story (barring one steaming exception) and (I think) completely worth the time.
But secondly, I’d like to keep you non-ME people involved in the conversation, so I’m going to draw a comparison that I think most anyone likely to visit here will understand, so that we can all proceed with reasonable understanding of the issues.
Let’s pretend for a moment that The Lord of the Rings was released not as a series of books, but a series of games. More importantly, the company behind the series decided to do something really hard but rewarding with the game — they were going to let you make decisions during play that substantively altered the elements of the story. That means that some of people playing through this Lord of the Rings story would end up with a personal game experience that was pretty much exactly like the one you and I all remember from reading the books, but that story is just sort of the default. Whole forums were filled up by fans of the series comparing notes on their versions of the game, with guides on how to get into a romantic relationship with Arwen (the obvious one), Eowyn (more difficult, as you have to go without any kind of romance option through the whole first game, but considered by many to be far more rewarding), or even Legolas (finally released as DLC for the third game).
And that’s certainly not all of possible permutations. Some players actually managed to save Boromir (though he leaves the party regardless, but gets you a whole extra army in the third game if he’s alive, and makes Denethor much less of a pain in the ass to deal with). Some folks don’t split up the party, and spend most of the game recruiting supporters through the South and North, from Aughaire down to Dol Imren. For some, Gimli dies at Helms Deep; for others only Merry escapes into Fangorn (which makes recruiting the Ents all but impossible). Hell, there are even a few weirdos who chose NOT to recruit Samwise back at the beginning of the story, and actually play through the whole first game without him (though the writers reintroduce him as a non-optional party member once you get ready to leave Lothlorien).
And what about the players who rolled the main character as a female? That changes a LOT of stuff, as you might well imagine. (Though, thankfully, all the dialogue options with Legolas are the same.)
Are you with me so far?
Okay, so you’re playing through this game — you’ve played through parts 1 and 2 several times, in fact, sometimes as a goody-two-shoes, and sometimes as a total bad-ass. You’ve got a version of the game where you’re with Arwen, one with Eowyn, one with Legolas, and one where you focus on Frodo and his subtle hand-holding bromance with Sam. You’re ready for Part Three, is what I’m saying, and out it comes.
And it’s awesome. You finally bring lasting alliance between Rohan and Gondor, you form a fragile-yet-believable peace between elves and dwarves, and even manage to recruit a significant strike-force of old Moria orcs who don’t so much like you as much as they just hate the johnny-come-lately Uruk-hai.
The final chapters open. You face down Saruman (who pretended to fund all your efforts through the second book, but then turned on you at the end of the Two Towers), which was really satisfying. You crawl up to the top of Mount Doom, collapse against a rock, and have a really touching heart to heart with Sam. It’s over. You know you have all your scores high enough to destroy the One Ring with no crisis of conscious and no lame “Gollum bit off my finger and then falls in the lava” ending, like the one you saw on the fanfic forums last year.
And then out comes this glowing figure from behind a rock, and it’s… Tom Bombadil.
And Tom explains your options.
Oh, and you're totally going to die too. And all the roads and horses throughout all of middle earth vanish. And by the way did you know that Sauron and the Nazgul all actually just work for Bombadil? True story.
Now, let’s just ignore the fact that the company behind this game has been quoted many times as saying that the game will end with no less than sixteen different endings, to honor all the various ways the story could go, and focus on these three options.
None of them have anything to do with destroying the ring, do they?
Has ‘destroying the ring’ (alternately, destroying Sauron) been pretty much THE THING you’ve been working toward the whole game? Yeah, it has. In fact, it mentions “Rings” right there in the title of the series, doesn’t it? Rather seems to make The Ring a bit of a banner item, doesn’t it?
But no, none of these options are about the Ring; they’re about one of the b-plots in the series, and one which you pretty much already laid to rest a few chapters ago.
So… okay, maybe this isn’t the END ending, you think, and you pick one of the options…
And that’s it. A bunch of cut-scenes play, Mount Doom explodes with fiery red light, you die, and the credits roll. The end.
Ohhh-kay. Maybe that was the bad ending. Let’s reload a save and pick option 2…
Same. Exact. Cut scenes. Except Mount Doom’s explosion is green. What?
Alright… umm… let’s check #3…
Nope. Mount Doom’s explosion is Blue. That’s it.
And, absolutely inexplicably, every single one of these cut scenes shows Gandalf, Aragorn, and SAMWISE escaping the explosion on one of the eagles and crash-landing somewhere in Lorien where they all pat themselves on the back and watch the sun set together.
What? But… Sam was with you. Aragorn and Gandalf… did they start running away halfway through the last fight at the Black Gate? Your boys abandoned you?
So, given this example, it’s possible — even for someone who didn’t play Mass Effect — to understand the fan’s reaction. The ending has no real connection to the rest of the story; barring the last scene and one conversation with an unnamed Nazgul in Book 3, it would lift right out with no one even noticing. It completely takes away your choices at the end of a game about making world-altering choices. It effectively destroys the Middle Earth that you were fighting for 100 hours of gameplay to preserve — no magic? Maybe a completely wiped out dwarven race? No one can travel anywhere without painstakingly rebuilding roads for a couple hundred years and replacing horses with something else? Also, no matter what, no matter how much ass you kick, you’re dead? Yeah. No thanks, man.
And that’s not even paying attention to stuff like how (and why) Sam and Gandalf and Strider ran away at the end. I mean… even if you’re going to do a shitty twist ending, don’t be so goddamn lazy about it. Don’t sit there and claim that criticism of the ending is an attack on your artistic product, because frankly that ending is full of holes and needs a rewrite and probably two more chapters to flesh out. (More on that in a bit.)
So… that’s where the Mass Effect franchise was after ME3 came out. A lot of confusion. A lot of rage. Some protests of a very interesting sort, where the gamers against the terrible ending decided to draw attention to the issue by raising something like seventy-thousand bucks for geek-related charities.
Now, let’s go a bit deeper.
Let’s continue with this Lord of the Rings video game analogy. Let’s say that after a bit of digging, people realized that Tolkien actually left the company to work on other projects before the game was complete. He wrote up a detailed outline, though; something that clearly spelled out exactly how the main arc of the story was supposed to play out, in broad strokes, basically laying out what we would expect the ending to be, pretty much.
But Tolkien left. So they get another guy in. Someone else who’s written stuff about some kind of powerful ring…
They get Steven R. Donaldson.
(Those of you who know me and my history with the Thomas Covenant books can guess that this analogy is not going to be a positive one, because seriously: fuck Thomas Covenant.)
So they get this Donaldson guy in to helm the end of the series, and it turns out he’s the guy who comes up with the Tom Bombadil, fuck-the-continuity-of-the-series ending.
Why? Maybe he’s pissed about being the second choice. Maybe he’s not getting paid enough to give a fuck. Maybe he just really wants to do this kind of story, but can’t be arsed to write a series of his own for which it makes sense. Maybe the original ending outlined by Tolkien got leaked on a forum the year before the last game came out, so people decided it had to be changed, even if the alternative makes no sense. I don’t know.
What I do know is the there was a different ending written out for the Mass Effect series, the short version of which is that the Big Reveal in ME3 is that the Mass Effect itself — the magical black-box technology that allows interstellar travel and powers a ton of other things from weapons to expensive toothbrushes — is causing a constant increase in dark energy in the galaxy, and that’s causing all kinds of bad things (like the accelerated death of stars).
The Mass Effect — you know, the thing from which the name of the series is derived — is the secret behind the Big Reveal. Who would have thought?
So, in the end of the game-as-envisioned, you’re given a choice of saving the galaxy by sacrificing the human race (making humanity into a biomechanical, synthetic-life, communal-intelligence “Reaper” that can stop the Dark Energy decay), or telling the Reapers to screw themselves and trying to fix the problem on your own (with a handful of centuries left before the Dark Energy thing snowballs and grows out of control on its own).
Which, in a word, would have been better. Certainly FAR better than some kind of stupid Tom Bombadil/Star Child explanation where we are told that the (synthetic AI) Reapers destroy advanced organic civilizations every 50 thousand years to prevent organic civilizations from… being destroyed by synthetic AIs.
Now we don’t just have some gamer complaints about the terrible ending, we have a demonstrably better ending that was actually supposed to be the one implemented. Complicates things, doesn’t it?
But Why All the Hate?
The simple fact of the matter is that Mass Effect is a story, and it’s a very good story — in my opinion, it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever experienced. People can hem and haw about what constitutes a story — about whether a game can really be a story if people can play it — as though a story is only a story if it’s spoken or written or projected up on a movie screen. That’s like saying a person is only a person if they walk or ride a horse or drive a car… because we all know the vehicle in which the subject is conveyed changes that subject’s inherent nature.
Some people say it’s not a real story because the player’s choices can alter it. I think they’re full of crap, and I say the proof of its power as a story is right there in the story-pudding — it affects me as a story does — and that’s all the criteria met. Walks like duck, quacks like duck, therefore duck.
But the problem (if you’re BioWare) is that human beings understand stories; we know how they’re supposed to work, thanks to thousands of years of cultural training. Mass Effect (until that conclusion) is a nigh-perfect example of how a story is done correctly, thanks in part to the medium, which allows (if you’ll permit me the slaughter of a few sacred cows) a level of of immersion and connection beyond what a book or movie or any other storytelling medium up to this point in our cultural history can match, because of the fact that you can actively take part in that story from the inside. Heresy? Fine, brand me a heretic; that’s how I see it.
And since it’s such a good story, people know how the thing is supposed to proceed, and they know how it should end.
You start out in ME1 trying to stop a bad guy, Saren. He’s the guy who gets us moving (because he’s a bad guy, and that’s what they do — bad guys act, and heroes react to that and move the story along). As we try to stop him, we find out there’s something bigger going on than just a rogue cop on a rampage. The picture keeps getting bigger, the stakes keep getting higher, and we keep getting our motivation and our level of commitment tested. Are we willing to sacrifice our personal life? Yes? Okay, will we sacrifice one of our friends? Yes? Okay, how about the leaders of the current galactic government? Yes? Okay…
It goes on like that. You fucking invest, is what I’m saying, and that’s just in the first game.
In the second game, the fight continues, as we have merely blunted the point of the spear, not stopped the attack. Our choices in ME1 had consequences, and we start to see them play out, for better or worse. Meanwhile, we’re trying to stop Evil Plan #2, in a suicide mission that could literally cost us nearly every single friend we’ve made. In the end, we get the joy of victory mixed with the sadness of the loss of those who didn’t make it, and it’s all good, because it’s a strong, healthy, enjoyable emotional release.
And now it’s ME3, and the stakes are even higher. We’re not recruiting more individual allies — we’re recruiting whole peoples — whole civilizations. Planets are falling. Worlds are being erased.
In the words of Harbinger, this hurts you.
Why? Because you know these people who are dying. You’ve spent over a hundred hours traveling this setting, meeting people, helping them, learning about each of their little stories; building relationships with, literally, hundreds of individuals. Every one of these planets going up in flames has a face (even if it’s a face behind a breathmask), and no one falls in this final story that wasn’t important in some way to you or someone you know.
(By contrast, the enemy is faceless and (since the reapers harvest your former allies and force them into monstrous templates) largely indistinguishable from one another — as it should be in this kind of story. You do not care about a Husk, though you might mourn the person killed to create the thing.)
In short, you aren’t just playing this game to get the high score. You’re fighting for this galaxy of individuals you’ve grown very, very attached to; to protect it and, as much as you can, preserve it. You’ve spent several hours every day on this, for months. It matters.
"Hard to imagine galaxy. Too many People. Faceless. Statistics. Easy to depersonalize. Good when doing unpleasant work. For this fight, want personal connection. Can't anthropomorphize galaxy. But can think of favorite nephew. Fighting for him."
(Best of all, you get to shoot bad guys in the face while you’re doing it, which takes this heavy topic and makes it engaging at that level as well. It’s like soaking up all the gravitas of Schindler’s List while enjoying the BFG-toting action of Castle Wolfenstein at the same time.)
The end comes. We talk to all our friends. Everyone’s wearing their brave face, talking about what they’re going to do afterwards, which beach they’re going to retire on. You start to think that maybe the end is in sight and maybe, just maybe, you might even be able to see some of that ending.
The last big conflict starts. You fight some unkillable things and kill them. You face off against an old nemesis and finally end him.
And then…
And then you’re given three choices, none of which result in anything any different from the others, and none of which have consequences that have any connection to the goals we’ve been working on for the last hundred hours or so.
Those people you were just talking to? They’re gone. Or stranded on an alien world. Or dead. All those planets you helped? They’re gone too — cut off, or starving, or maybe just destroyed in manufactured super-novas. Nothing you did or accomplished in the last three games actually matters — it’s all been wiped out by one of three (red, green, or blue) RESET buttons you pushed, because pushing one of those buttons was the only ‘choice’ given to you at the end.
As a species, trained for thousands of years in the way stories work, we know this is a bad ending. Not “tragic”. Just bad. Poor.
This isn’t about a bunch of priviledged gamers complaining about a sad ending, because there are well-done sad endings that make contextual sense.
This is about a mechanical ending to the game that doesn’t end the story — that provides no emotional release — one so disassociated from the previous 99% of the story that the fans of the series collectively hope it will later be revealed to be a dream (or, in the context of the setting, a final Reaper Indoctrination attempt).
Dear writers: If you create something, and your readers hope that what you just gave them was, in reality, an “it was a dream all along” ending, because that would be better than what you wrote, you seriously. fucked. up.
Is the ending, as an ending (taken out of context with the game we’ve been playing), a bad one? No. It’s an interesting theme that was explored extensively in a B-plot within the series and which could certainly be the central thread of a series of its own.
But it’s not the ending of this story. Our goals — the one we’ve been fighting for — are never addressed. There is no closure, either happy or sad — we want our emotional release as it relates to the game we actually played. Maybe that means tragedy at our own stupid hands — maybe victory wrested from the biomechanical jaws of defeat (and at the cost of a greater looming danger ahead).
The ending we got? It didn’t make me angry or sad or happy. It left me unfulfilled, because it ended the game talking about something I didn’t actually care about, and left me waiting for that emotional release that ME1 or ME2 pulled off so well.
The idea that the player’s should just deal with the ending, because it’s Bioware’s ending and not theirs is one of the interesting points in this debate, simply because it rides this weird line where we don’t really have a cultural context for what the Mass Effect series is: Is it a game? Is it a story? If if it’s a game, then who cares about the story, and if it’s a story, then treat it like a book and stop pretending you get to influence it, stupid consumer.
The answer is more complicated: Is it a game or story? Yes. Moreover, it’s a game that’s welcomed player input into the narrative from the first moment, and as such, should be committed to honoring that input throughout. It’s a story, but it belongs to everyone telling it.
But It’s Art! There’s a recurring tune being played by Bioware in response to this outcry, and it goes something like this: “We might respond to these complaints, and we might flesh out the ending we presented, but we’re not going to change anything, because this is art — this is the product of artists — and as such it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces.”
Which is, speaking as a working artist, complete and utter horseshit.
If you make a movie, and you put in front of focus groups, and they categorically hate the ending, you change it. If you’re writing a book and your first readers tell you the ending is terrible, you fix it. (Ditto your second readers, your second-draft readers, your agent, your editor, your copy editor.)
Or maybe you don’t — maybe you say “this is art, and it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces”, which is certainly your choice — but don’t expect anyone to help you bring that piece of crap to print.
Anyone can tell a story. You can sit in your special writing nook and turn out page after page of perfectly unaltered, immutable art and be quite happy — you’re welcome to, in fact.
But when you decide you want to make a living off it? Even if you want to just make a little spending money?
Then the rules change. Then it’s work. Then it’s a job. More importantly, then it’s part of a business model, and those golden days of your art being inviolate and immutable blah blah blah are well and truly behind you. Name me a story that saw print, or a movie that saw the Big Screen, and I’ll show you art that changed because of input from someone other than the the original creator — from someone looking at it from the point of view of the consumer.
Bioware is a company. Making their stories into games is their business model. Hiding behind some kind of “but it’s art, so we’re not changing it” defense is insulting, disingenuous, and flat-out stupid. Worse, it perpetuates the idea that the creator’s output is in some stupid way sancrosant and, as art, cannot be “wrong” or “bad”. If you as a creator imagine that to be the case — if you think that kind of argument is going to defend your right to never do a rewrite or a revision or line edits or to ever alter, in any way, your precious Artistic Process — discard that notion.
Or become accustomed to a long life as an “undiscovered talent”.
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buckyownsmylife · a day ago
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Finding You #1 - Steve Rogers smut
The one where Steve finds you
When you end up being transformed into an omega without any understanding of what it entails, five Alphas find themselves responsible for your well-being.  Guess it’s only expected you’d take care of them too, huh?
Main themes of this part: outdoor sex, sex with stranger, outdoor sex, knotting. For general warnings and author’s notes, please go to the fic’s masterlist.
Special thanks to @sweetkingdomstarlight-blog. This series seriously wouldn't exist without you.
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It seems ridiculous to say it now, but truthfully - my mom always warned me not to go out alone, especially in the woods. As a kid, I felt this weird, almost mystical calling towards nature, and so most afternoons would find me running around the trees in our backyard - our little cottage luckily placed right before the beginning of our town’s forest.
Or so I felt about it, of course. As I grew older and became accustomed to hear her constant sermons about wandering too far off into the green embrace of mother nature, I eventually came to understand where her worries came from.
Our forest was inhabited by strange men, so was whispered in bonfires, gossiped around the streets when the town gathered together to distract themselves at some carnival that rolled around overnight. They had been born amongst the trees, where they were raised, and where they lived until now. They were wild and dangerous, more animal than men, and it wasn’t unusual for unsolved crimes in the neighboring villages to be attributed to them.
And still, no officer was brave enough to wander into the woods and bring these vile men to justice. They just allowed them to remain there, living like beasts, until the day they were caught dirtying their souls for the crimes their hands committed.
As a child, I’d heard of such tales, of course - but only the tame version that was repeated night after night when my mom tucked me in for the evening and tried to get through to me so I wouldn’t venture into the forest anymore.
“It’s dangerous,” so was the moral of every fable she had ever told me. “And you should always do as your mother said.” As the only family I had ever had, I hated to be confronted with the knowledge that I was hurting her in any way, but still, I couldn’t avoid it. My feet would always take me towards the edge of the forest, and the only conclusion I was ever able to draw from her retelling of the animal-men was how great it must have been to grow up amongst the trees.
It was only once she fell ill that she was finally able to get a promise out of me. “Yes, mama,” I still remember repeating, sitting on the edge of her bed and holding her fragile and trembling hand between my own. “I won’t wander off into the woods anymore. I have to take care of you.”
And so I did. For a month I didn’t venture into the unknown, and I didn’t even have the time to miss it, too worried about my mother to consider escaping towards the trees. But then came her funeral. For another month, I just stared out into the woods, trying to decide if I should honor her memory or follow my heart. There was no one waiting for me at home anymore, no one to miss me.
No one to worry about me.
I ended up in the forest one month and a day after my mother’s death. To make it even worse, it was night and I ventured into it deeper than I had ever been before. I didn’t mind if I didn’t come back, there was nothing left for me at the house I grew up in, or in the town where I was born.
I didn’t even have any tears left to cry.
Looking up at the full moon, I took a moment to close my eyes and breathe in the smell of pine and wood, paying special attention to the gentle sounds of the animals getting ready to sleep. How I wished I was one of them, able to hide inside the trunk of a tree and make a room for me there, live forever surrounded by the green that I loved.
Suddenly, the sound of leaves crinkling underneath a footstep pierced through the calmness of the night. I turned around in surprise, trying to see if it was coming from behind me, but couldn’t see far into the shadows to figure out if it was a large animal or a squirrel.
I remained frozen for a few seconds, but no other sounds disturbed the gentle chirping of the crickets. Sighing in relief, I turned back once more, only to find a man right before me, head tilted as he took in my presence like I did to him.
Perhaps I should have started to tremble in fear right then and there, but the truth was - I didn’t. Even though his frame was significantly larger than mine, even though his biceps bulged as we stared at one another, even though he could easily kill me without any repercussions whatsoever… All I could do was admire how handsome he was, with his blond hair and blue eyes. For a few seconds, I considered if I had run into some sort of angel or mystical creature.
“Hello?” I risked greeting, and he just blinked at me, almost as if he hadn’t heard me. Then, all at once, he crossed the distance between us, taking my face between his hands and pulling me to stand on my tiptoes so when he leaned down, our lips could connect.
My eyes widened before I told myself to close them, for whatever reason not feeling like shoving him away as he forced his tongue into my mouth. It’s not like I’d be able to do that, anyway - he was easily much stronger than me. When he finally let me go, after I became dizzy from the lack of oxygen, I observed that he actually towered over my height, the difference in size between us as evident as the contrast of the bright moon against the night sky.
It made my underwear dampen - not only the fact that this very attractive stranger had his tongue inside my mouth, lapping my taste as if he was parched and my lips had the only solution to his problem, but the way he made me feel so small.
“I’m Steve, by the way,” he breathed out against me when we parted once more, eyes still closed when I gave him my own name. That had him opening his eyelids to set his gaze on me, but if I was expecting to get lost in the blue of his eyes, what I saw then shocked me.
It wasn’t that they had darkened, no - it wasn’t just that. It was that his pupils had all but disappeared, leaving his bright hues to set on my frame and spark shivers of anticipation. I trembled in his arms again when he repeated my name back to me, seemingly fascinated by the syllables that formed it.
“Tell me, Y/N,” he asked, hands still cradling my face when he tilted his to take me in. “Are you an angel?” I couldn’t help the giggle that escaped me as I realized he had thought the same as I had when my eyes set on him.
“No, sir,” I confessed, to which he inhaled deeply. It was only later that I realized he was breathing me in, taking in my scent. At that moment, I was too busy realizing that he was trembling, exercising an enormous effort to hold himself back from doing something.
“That makes me feel better about what I’m gonna do.”
He took me right there, in the middle of nowhere, my dress torn to shreds with a flick of his wrist when he pounced on me until we were both rolling on the dirt. He ended up on top and I was in my stomach so I never got to see him taking off his clothes - I just assumed he did because the next thing I felt was his member stretching me out, forcing me to take every inch of him in my tight channel.
Perhaps I should have screamed to beg for help or for him to stop, but all I could think was that it felt too fucking good. His hand on my skin felt too fucking good and when he ran his hands over my body, I just wanted him to keep me in his arms and never let me go.
My cries were lost to the woods, swallowed by the trees, taken as offerings by the forest. Not because of the pain of being split open like this, by something as long and thick as his cock, but because of the overwhelming pleasure each snap of his hips gave me, a pleasure I had never known before.
With each thrust, I felt something changing within me, like I was becoming more his than my own. The thought thrilled me to no end. I closed my eyes when the bliss engulfed me, welcoming me into its warm embrace and warning me of a life where I’d never feel sated without it again. My hands scratched the ground, collecting some dirt in my closed fist when I tensed, and behind me, I heard his groans before I felt a thickness at the base of his member, where we were connected, penetrate me with a pop.
He let his weight rest on top of me and I felt comforted by his presence, even with the unfamiliar feeling of a warm wetness filling me, his now somewhat expanded member leaving me inflated and incapable of moving.
So we stayed there in silence. His hands still roaming over the flesh he could explore until I felt his breath against the shell of my ear. It almost sounded like a regretful sigh and I found myself hoping he wasn’t regretting this.
“You’ll have to come with me now,” he informed me, biting my shoulder gently enough not to leave a mark. All I could do was nod. I didn’t know where he was taking me and where that would lead me, but I did know I wanted to learn whatever it was that this man wanted to show me about his life.
My eyelashes fluttered when I closed my eyes to rest against my arms, hoping to catch my breath while we remained stuck there. What I hadn’t anticipated was to end up falling asleep still in his embrace.
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doycetopia · 9 years ago
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Mass Effect, Tolkien, and Your Bullshit Artistic Process
It may seem a bit odd that I’m posting this here rather than on my gaming-related blog, since it is about the Mass Effect game series and other related geekery. I debated where I should post it, but ultimately this is about writing as much or more than it’s about gaming, so here it is. Everything that follows is my opinion and, further, is infested with spoilers for both the Mass Effect series and, I suppose, The Lord of the Rings. Reader beware.
In late February, I said (on twitter) that I thought the Mass Effect universe was probably the most important science fiction of a generation.
Since then, the executive producer for Mass Effect 3 has been working tirelessly to get me to retract that statement.
If you follow gaming news at all, you’ll already know that there have been great clouds of dust kicked over this particular story — the gist of it is that Mass Effect was brought to a conclusion with the release of Mass Effect 3 (note: not brought to its conclusion, just brought to a conclusion — more on that later), and while 99% of the game was the same top-notch, engaging, tear-inducing stuff that we’ve come to expect, the last five minutes or so is a steaming, Hersey’s Kiss-sized dollop of dog shit that you are forced to ingest at the conclusion of the meal, like a mint, before they let you out the door.
It’s fair to say that it’s soured many players’ impression of the experience as a whole.
Now, I realize that many of the folks reading this may not have played through the Mass Effect series. First of all, that’s really too bad, because it is very, very good both in terms of play (which steadily improves from game to game) and story (barring one steaming exception) and (I think) completely worth the time.
But secondly, I’d like to keep you non-ME people involved in the conversation, so I’m going to draw a comparison that I think most anyone likely to visit here will understand, so that we can all proceed with reasonable understanding of the issues.
Let’s pretend for a moment that The Lord of the Rings was released not as a series of books, but a series of games. More importantly, the company behind the series decided to do something really hard but rewarding with the game — they were going to let you make decisions during play that substantively altered the elements of the story. That means that some of people playing through this Lord of the Rings story would end up with a personal game experience that was pretty much exactly like the one you and I all remember from reading the books, but that story is just sort of the default. Whole forums were filled up by fans of the series comparing notes on their versions of the game, with guides on how to get into a romantic relationship with Arwen (the obvious one), Eowyn (more difficult, as you have to go without any kind of romance option through the whole first game, but considered by many to be far more rewarding), or even Legolas (finally released as DLC for the third game).
And that’s certainly not all of possible permutations. Some players actually managed to save Boromir (though he leaves the party regardless, but gets you a whole extra army in the third game if he’s alive, and makes Denethor much less of a pain in the ass to deal with). Some folks don’t split up the party, and spend most of the game recruiting supporters through the South and North, from Aughaire down to Dol Imren. For some, Gimli dies at Helms Deep; for others only Merry escapes into Fangorn (which makes recruiting the Ents all but impossible). Hell, there are even a few weirdos who chose NOT to recruit Samwise back at the beginning of the story, and actually play through the whole first game without him (though the writers reintroduce him as a non-optional party member once you get ready to leave Lothlorien).
And what about the players who rolled the main character as a female? That changes a LOT of stuff, as you might well imagine. (Though, thankfully, all the dialogue options with Legolas are the same.)
Are you with me so far?
Okay, so you’re playing through this game — you’ve played through parts 1 and 2 several times, in fact, sometimes as a goody-two-shoes, and sometimes as a total bad-ass. You’ve got a version of the game where you’re with Arwen, one with Eowyn, one with Legolas, and one where you focus on Frodo and his subtle hand-holding bromance with Sam. You’re ready for Part Three, is what I’m saying, and out it comes.
And it’s awesome. You finally bring lasting alliance between Rohan and Gondor, you form a fragile-yet-believable peace between elves and dwarves, and even manage to recruit a significant strike-force of old Moria orcs who don’t so much like you as much as they just hate the johnny-come-lately Uruk-hai.
The final chapters open. You face down Saruman (who pretended to fund all your efforts through the second book, but then turned on you at the end of the Two Towers), which was really satisfying. You crawl up to the top of Mount Doom, collapse against a rock, and have a really touching heart to heart with Sam. It’s over. You know you have all your scores high enough to destroy the One Ring with no crisis of conscious and no lame “Gollum bit off my finger and then falls in the lava” ending, like the one you saw on the fanfic forums last year.
And then out comes this glowing figure from behind a rock, and it’s… Tom Bombadil.
And Tom explains your options.
Oh, and you're totally going to die too. And all the roads and horses throughout all of middle earth vanish. And by the way did you know that Sauron and the Nazgul all actually just work for Bombadil? True story.
Now, let’s just ignore the fact that the company behind this game has been quoted many times as saying that the game will end with no less than sixteen different endings, to honor all the various ways the story could go, and focus on these three options.
None of them have anything to do with destroying the ring, do they?
Has ‘destroying the ring’ (alternately, destroying Sauron) been pretty much THE THING you’ve been working toward the whole game? Yeah, it has. In fact, it mentions “Rings” right there in the title of the series, doesn’t it? Rather seems to make The Ring a bit of a banner item, doesn’t it?
But no, none of these options are about the Ring; they’re about one of the b-plots in the series, and one which you pretty much already laid to rest a few chapters ago.
So… okay, maybe this isn’t the END ending, you think, and you pick one of the options…
And that’s it. A bunch of cut-scenes play, Mount Doom explodes with fiery red light, you die, and the credits roll. The end.
Ohhh-kay. Maybe that was the bad ending. Let’s reload a save and pick option 2…
Same. Exact. Cut scenes. Except Mount Doom’s explosion is green. What?
Alright… umm… let’s check #3…
Nope. Mount Doom’s explosion is Blue. That’s it.
And, absolutely inexplicably, every single one of these cut scenes shows Gandalf, Aragorn, and SAMWISE escaping the explosion on one of the eagles and crash-landing somewhere in Lorien where they all pat themselves on the back and watch the sun set together.
What? But… Sam was with you. Aragorn and Gandalf… did they start running away halfway through the last fight at the Black Gate? Your boys abandoned you?
So, given this example, it’s possible — even for someone who didn’t play Mass Effect — to understand the fan’s reaction. The ending has no real connection to the rest of the story; barring the last scene and one conversation with an unnamed Nazgul in Book 3, it would lift right out with no one even noticing. It completely takes away your choices at the end of a game about making world-altering choices. It effectively destroys the Middle Earth that you were fighting for 100 hours of gameplay to preserve — no magic? Maybe a completely wiped out dwarven race? No one can travel anywhere without painstakingly rebuilding roads for a couple hundred years and replacing horses with something else? Also, no matter what, no matter how much ass you kick, you’re dead? Yeah. No thanks, man.
And that’s not even paying attention to stuff like how (and why) Sam and Gandalf and Strider ran away at the end. I mean… even if you’re going to do a shitty twist ending, don’t be so goddamn lazy about it. Don’t sit there and claim that criticism of the ending is an attack on your artistic product, because frankly that ending is full of holes and needs a rewrite and probably two more chapters to flesh out. (More on that in a bit.)
So… that’s where the Mass Effect franchise was after ME3 came out. A lot of confusion. A lot of rage. Some protests of a very interesting sort, where the gamers against the terrible ending decided to draw attention to the issue by raising something like seventy-thousand bucks for geek-related charities.
Now, let’s go a bit deeper.
Let’s continue with this Lord of the Rings video game analogy. Let’s say that after a bit of digging, people realized that Tolkien actually left the company to work on other projects before the game was complete. He wrote up a detailed outline, though; something that clearly spelled out exactly how the main arc of the story was supposed to play out, in broad strokes, basically laying out what we would expect the ending to be, pretty much.
But Tolkien left. So they get another guy in. Someone else who’s written stuff about some kind of powerful ring…
They get Steven R. Donaldson.
(Those of you who know me and my history with the Thomas Covenant books can guess that this analogy is not going to be a positive one, because seriously: fuck Thomas Covenant.)
So they get this Donaldson guy in to helm the end of the series, and it turns out he’s the guy who comes up with the Tom Bombadil, fuck-the-continuity-of-the-series ending.
Why? Maybe he’s pissed about being the second choice. Maybe he’s not getting paid enough to give a fuck. Maybe he just really wants to do this kind of story, but can’t be arsed to write a series of his own for which it makes sense. Maybe the original ending outlined by Tolkien got leaked on a forum the year before the last game came out, so people decided it had to be changed, even if the alternative makes no sense. I don’t know.
What I do know is the there was a different ending written out for the Mass Effect series, the short version of which is that the Big Reveal in ME3 is that the Mass Effect itself — the magical black-box technology that allows interstellar travel and powers a ton of other things from weapons to expensive toothbrushes — is causing a constant increase in dark energy in the galaxy, and that’s causing all kinds of bad things (like the accelerated death of stars).
The Mass Effect — you know, the thing from which the name of the series is derived — is the secret behind the Big Reveal. Who would have thought?
So, in the end of the game-as-envisioned, you’re given a choice of saving the galaxy by sacrificing the human race (making humanity into a biomechanical, synthetic-life, communal-intelligence “Reaper” that can stop the Dark Energy decay), or telling the Reapers to screw themselves and trying to fix the problem on your own (with a handful of centuries left before the Dark Energy thing snowballs and grows out of control on its own).
Which, in a word, would have been better. Certainly FAR better than some kind of stupid Tom Bombadil/Star Child explanation where we are told that the (synthetic AI) Reapers destroy advanced organic civilizations every 50 thousand years to prevent organic civilizations from… being destroyed by synthetic AIs.
Now we don’t just have some gamer complaints about the terrible ending, we have a demonstrably better ending that was actually supposed to be the one implemented. Complicates things, doesn’t it?
But Why All the Hate?
The simple fact of the matter is that Mass Effect is a story, and it’s a very good story — in my opinion, it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever experienced. People can hem and haw about what constitutes a story — about whether a game can really be a story if people can play it — as though a story is only a story if it’s spoken or written or projected up on a movie screen. That’s like saying a person is only a person if they walk or ride a horse or drive a car… because we all know the vehicle in which the subject is conveyed changes that subject’s inherent nature.
Some people say it’s not a real story because the player’s choices can alter it. I think they’re full of crap, and I say the proof of its power as a story is right there in the story-pudding — it affects me as a story does — and that’s all the criteria met. Walks like duck, quacks like duck, therefore duck.
But the problem (if you’re BioWare) is that human beings understand stories; we know how they’re supposed to work, thanks to thousands of years of cultural training. Mass Effect (until that conclusion) is a nigh-perfect example of how a story is done correctly, thanks in part to the medium, which allows (if you’ll permit me the slaughter of a few sacred cows) a level of of immersion and connection beyond what a book or movie or any other storytelling medium up to this point in our cultural history can match, because of the fact that you can actively take part in that story from the inside. Heresy? Fine, brand me a heretic; that’s how I see it.
And since it’s such a good story, people know how the thing is supposed to proceed, and they know how it should end.
You start out in ME1 trying to stop a bad guy, Saren. He’s the guy who gets us moving (because he’s a bad guy, and that’s what they do — bad guys act, and heroes react to that and move the story along). As we try to stop him, we find out there’s something bigger going on than just a rogue cop on a rampage. The picture keeps getting bigger, the stakes keep getting higher, and we keep getting our motivation and our level of commitment tested. Are we willing to sacrifice our personal life? Yes? Okay, will we sacrifice one of our friends? Yes? Okay, how about the leaders of the current galactic government? Yes? Okay…
It goes on like that. You fucking invest, is what I’m saying, and that’s just in the first game.
In the second game, the fight continues, as we have merely blunted the point of the spear, not stopped the attack. Our choices in ME1 had consequences, and we start to see them play out, for better or worse. Meanwhile, we’re trying to stop Evil Plan #2, in a suicide mission that could literally cost us nearly every single friend we’ve made. In the end, we get the joy of victory mixed with the sadness of the loss of those who didn’t make it, and it’s all good, because it’s a strong, healthy, enjoyable emotional release.
And now it’s ME3, and the stakes are even higher. We’re not recruiting more individual allies — we’re recruiting whole peoples — whole civilizations. Planets are falling. Worlds are being erased.
In the words of Harbinger, this hurts you.
Why? Because you know these people who are dying. You’ve spent over a hundred hours traveling this setting, meeting people, helping them, learning about each of their little stories; building relationships with, literally, hundreds of individuals. Every one of these planets going up in flames has a face (even if it’s a face behind a breathmask), and no one falls in this final story that wasn’t important in some way to you or someone you know.
(By contrast, the enemy is faceless and (since the reapers harvest your former allies and force them into monstrous templates) largely indistinguishable from one another — as it should be in this kind of story. You do not care about a Husk, though you might mourn the person killed to create the thing.)
In short, you aren’t just playing this game to get the high score. You’re fighting for this galaxy of individuals you’ve grown very, very attached to; to protect it and, as much as you can, preserve it. You’ve spent several hours every day on this, for months. It matters.
"Hard to imagine galaxy. Too many People. Faceless. Statistics. Easy to depersonalize. Good when doing unpleasant work. For this fight, want personal connection. Can't anthropomorphize galaxy. But can think of favorite nephew. Fighting for him."
(Best of all, you get to shoot bad guys in the face while you’re doing it, which takes this heavy topic and makes it engaging at that level as well. It’s like soaking up all the gravitas of Schindler’s List while enjoying the BFG-toting action of Castle Wolfenstein at the same time.)
The end comes. We talk to all our friends. Everyone’s wearing their brave face, talking about what they’re going to do afterwards, which beach they’re going to retire on. You start to think that maybe the end is in sight and maybe, just maybe, you might even be able to see some of that ending.
The last big conflict starts. You fight some unkillable things and kill them. You face off against an old nemesis and finally end him.
And then…
And then you’re given three choices, none of which result in anything any different from the others, and none of which have consequences that have any connection to the goals we’ve been working on for the last hundred hours or so.
Those people you were just talking to? They’re gone. Or stranded on an alien world. Or dead. All those planets you helped? They’re gone too — cut off, or starving, or maybe just destroyed in manufactured super-novas. Nothing you did or accomplished in the last three games actually matters — it’s all been wiped out by one of three (red, green, or blue) RESET buttons you pushed, because pushing one of those buttons was the only ‘choice’ given to you at the end.
As a species, trained for thousands of years in the way stories work, we know this is a bad ending. Not “tragic”. Just bad. Poor.
This isn’t about a bunch of priviledged gamers complaining about a sad ending, because there are well-done sad endings that make contextual sense.
This is about a mechanical ending to the game that doesn’t end the story — that provides no emotional release — one so disassociated from the previous 99% of the story that the fans of the series collectively hope it will later be revealed to be a dream (or, in the context of the setting, a final Reaper Indoctrination attempt).
Dear writers: If you create something, and your readers hope that what you just gave them was, in reality, an “it was a dream all along” ending, because that would be better than what you wrote, you seriously. fucked. up.
Is the ending, as an ending (taken out of context with the game we’ve been playing), a bad one? No. It’s an interesting theme that was explored extensively in a B-plot within the series and which could certainly be the central thread of a series of its own.
But it’s not the ending of this story. Our goals — the one we’ve been fighting for — are never addressed. There is no closure, either happy or sad — we want our emotional release as it relates to the game we actually played. Maybe that means tragedy at our own stupid hands — maybe victory wrested from the biomechanical jaws of defeat (and at the cost of a greater looming danger ahead).
The ending we got? It didn’t make me angry or sad or happy. It left me unfulfilled, because it ended the game talking about something I didn’t actually care about, and left me waiting for that emotional release that ME1 or ME2 pulled off so well.
The idea that the player’s should just deal with the ending, because it’s Bioware’s ending and not theirs is one of the interesting points in this debate, simply because it rides this weird line where we don’t really have a cultural context for what the Mass Effect series is: Is it a game? Is it a story? If if it’s a game, then who cares about the story, and if it’s a story, then treat it like a book and stop pretending you get to influence it, stupid consumer.
The answer is more complicated: Is it a game or story? Yes. Moreover, it’s a game that’s welcomed player input into the narrative from the first moment, and as such, should be committed to honoring that input throughout. It’s a story, but it belongs to everyone telling it.
But It’s Art! There’s a recurring tune being played by Bioware in response to this outcry, and it goes something like this: “We might respond to these complaints, and we might flesh out the ending we presented, but we’re not going to change anything, because this is art — this is the product of artists — and as such it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces.”
Which is, speaking as a working artist, complete and utter horseshit.
If you make a movie, and you put in front of focus groups, and they categorically hate the ending, you change it. If you’re writing a book and your first readers tell you the ending is terrible, you fix it. (Ditto your second readers, your second-draft readers, your agent, your editor, your copy editor.)
Or maybe you don’t — maybe you say “this is art, and it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces”, which is certainly your choice — but don’t expect anyone to help you bring that piece of crap to print.
Anyone can tell a story. You can sit in your special writing nook and turn out page after page of perfectly unaltered, immutable art and be quite happy — you’re welcome to, in fact.
But when you decide you want to make a living off it? Even if you want to just make a little spending money?
Then the rules change. Then it’s work. Then it’s a job. More importantly, then it’s part of a business model, and those golden days of your art being inviolate and immutable blah blah blah are well and truly behind you. Name me a story that saw print, or a movie that saw the Big Screen, and I’ll show you art that changed because of input from someone other than the the original creator — from someone looking at it from the point of view of the consumer.
Bioware is a company. Making their stories into games is their business model. Hiding behind some kind of “but it’s art, so we’re not changing it” defense is insulting, disingenuous, and flat-out stupid. Worse, it perpetuates the idea that the creator’s output is in some stupid way sancrosant and, as art, cannot be “wrong” or “bad”. If you as a creator imagine that to be the case — if you think that kind of argument is going to defend your right to never do a rewrite or a revision or line edits or to ever alter, in any way, your precious Artistic Process — discard that notion.
Or become accustomed to a long life as an “undiscovered talent”.
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shyficwriter · 2 days ago
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Temporary Home: Chapter 8
Guardians of the Galaxy fanfic | Reader x Guardians (With Yondu and Kraglin!)
Summary: Prank war engaged, who will win? Also, Yondu helps you with a little problem, Peter wants to watch another movie, and Rocket finally gets a surprise. Lots of fluff.
Previous Chapter here | Next Chapter Here Or click here to: Start From Beginning
Author’s Note: Slight sadness because I wrote out the whole Rocket seeing a real raccoon scene, then realized it didn't fit with the direction of this chapter, and now I have to save it for a future one. Poo. Also, for my records, this is day 10 of the Guardians living with reader. Also, Also: I love all the little replies you guys leave for me on this fic! This is a sideblog, so I can't reply to them in the notes, but I just want to let you guys know I love and appreciate them so much!!!!
Word Count: 5,561
You woke up a little nervous, Yondu's warning having gotten to you a bit. You couldn't remember the last time you pulled a prank, and now he's told you that you might have accidentally started a war with Kraglin and Peter? Just what you needed. Great.
The first thing you did, aside from seeing that Mantis was still asleep, was check yourself and your bed over to make sure they hadn't left any surprise pranks for you in your sleep. You even checked your reflection in your phone just in case one of them could have managed to draw on your face while you were sleeping, even though you knew that would be ridiculous... or was it?
Okay, so maybe you were more than a little nervous.
It didn't take long for you to scold yourself. Why should you be nervous? This was your home, you had the advantage. You weren't going to hide like some scared child from some pranks. As you got dressed you told yourself that you'd prepare yourself for anything they had coming your way. Shut it down. Nip it in the bud. Besides, what if Yondu was wrong? Maybe they wouldn't even to anything at all.
You'd barely finished that thought when Peter jump-scared you the second you opened your bedroom door, causing you to reflexively punch him in the face.
"Ow! Dude!" he complained, hands up to his nose and checking it for blood. Luckily there wasn't any.
You cover your mouth, both in horror and trying to mask your humor at the belated karmic justice for the door incident. "I- I really want to say sorry... but I suppose you had that coming..." you say, swallowing your laughter and making your way around him to escape into the bathroom.
Well, that confirmed Yondu was right... You should probably start thinking of some ways to either prank back or defend yourself. If they wanted a war, you'd be ready.
***
You fancied toast again for breakfast and that's when Kraglin struck, using your previous night's admission against you. He spidered his fingers over your sides while your back was turned. You didn't even know he had been in the kitchen, but you sure as hell felt the tickly sparks of electricity that jolted through your body and made you drop the knife as you spasmed under his attack with an embarrassing squeal.
He stopped almost as quickly as he started, doubled over and slapping his knee in laughter. "Oh! That's just too good!" he teased.
You look at him with narrowed eyes, noticing Peter standing not too far off, looking pleased. "So that's how it's going to be, huh?" you say, more of a statement that a question.
The guys only ginned in response and you turned back to your toast.
"I see," you say cooly.
War it was.
***
After you ate you thought you'd make a trip to the attic. You knew you might have an asset or two up there that would prove useful. One such being, a big old rubber spider, another being a whoopie cushion.
You pocketed the whoopie cushion for now, but, seeing as you were the only one upstairs at the moment, you took your opportunity to slip into the room Peter and Gamora shared and leave the spider under Peter's blanket. You hadn't been in that room since it became Peter and Gamora's, but you were able to suss out which bed was his easy enough. You had a feeling it was the one that was only half-assed made-up. Also, his jacket was laying on top of it.
You made your way out as quietly as you had entered and made your way downstairs, but not before grabbing a bath towel from the bathroom closet.
Once downstairs, you searched for Gamora, finding her washing up a dish she used for breakfast.
"Hey," you say, "Can I ask you a favor."
Gamora dried the dish, saying, "As a general rule I don't get involved in any mischief Peter gets up to." She knew Peter was wont to get into prank wars and after last night it honestly didn't surprise her that he might have chosen to start one against you out of boredom. Naturally, she just assumed you were coming to her to make him back off.
"Oh, no. It's nothing like that," you clarify, then quieter, "I was hoping I could ask if you would be willing to keep Rocket busy and downstairs for a bit?"
Gamora looked at you with a raised eyebrow. How unexpected. Why would you need that?
You realized this would go better if you told her the reason. "Here, I'll show you something," you say, inviting her to follow you out to the shed.
Once inside you revealed to her what you had been working on, but she only looked at you in confusion, probably because the bed frame hadn't been assembled yet. You had planned to wrap the pieces in the towel for transport and assemble the frame in the room, and you told Gamora as such.
"I made Rocket a bed frame. You know, since he keeps complaining about the crib," you say, not wanting to sound too much like you cared.
Gamora now added surprise to the confusion on her face, "But why do you need me to keep him busy?" If this was a peace offering, like she assumed it was, then why would you not just tell Rocket about it? She knew that he would surely be grateful to get out of that crib he was always complaining about.
"So I can get these pieces upstairs and put the frame together in his room," you say, stacking the pieces onto the towel.
Understanding came over Gamora's face. "Oh. You want to surprise him." She sounded a bit surprised, which was understandable considering how you and Rocket clearly didn't get along.
You paused, giving her an apprehensive look. "Not exactly."
She tilted her head slightly, an eyebrow raised.
"I'm just going to put it together... and uh... leave it."
Gamora stared you down for a bit before a slight smirk formed on her lips. "You do realize he'll likely ask where it came from, right?"
You make a face and return to rolling the bed pieces in the towel. "Not my problem. So will you keep him busy?" You finish and turn to look at her. "Please? It shouldn't take long, I just need maybe ten minutes, fifteen tops."
Gamora smiled and shook her head, beginning to wonder if Peter might actually be right that you were a bit shy. "Sure, I'll see what I can do," Gamora said with a smile.
Together you walk back towards the house, and you reach the door just in time to see it open as Rocket and Kraglin walked outside.
You freeze for just a second. This wasn't part of the plan, but maybe you could work with it. Outside was even better than just downstairs, right?
"What you got there?" Rocket asked suspiciously.
Kraglin also looked suspiciously at the bundle in your arms, although for a different reason, wondering if it could possibly be something used for a revenge prank.
You kept your face calm and collected, and simply said, "Nothing." with a shrug as you went to walk through the door, exchanging a brief look with Gamora, signaling that she should make sure he stayed outside until you could finish. She seemed to understand.
Rocket and Kraglin also shared a look, and next thing you knew Kraglin was following after and offering to help you carry the bundle and Gamora was making up something she wanted to discuss with Rocket to keep him outside.
"I don't need any help," you say nonchalantly as Kraglin shut the door behind the two of you.
"I bet. Wouldn't want me ruining any revenge pranks... would ya?" he smirked.
You look at him unamused. "This isn't anything like that. Go mind your own business." You start to turn to leave the kitchen and Kraglin takes the opportunity with your arms being occupied to wiggle a finger in your ribs.
You jerk, nearly drop your bundle, and glare at him, hissing, "Don't you dare!"
Kraglin chuckled and folded his arms. "Then why don't you show me what ya got wrapped up in that-there bundle?"
You roll your eyes. "You're such a child." you scold, before nodding toward the door and telling him to follow you if he wants to know so bad. You could have opened the bundle on the table, but you needed to be quick. You couldn't dilly-dally with showing him there and now.
You led your unwanted sidekick up the stairs and to the room Rocket slept in and knelt to lay the bundle on the floor to unwrap it. You turn back to him and say, "It's a bed frame- and we didn't have this conversation."
"Ya made the rat a bed?" Kraglin said, with just as much surprise as Gamora had when she was told. He ignored the oddity of you instructing him to forget the conversation, for now. "Thought ya two hated each other?"
You break his gaze. "I got bored. Don't read too much into it," you say, starting to fit the frame pieces to the headboard. "I just have to put the pieces together real quick, and now that you seen what it is, you can leave me alone to get it done, 'kay? Good." You were grateful you had done a test fit and all the screw-holes were now pre-drilled as you quickly spun them into place with the screwdriver you pulled from your pocket.
Kraglin didn't leave. He just stared at you putting the pieces together for a bit. Those bed pieces didn't look like they were thrown together last minute in a fit of boredom- it all actually looked decently made. He had a feeling that this must have been what you'd been running off to do in that shed over the past few days. "Ya know, I'm startin' to think ya don't actually dislike us as much as you let on."
You paused to give him a look briefly before turning back to work. "That would be reading too much into it," you say, attaching the frame to the footboard.
A chuckle could be heard in Kraglin's voice as he said, "Whatever ya say, ma'am."
You ignore him, turning the last twist on the final screw and placing the bed slats to hold the mattress. You stood with the intent to transfer the crib mattress over when you paused to look around. There was the double bed, where you assumed Drax slept, and the crib, where you knew Rocket slept. Where did Groot sleep if there was only two beds?
You turn to Kraglin, who for some reason still hadn't left you be yet, and asked him. "There was only two beds in here, where does the little one sleep?"
Kraglin shrugged. "I dunno. I think he just curls up with one of the others 'cause he's so little.
You nod thoughtfully. Your intent had been to transfer the mattress and put the crib back away in the attic to get it out of the way, but now you reconsidered. Might as well give the kid the option to his own bed... but that would require another mattress...
"I'll be back." You tell Kraglin, briskly walking past him towards your own room. If you remembered correctly, there was a spare in the attic. An old one that never got thrown out due to mostly laziness and forgetfulness. You retrieved it, knowing exactly which corner you'd find it in, and while you were there, decided to grab a small folded blanket and a sheet for good measure.
You rolled all this tightly together for the trip down the stairs and returned to a confused Kraglin. You threw everything on the frame, the mattress expanding back to life once you released it. You quickly fitted the sheet and shook the blanket open, floating it over the bed. You then retrieved the towel and your screwdriver from the floor, looked to Kraglin and said. "Done." and began to walk towards the door, shooing Kraglin on your way out. You hadn't thought to look for another pillow while you were in the attic, but the raccoon could survive without one for now. After all, there hadn't been one in the crib so he wouldn't be missing much. Not that you super cared or anything.
Kraglin kept looking at you strangely. "So, ya gonna go tell him now?" he asked, walking backwards for a bit while you made your way towards the end of the hall.
"Nope," you say, ditching the towel in the bathroom and then heading for the stairs. You were going to go find Gamora so she'd know she no longer needed to keep Rocket distracted.
"Is it a surprise?" he asked.
"Nope."
Kraglin followed you down the stairs. "Then why aren't ya-"
You stop on the stairs and look at him sharply. "You ask too many questions. Don't make it a bigger deal than it is, 'kay?"
Kraglin frowned, but stopped bothering you as you made your way downstairs. You ditched him in the hall and made your way to the back door. You open it just long enough to catch Gamora's eye and signal to her that her services were no longer needed. You close the door back up and turn around, jumping out of your skin to find that you had indeed, not ditched Kraglin in the hall.
"The hell, man!"
Kraglin laughed, apparently delighted with startling you, and excused himself around you to head outside.
You frown at his retreating form and decided it'd be better to not hover around the door yourself, thinking you might give the house a good dusting to occupy yourself.
***
After cleaning the house and a quick lunch you decided your garden could use a good tending, so you grabbed your earbuds and made your way to the back door.
You weren't exactly sure what made you look up, probably Yondu's warning about that the guys might boobytrap your doorways with water buckets, but when you looked up you spotted the biggest spider resting right above the doorframe and you froze.
You weren't scared or anything... spiders, at least giant ass ones like the one above the door, just tended to freak you out a little... Ok, maybe more than a little. The irony wasn't lost on you either that you had just hidden a rubber spider in Peter's bed that morning.
Yondu, who you hadn't spotted at the table when you walked in as you were preoccupied with finding a song title, saw you freeze and tilted his head. He then saw you take a hesitant step back from the door and decided to ask, "Whatcha doing?"
You startled at the unexpected voice and turned to him. Slightly blushing you said, "Um, nothing. Just-uh, thought I'd go tend the garden." You considered going to use the front door instead but worried it might look a bit odd.
Yondu took a sip from his water and set his glass down. "Ya know, pretty sure you'll get outside quicker if ya walk towards the door. Not sure how far you'll get backin' away from it."
You blushed a bit harder. "Yeah- uh right." Your eyes flitted back to the spider and you visibly jumped a step back as it scurried quickly about 20cm up the wall.
"What was that?" Yondu asked, "What ya look so nervous for?" He started to stand from the table. Was there something outside? Was there someone outside? If so, why not say it?
You could feel the blush creep down your neck and you let out a nervous chuckle. "Um- it's nothing. Really." You couldn't help but glance back at the spider, and regretted it.
Yondu followed your gaze as he walked over and chuckled, relieved it was only a creepy crawly and not that they had all been discovered. He wasn't in the mood to fight a bunch of assholes today. He was, however, always in the mood to tease. "Ya scared of that little thing?"
"No! I- uh.. just wasn't expecting... it."
Putting his hands on his hips, Yondu grinned and shook his head. "My mistake then. Wouldn't wanna keep you from your garden." He clapped you on the back and looked at you expectantly, a hint of humor in his eyes as he nodded towards the door.
"Yeah..." you say, however you hesitated, looking up at the spider.
After a moment Yondu speaks up, laughter in his voice. "Can't do it, can ya?"
You give him a sharp look. "I can!"
"Alright then. Enjoy the fresh air. It's behind that door in case ya forgot." The mirth in his eyes told you he was enjoying this.
You look back up to the spider. You could do this. You start to take a step closer to the door when suddenly Yondu cries out, "Watch out! I think it jumped!" while mimicking a running spider with his hand over the top of your head, making you jump right out of your skin and smack at his hand (which you totally knew wasn't the spider...) with a shrill squeak.
Yondu starts laughing at your reaction and you cover your face in embarrassment. When his laughter dies down you give him a mournful look.
"Jackass." you mutter, arms crossed over your chest and face red from embarrassment.
Yondu rolls his eyes, mirth still present on his face, and he whistles.
It happened so quick you weren't sure you had really seen it.
A whistle. A flash of red. The sound of something cracking into the plaster. Another whistle. He caught an object in his hand; the arrow you'd see strapped to his leg all the time for no discernible reason. He wiped the tip against the rubbish bin before placing it back in its holster.
You blinked. "What the hell was that?" Did he just- move that arrow... with his mind?? Or was it with that metal mohawk thing? It had streaks of red light glowing through it for a moment there.
Yondu just grinned. "Took care of yer little problem so ya could stop yer scared fidgeting and get out the door," he said with a laugh, not really answering your question.
You blushed again but before you could protest he looked to where the spider had been and winced. "Hmm. Might have overestimated the toughness of yer wall there though..."
You follow his gaze to see that his arrow had left a small crack and a chip in the old plaster where he had killed the spider. You turn back to him. "I think that could be forgiven, if you can agree there's no reason to mention it again..."
Mirth crinkled his eyes as he got the hint. You didn't want to advertise that you were scared of the 'creepy crawly.' Was almost cute if he was honest. Reminded him of Peter when the boy was younger. "I'll take that as a 'thank you,'" he said with a cheeky wink as he walked out of the kitchen and left you to your business.
You mumbled out a, "Hmm... yeah," and rubbed the back of your head as you made your way out the door.
***
Later that day Peter came to you and asked if you wanted to join the others to watch another movie. He had found another movie from when he was a kid, The Princess Bride, and he was excited to watch it.
You curbed your suspicion that he might be setting up for a prank and agreed to watch the movie, having nothing else to do.
You walked into the sitting room while Peter walked off to find the others and found Mantis already in there waiting, sitting on the floor in front of the sofa with Groot. Gamora and Yondu were also waiting, but they hadn't sat down yet, instead they were standing by the TV looking at the DVD case and discussing how they hadn't expected Peter to be into this type of movie, clearly assuming it was a fairytale love story rather than the comedy that it also was. Looking about and seeing that Kraglin and Peter didn't seem to be coming back yet, you thought this might be a decent time to break out that whoopee cushion.
You pull it out of your pocket and with a quick breath blew it up, garnering the attention of Gamora and Yondu, who gave you funny looks. You quickly stuff the whoopee cushion under the sofa cushion furthest left and take a seat next to Mantis on the floor, furthest to the right. You look up to them nonchalantly, your expression saying, 'What? I didn't see anything. Didn't do anything either.'
A faint smirk played over Yondu's lips but neither of them said anything. Gamora, because she wasn't going to involve herself, and Yondu, because he ain't a narc. Mantis and Groot, however, gave you confused looks, but you just put your fingers to you lips in a 'shush' gesture and Mantis's eyes lit up, correctly assuming you were playing a practical joke, and she loved practical jokes.
Soon after the rest filed in. You were asked by Peter why you were on the floor when there was room on the couch, and you flippantly answered, "Didn't feel like being pestered like last time," giving him a pointed look.
He almost looked guilty but then just waved you off and sat next to Gamora. More room on the couch then. No skin off his nose.
Like last time, Yondu and Drax took the armchairs, and Rocket settled in on the other side of Mantis. Kraglin was the last to sit and you bit your tongue to keep a straight face and look uninterested as you side-eyed to watch him sit.
It went off just as you expected. A loud fart noise as he sat on the far end of the couch, earning loud laughter from Drax, Rocket, and Peter. Mantis and Groot giggled adorably while Yondu snickered and Gamora only reacted in mild surprise, likely having not realized what the object you placed below the cushion would do.
Kraglin tried to deny it, but Peter only laughed harder and said, "Yeah right! The hole you just ripped in the couch says otherwise!"
Drax then spoke through his laughter that you weren't going to be happy that Kraglin damaged the couch, only for Peter to tell him that it was just an expression.
You start to shake your head at Kraglin, give him an unimpressed look to sell your innocence, when you were startled by the blue tint to his face.
"Uh..." you say, moving to a kneeling position, "Are you alright?"
"Hah. Very funny." Kraglin said, looking annoyed and standing and pulling the whoopee cushion from beneath the sofa cushion. "Ya really think I don't know what these are? Pete had like a million of these."
"No, really. You're starting to turn blue, are you having any trouble breathing or anything?" you ask. He was acting fine, but you knew turning blue couldn't be good.
Peter, seeing you were genuinely concerned, decided to fill you in. "Oh, don't worry about him. He's just embarrassed he still fell for that." He laughed and punched a grumpy looking Kraglin in the arm.
You raised an eyebrow.
Peter clarified, "His blood is blue, not red like ours. He's fine."
"Alright then..." you say, hesitantly sitting back down. You hear Kraglin state he's keeping the whoopee cushion and you roll your eyes at him as Peter finally started the movie.
You hadn't seen this one in a long time, and you honestly barely remembered anything aside from a few funny quotes and the fact that you knew you had enjoyed it. The last thing you expected was for the movie to make you feel things.
You were doing pretty good until the man in black and Princess Buttercup began to talk about her lost love, and you kept it together until the line, "Death cannot stop true love, it can only delay it awhile."
Then you got up to leave the room.
"Want us to pause it for you?" asked Peter.
"Nope," came your answer.
No one thought anything of it, until they heard you go upstairs and you didn't return.
After about 15 minutes Yondu got the sense you weren't coming back, and he briefly wondered why before his sleepy eyes closed, falling asleep during this movie as well.
He had been waiting up the past few nights to try and catch you sneaking out at night, but each night he never heard or saw you leave, because you didn't. Needless to say this made him a little sleepy, but at least with no crew to manage or ship to run he was free to take naps, even if Peter did tease him that he was getting old for falling asleep through the movie.
Rocket, however, was cursing himself. And you. He had just been about to slip out when you beat him to it. He wasn't enjoying the movie that much, and he had realized that this might be the first chance in three days to sneak up to the attic when everyone was occupied, and you just had to go and ruin it by flaking out on the movie partway through. Rude.
They finished the movie without you and you mostly stayed in your room the rest of the night aside for a bit when you came down to grab something quick for a late supper.
You were in the kitchen having just finished the sandwich you had made when Peter came in for a snack.
"Hey," he greeted.
"Hey," you say back, pulling down a small glass for some juice.
"Saw you didn't come back to the movie earlier."
"Yeah?" You didn't meet his gaze as he opened a packet of that space food and sat down. "Seen it."
Peter nearly chuckled, "Well, yeah. I'd think so, it was yours."
You shrug. "Just didn't feel like finishing it."
"Hmmm..." came Peter's response. His tone annoyed you, like he was about to suggest there was an ulterior reason for you skipping out on the movie without a word. Just because he would have been right didn't mean you liked it.
You walk to the fridge to pour some juice and have the thought that you might spruce it up with a splash of vodka, which you kept in the freezer. You pull the bottle and gesture it to Peter, asking if he'd like some. He shook his head and you just poured some into your own glass and went to return the bottle to the freezer. When you did you spotted a small forgotten bag of ice you must have purchased awhile back. It was open, and you got an idea. Sneaking one of the chunks you hid it in your hand and closed the freezer.
You leaned against the counter and sipped your, now alcoholic, juice.
"Nice one with the whoopee cushion today. Good to see you have a sense of humor." Peter smiled.
You shrug. You kept the hand with the ice folded across your body and tucked under the elbow of the arm holding your juice, trying to keep it natural looking.
"If you want, maybe you and I could call a truce, and combine our efforts against Kraglin."
You smirk behind your glass. Either this was a trap, or he wasn't very loyal to his friend. You placed your bets on the former. "I think you're just afraid I might accidentally punch you in the face again if you keep it up."
Peter rubbed the back of his head and laughed, "Well, there may be that... but I do think if we combined our efforts..."
He didn't get to finish that sentence. You had downed the last bit of your juice and started to walk his way while he talked. As you passed behind him you quickly dropped the chunk of ice down the back of his shirt and then even more quickly scurried away as he seized up and gasped from the cold.
You snickered as you heard him squeak, "Ah! Cold! Cold!" on your way out and only spared a glance back at the door to see him abandon contorting his arms behind him to try and grab the offending ice in favor of resorting to hopping out of the chair and doing a funny little dance to shake the ice out.
Once he was free of the ice he caught your gaze and an evil grin passed over his lips as he bend down to grab the ice from the floor.
Your eyes widened and you fled up the stairs, hearing him call out, "Get back here!"
You made it to your room just in time to shut the door and flick the lock before he could have his revenge. You could hear laughter in his voice as he said, "And to think I offered a truce!"
"You didn't mean it!" you called back through the door.
Peter laughed and said, "Well I definitely don't mean it now!" You were right. He hadn't meant it. He was going to try and convince you to pull a prank on Kraglin that they would then turn back on you, but clearly you weren't going to fall for that. He heard you laugh at his statement and shook his head before walking back down the stairs.
At least he had made you laugh.
***
After an hour you decided it was probably safe to leave your room to shower for bed. Also, Mantis was knocking at the door and you had to let her in anyway.
You had just finished your shower and were heading back to your room when a high shriek could be heard from Peter and Gamora's room. The others peeked out from their respective bedrooms to see what the commotion was. Rocket came up the stairs saying, "Thought I heard Quill screaming like a girl, what happened?"
On cue the door to Peter and Gamora's room opened and out came Peter holding the rubber spider by one leg.
The two of you lock eyes across the landing. Your eyes widen slightly and you flatten your lips.
"Any idea how this ended up in my bed?" he asked, looking pointedly at you and waving the toy back and forth.
Shaking your head, you say, "Nope. No idea."
Peter narrowed his eyes but smirked. "Oh really?"
You began walking toward the safety of your room. "Not a clue. Total mystery. Night."
You could hear snickers behind you as open the door, and hear Peter shout after you, "I'm keeping this!" as you shut your bedroom door behind you.
***
Rocket had a surprise waiting for him when he decided to go to bed that night, having walked into the bedroom with little Groot asleep on his shoulder.
He looked at the new bed in confusion. He wanted to ask Drax where it came from, but the big guy was already asleep, and he knew better than to wake him if he didn't want accidentally punched in Drax's startled waking.
He hopped up to the crib and laid Groot down to sleep before inspecting the new bed, sniffing it and checking under the sheets. He didn't really know what he was looking for, but looking couldn't hurt.
Eventually, when he could find nothing wrong with it, he decided to settle in. Better than sleeping in a crib. He could ask where it came from in the morning.
***
The house was dark and quiet, and Yondu was considering giving up on trying to catch you sneaking out again, at least for tonight. After all, you hadn't in several days, what's the chance you would tonight? Might as well sleep.
Then he heard it. The tiniest creak of a door. Then barely audible steps down the stairs.
He stood from his bed as quietly as he could, and made his way over to the door he had left cracked in hopes of being better able to hear when you'd leave.
He peered out, but only just saw the top of your head dip below the floor as you descended.
He waited a moment, wanting to give a little space so as to not risk you hearing him follow. Opening the bedroom door slowly, he made his way out into the hall and to the stairs. He could see in the dark better than a Terran, but still moved carefully as he quietly made his way down the steps.
He stopped less than halfway down, having barely caught sight of you sitting on the hall bench to pull your boots on, and there he waited, out of sight in the dark, until you stood and grabbed a jacket.
He made his way quickly and quietly down the rest of the stairs and just caught you as you were opening the back door.
He stood in the kitchen doorway, arms crossed over his chest with a triumphant grin at having finally caught you before you could leave. He tilted his chin up and asked;
"So where ya sneaking off to?"
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estherdedlock · 2 days ago
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Classic SPN Fiction
https://archiveofourown.org/external_works/324153
So there’s the link to it. Or the link to the link, since none of these stories are actually hosted on AO3. 
I’m calling this “Classic SPN Fiction” because I can’t quite bring myself to call Big Pink’s writing fanfiction. Big Pink’s work is in a class by itself. She was one of Supernatural fandom’s original writers and I will always consider her the best. A friend pointed me in her direction when I first became an SPN fan back in 2007 and her work forever shaped my image of Sam, Dean, John and the whole SPN universe. My Dean, in particular, is her Dean, and has been her Dean since I first read “Fire In the Hole” nearly 14 years ago.
It’s impossible to pinpoint what makes Big Pink’s writing so exceptional. Her prose is very clean and matter-of-fact, not lyrical in the way I usually enjoy. i think it’s that she draws you so deep into the Winchesters’ lives. Her world-building is so hypnotic, the characters have such complexity, and their relationships to each other are so richly developed and moving that reading Big Pink can leave you a little shook up. I first read her work when I had watched only two seasons of SPN and as hard as I had fallen for the show, it was Big Pink’s writing that made the Winchester saga real for me. Reading Big Pink feels so much like discovering the true, secret history of Sam and Dean Winchester that it’s the show that starts to feel like fanfiction.
Which is why I’ve always been convinced that the show’s writers were also Big Pink readers. It not that farfetched---she started writing at a time when the show was so new that it wouldn’t surprise me if the writers and producers were peeking at fanfiction to see what was catching on with the audience. If they were, there’s no way they wouldn’t have found Big Pink or seen the quality there. There were so many little things that crept into the show that felt “Big Pinkish” for lack of a better word: supporting characters, names, settings, even moods. The way Dean dies in the series finale had eerie echoes of one of the most memorable scenes in her story “Red,” and while we’re talking about Dean’s death? That heart-piercing moment when Dean tells Sam that he sat outside his Stanford dorm room for hours, trying to work up the courage to go in? I know that I read that scene years and years ago. When Dean was speaking those words in 15.20 it felt so familiar that it was like one of my own recovered memories. I can practically see the words on the screen...but alas, Big Pink’s body of work is so extensive I would have no idea where to begin looking for it.
I’m not really sure if there’s still an audience for Big Pink’s writing in SPN fandom---she has all of three bookmarks on AO3. There’s no Castiel, for one thing, because her stories predate his introduction as a character. I believe all of her stories are Gen, so there are no ships, explicit content, or explorations of any character’s sexuality. There’s just unforgettable storytelling about two brothers who save people, hunt monsters, and love each other fiercely no matter how much they’re up against. It makes me anxious that her stories are only on LiveJournal because I’ve long felt that platform could disappear anytime the Russians decide to shut it down...so if you’re at all interested in truly classic Supernatural writing, you should add Big Pink to your summer reading list and immerse yourself in her stories while they’re still around.
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doycetopia · 9 years ago
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Mass Effect, Tolkien, and Your Bullshit Artistic Process
It may seem a bit odd that I’m posting this here rather than on my gaming-related blog, since it is about the Mass Effect game series and other related geekery. I debated where I should post it, but ultimately this is about writing as much or more than it’s about gaming, so here it is. Everything that follows is my opinion and, further, is infested with spoilers for both the Mass Effect series and, I suppose, The Lord of the Rings. Reader beware.
In late February, I said (on twitter) that I thought the Mass Effect universe was probably the most important science fiction of a generation.
Since then, the executive producer for Mass Effect 3 has been working tirelessly to get me to retract that statement.
If you follow gaming news at all, you’ll already know that there have been great clouds of dust kicked over this particular story — the gist of it is that Mass Effect was brought to a conclusion with the release of Mass Effect 3 (note: not brought to its conclusion, just brought to a conclusion — more on that later), and while 99% of the game was the same top-notch, engaging, tear-inducing stuff that we’ve come to expect, the last five minutes or so is a steaming, Hersey’s Kiss-sized dollop of dog shit that you are forced to ingest at the conclusion of the meal, like a mint, before they let you out the door.
It’s fair to say that it’s soured many players’ impression of the experience as a whole.
Now, I realize that many of the folks reading this may not have played through the Mass Effect series. First of all, that’s really too bad, because it is very, very good both in terms of play (which steadily improves from game to game) and story (barring one steaming exception) and (I think) completely worth the time.
But secondly, I’d like to keep you non-ME people involved in the conversation, so I’m going to draw a comparison that I think most anyone likely to visit here will understand, so that we can all proceed with reasonable understanding of the issues.
Let’s pretend for a moment that The Lord of the Rings was released not as a series of books, but a series of games. More importantly, the company behind the series decided to do something really hard but rewarding with the game — they were going to let you make decisions during play that substantively altered the elements of the story. That means that some of people playing through this Lord of the Rings story would end up with a personal game experience that was pretty much exactly like the one you and I all remember from reading the books, but that story is just sort of the default. Whole forums were filled up by fans of the series comparing notes on their versions of the game, with guides on how to get into a romantic relationship with Arwen (the obvious one), Eowyn (more difficult, as you have to go without any kind of romance option through the whole first game, but considered by many to be far more rewarding), or even Legolas (finally released as DLC for the third game).
And that’s certainly not all of possible permutations. Some players actually managed to save Boromir (though he leaves the party regardless, but gets you a whole extra army in the third game if he’s alive, and makes Denethor much less of a pain in the ass to deal with). Some folks don’t split up the party, and spend most of the game recruiting supporters through the South and North, from Aughaire down to Dol Imren. For some, Gimli dies at Helms Deep; for others only Merry escapes into Fangorn (which makes recruiting the Ents all but impossible). Hell, there are even a few weirdos who chose NOT to recruit Samwise back at the beginning of the story, and actually play through the whole first game without him (though the writers reintroduce him as a non-optional party member once you get ready to leave Lothlorien).
And what about the players who rolled the main character as a female? That changes a LOT of stuff, as you might well imagine. (Though, thankfully, all the dialogue options with Legolas are the same.)
Are you with me so far?
Okay, so you’re playing through this game — you’ve played through parts 1 and 2 several times, in fact, sometimes as a goody-two-shoes, and sometimes as a total bad-ass. You’ve got a version of the game where you’re with Arwen, one with Eowyn, one with Legolas, and one where you focus on Frodo and his subtle hand-holding bromance with Sam. You’re ready for Part Three, is what I’m saying, and out it comes.
And it’s awesome. You finally bring lasting alliance between Rohan and Gondor, you form a fragile-yet-believable peace between elves and dwarves, and even manage to recruit a significant strike-force of old Moria orcs who don’t so much like you as much as they just hate the johnny-come-lately Uruk-hai.
The final chapters open. You face down Saruman (who pretended to fund all your efforts through the second book, but then turned on you at the end of the Two Towers), which was really satisfying. You crawl up to the top of Mount Doom, collapse against a rock, and have a really touching heart to heart with Sam. It’s over. You know you have all your scores high enough to destroy the One Ring with no crisis of conscious and no lame “Gollum bit off my finger and then falls in the lava” ending, like the one you saw on the fanfic forums last year.
And then out comes this glowing figure from behind a rock, and it’s… Tom Bombadil.
And Tom explains your options.
Oh, and you're totally going to die too. And all the roads and horses throughout all of middle earth vanish. And by the way did you know that Sauron and the Nazgul all actually just work for Bombadil? True story.
Now, let’s just ignore the fact that the company behind this game has been quoted many times as saying that the game will end with no less than sixteen different endings, to honor all the various ways the story could go, and focus on these three options.
None of them have anything to do with destroying the ring, do they?
Has ‘destroying the ring’ (alternately, destroying Sauron) been pretty much THE THING you’ve been working toward the whole game? Yeah, it has. In fact, it mentions “Rings” right there in the title of the series, doesn’t it? Rather seems to make The Ring a bit of a banner item, doesn’t it?
But no, none of these options are about the Ring; they’re about one of the b-plots in the series, and one which you pretty much already laid to rest a few chapters ago.
So… okay, maybe this isn’t the END ending, you think, and you pick one of the options…
And that’s it. A bunch of cut-scenes play, Mount Doom explodes with fiery red light, you die, and the credits roll. The end.
Ohhh-kay. Maybe that was the bad ending. Let’s reload a save and pick option 2…
Same. Exact. Cut scenes. Except Mount Doom’s explosion is green. What?
Alright… umm… let’s check #3…
Nope. Mount Doom’s explosion is Blue. That’s it.
And, absolutely inexplicably, every single one of these cut scenes shows Gandalf, Aragorn, and SAMWISE escaping the explosion on one of the eagles and crash-landing somewhere in Lorien where they all pat themselves on the back and watch the sun set together.
What? But… Sam was with you. Aragorn and Gandalf… did they start running away halfway through the last fight at the Black Gate? Your boys abandoned you?
So, given this example, it’s possible — even for someone who didn’t play Mass Effect — to understand the fan’s reaction. The ending has no real connection to the rest of the story; barring the last scene and one conversation with an unnamed Nazgul in Book 3, it would lift right out with no one even noticing. It completely takes away your choices at the end of a game about making world-altering choices. It effectively destroys the Middle Earth that you were fighting for 100 hours of gameplay to preserve — no magic? Maybe a completely wiped out dwarven race? No one can travel anywhere without painstakingly rebuilding roads for a couple hundred years and replacing horses with something else? Also, no matter what, no matter how much ass you kick, you’re dead? Yeah. No thanks, man.
And that’s not even paying attention to stuff like how (and why) Sam and Gandalf and Strider ran away at the end. I mean… even if you’re going to do a shitty twist ending, don’t be so goddamn lazy about it. Don’t sit there and claim that criticism of the ending is an attack on your artistic product, because frankly that ending is full of holes and needs a rewrite and probably two more chapters to flesh out. (More on that in a bit.)
So… that’s where the Mass Effect franchise was after ME3 came out. A lot of confusion. A lot of rage. Some protests of a very interesting sort, where the gamers against the terrible ending decided to draw attention to the issue by raising something like seventy-thousand bucks for geek-related charities.
Now, let’s go a bit deeper.
Let’s continue with this Lord of the Rings video game analogy. Let’s say that after a bit of digging, people realized that Tolkien actually left the company to work on other projects before the game was complete. He wrote up a detailed outline, though; something that clearly spelled out exactly how the main arc of the story was supposed to play out, in broad strokes, basically laying out what we would expect the ending to be, pretty much.
But Tolkien left. So they get another guy in. Someone else who’s written stuff about some kind of powerful ring…
They get Steven R. Donaldson.
(Those of you who know me and my history with the Thomas Covenant books can guess that this analogy is not going to be a positive one, because seriously: fuck Thomas Covenant.)
So they get this Donaldson guy in to helm the end of the series, and it turns out he’s the guy who comes up with the Tom Bombadil, fuck-the-continuity-of-the-series ending.
Why? Maybe he’s pissed about being the second choice. Maybe he’s not getting paid enough to give a fuck. Maybe he just really wants to do this kind of story, but can’t be arsed to write a series of his own for which it makes sense. Maybe the original ending outlined by Tolkien got leaked on a forum the year before the last game came out, so people decided it had to be changed, even if the alternative makes no sense. I don’t know.
What I do know is the there was a different ending written out for the Mass Effect series, the short version of which is that the Big Reveal in ME3 is that the Mass Effect itself — the magical black-box technology that allows interstellar travel and powers a ton of other things from weapons to expensive toothbrushes — is causing a constant increase in dark energy in the galaxy, and that’s causing all kinds of bad things (like the accelerated death of stars).
The Mass Effect — you know, the thing from which the name of the series is derived — is the secret behind the Big Reveal. Who would have thought?
So, in the end of the game-as-envisioned, you’re given a choice of saving the galaxy by sacrificing the human race (making humanity into a biomechanical, synthetic-life, communal-intelligence “Reaper” that can stop the Dark Energy decay), or telling the Reapers to screw themselves and trying to fix the problem on your own (with a handful of centuries left before the Dark Energy thing snowballs and grows out of control on its own).
Which, in a word, would have been better. Certainly FAR better than some kind of stupid Tom Bombadil/Star Child explanation where we are told that the (synthetic AI) Reapers destroy advanced organic civilizations every 50 thousand years to prevent organic civilizations from… being destroyed by synthetic AIs.
Now we don’t just have some gamer complaints about the terrible ending, we have a demonstrably better ending that was actually supposed to be the one implemented. Complicates things, doesn’t it?
But Why All the Hate?
The simple fact of the matter is that Mass Effect is a story, and it’s a very good story — in my opinion, it’s one of the best stories I’ve ever experienced. People can hem and haw about what constitutes a story — about whether a game can really be a story if people can play it — as though a story is only a story if it’s spoken or written or projected up on a movie screen. That’s like saying a person is only a person if they walk or ride a horse or drive a car… because we all know the vehicle in which the subject is conveyed changes that subject’s inherent nature.
Some people say it’s not a real story because the player’s choices can alter it. I think they’re full of crap, and I say the proof of its power as a story is right there in the story-pudding — it affects me as a story does — and that’s all the criteria met. Walks like duck, quacks like duck, therefore duck.
But the problem (if you’re BioWare) is that human beings understand stories; we know how they’re supposed to work, thanks to thousands of years of cultural training. Mass Effect (until that conclusion) is a nigh-perfect example of how a story is done correctly, thanks in part to the medium, which allows (if you’ll permit me the slaughter of a few sacred cows) a level of of immersion and connection beyond what a book or movie or any other storytelling medium up to this point in our cultural history can match, because of the fact that you can actively take part in that story from the inside. Heresy? Fine, brand me a heretic; that’s how I see it.
And since it’s such a good story, people know how the thing is supposed to proceed, and they know how it should end.
You start out in ME1 trying to stop a bad guy, Saren. He’s the guy who gets us moving (because he’s a bad guy, and that’s what they do — bad guys act, and heroes react to that and move the story along). As we try to stop him, we find out there’s something bigger going on than just a rogue cop on a rampage. The picture keeps getting bigger, the stakes keep getting higher, and we keep getting our motivation and our level of commitment tested. Are we willing to sacrifice our personal life? Yes? Okay, will we sacrifice one of our friends? Yes? Okay, how about the leaders of the current galactic government? Yes? Okay…
It goes on like that. You fucking invest, is what I’m saying, and that’s just in the first game.
In the second game, the fight continues, as we have merely blunted the point of the spear, not stopped the attack. Our choices in ME1 had consequences, and we start to see them play out, for better or worse. Meanwhile, we’re trying to stop Evil Plan #2, in a suicide mission that could literally cost us nearly every single friend we’ve made. In the end, we get the joy of victory mixed with the sadness of the loss of those who didn’t make it, and it’s all good, because it’s a strong, healthy, enjoyable emotional release.
And now it’s ME3, and the stakes are even higher. We’re not recruiting more individual allies — we’re recruiting whole peoples — whole civilizations. Planets are falling. Worlds are being erased.
In the words of Harbinger, this hurts you.
Why? Because you know these people who are dying. You’ve spent over a hundred hours traveling this setting, meeting people, helping them, learning about each of their little stories; building relationships with, literally, hundreds of individuals. Every one of these planets going up in flames has a face (even if it’s a face behind a breathmask), and no one falls in this final story that wasn’t important in some way to you or someone you know.
(By contrast, the enemy is faceless and (since the reapers harvest your former allies and force them into monstrous templates) largely indistinguishable from one another — as it should be in this kind of story. You do not care about a Husk, though you might mourn the person killed to create the thing.)
In short, you aren’t just playing this game to get the high score. You’re fighting for this galaxy of individuals you’ve grown very, very attached to; to protect it and, as much as you can, preserve it. You’ve spent several hours every day on this, for months. It matters.
"Hard to imagine galaxy. Too many People. Faceless. Statistics. Easy to depersonalize. Good when doing unpleasant work. For this fight, want personal connection. Can't anthropomorphize galaxy. But can think of favorite nephew. Fighting for him."
(Best of all, you get to shoot bad guys in the face while you’re doing it, which takes this heavy topic and makes it engaging at that level as well. It’s like soaking up all the gravitas of Schindler’s List while enjoying the BFG-toting action of Castle Wolfenstein at the same time.)
The end comes. We talk to all our friends. Everyone’s wearing their brave face, talking about what they’re going to do afterwards, which beach they’re going to retire on. You start to think that maybe the end is in sight and maybe, just maybe, you might even be able to see some of that ending.
The last big conflict starts. You fight some unkillable things and kill them. You face off against an old nemesis and finally end him.
And then…
And then you’re given three choices, none of which result in anything any different from the others, and none of which have consequences that have any connection to the goals we’ve been working on for the last hundred hours or so.
Those people you were just talking to? They’re gone. Or stranded on an alien world. Or dead. All those planets you helped? They’re gone too — cut off, or starving, or maybe just destroyed in manufactured super-novas. Nothing you did or accomplished in the last three games actually matters — it’s all been wiped out by one of three (red, green, or blue) RESET buttons you pushed, because pushing one of those buttons was the only ‘choice’ given to you at the end.
As a species, trained for thousands of years in the way stories work, we know this is a bad ending. Not “tragic”. Just bad. Poor.
This isn’t about a bunch of priviledged gamers complaining about a sad ending, because there are well-done sad endings that make contextual sense.
This is about a mechanical ending to the game that doesn’t end the story — that provides no emotional release — one so disassociated from the previous 99% of the story that the fans of the series collectively hope it will later be revealed to be a dream (or, in the context of the setting, a final Reaper Indoctrination attempt).
Dear writers: If you create something, and your readers hope that what you just gave them was, in reality, an “it was a dream all along” ending, because that would be better than what you wrote, you seriously. fucked. up.
Is the ending, as an ending (taken out of context with the game we’ve been playing), a bad one? No. It’s an interesting theme that was explored extensively in a B-plot within the series and which could certainly be the central thread of a series of its own.
But it’s not the ending of this story. Our goals — the one we’ve been fighting for — are never addressed. There is no closure, either happy or sad — we want our emotional release as it relates to the game we actually played. Maybe that means tragedy at our own stupid hands — maybe victory wrested from the biomechanical jaws of defeat (and at the cost of a greater looming danger ahead).
The ending we got? It didn’t make me angry or sad or happy. It left me unfulfilled, because it ended the game talking about something I didn’t actually care about, and left me waiting for that emotional release that ME1 or ME2 pulled off so well.
The idea that the player’s should just deal with the ending, because it’s Bioware’s ending and not theirs is one of the interesting points in this debate, simply because it rides this weird line where we don’t really have a cultural context for what the Mass Effect series is: Is it a game? Is it a story? If if it’s a game, then who cares about the story, and if it’s a story, then treat it like a book and stop pretending you get to influence it, stupid consumer.
The answer is more complicated: Is it a game or story? Yes. Moreover, it’s a game that’s welcomed player input into the narrative from the first moment, and as such, should be committed to honoring that input throughout. It’s a story, but it belongs to everyone telling it.
But It’s Art! There’s a recurring tune being played by Bioware in response to this outcry, and it goes something like this: “We might respond to these complaints, and we might flesh out the ending we presented, but we’re not going to change anything, because this is art — this is the product of artists — and as such it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces.”
Which is, speaking as a working artist, complete and utter horseshit.
If you make a movie, and you put in front of focus groups, and they categorically hate the ending, you change it. If you’re writing a book and your first readers tell you the ending is terrible, you fix it. (Ditto your second readers, your second-draft readers, your agent, your editor, your copy editor.)
Or maybe you don’t — maybe you say “this is art, and it is inviolate and immutable in the face of outside forces”, which is certainly your choice — but don’t expect anyone to help you bring that piece of crap to print.
Anyone can tell a story. You can sit in your special writing nook and turn out page after page of perfectly unaltered, immutable art and be quite happy — you’re welcome to, in fact.
But when you decide you want to make a living off it? Even if you want to just make a little spending money?
Then the rules change. Then it’s work. Then it’s a job. More importantly, then it’s part of a business model, and those golden days of your art being inviolate and immutable blah blah blah are well and truly behind you. Name me a story that saw print, or a movie that saw the Big Screen, and I’ll show you art that changed because of input from someone other than the the original creator — from someone looking at it from the point of view of the consumer.
Bioware is a company. Making their stories into games is their business model. Hiding behind some kind of “but it’s art, so we’re not changing it” defense is insulting, disingenuous, and flat-out stupid. Worse, it perpetuates the idea that the creator’s output is in some stupid way sancrosant and, as art, cannot be “wrong” or “bad”. If you as a creator imagine that to be the case — if you think that kind of argument is going to defend your right to never do a rewrite or a revision or line edits or to ever alter, in any way, your precious Artistic Process — discard that notion.
Or become accustomed to a long life as an “undiscovered talent”.
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lostysworld · 2 days ago
Text
My dar(k)ling – The Darkling x reader
Part 9
Masterlist
Pairing: The Darkling x reader
Warnings: OOC?
Summary: You find a kind of domestic bliss in the Little Palace, but nothing lasts long.
A chapter about pets, friendship and sudden feelings
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The door opens widely and slams back making David jump on his place and look over his shoulder. For all these years his workshop has been the quietest place in the whole Little Palace. Until the general brought you here.
He is watching you rushing into his office searching for a place to hide in, that the man doesn't notice something pressed to your chest.
– Wh-? W-what are you-
The durast is interrupted by another door slam, this time with Genya coming in. David only nods to himself and continues staring. These two women will be the death of his one day.
– You can't get away with that, Y/N! - the tailor looks furious, and even her usual embarrassment around David doesn't hide it.
– David, - you run to him trying to escape. – You have to help me.
The man only starts shaking his head rapidly.
– No, no. Leave me out of this, - you freeze on the spot, your eyes are on Genya, scanning her every movement towards you. – What is going on?
– She drugged this here, - the girl points at something on your chest covered in blanket, as you press it closer. – And-
– Look.
You gently unwrap the blanket showing the durast a little bunny hiding in soft fabric of the covers. For the first moment David's face shows only confusion, but once he realizes what it is, he shines with a broad smile.
– It's beautiful.
– It is.
The loud 'ahem' interrupts your observation, and you both turn to Genya, who crosses her arms on the chest.
– I am not saying it isn't cute, but it can't live in your room. Imagine all of children here bringing pets to their dorms. It would be a complete mess, Y/N.
It is your turn to show your displeasure.
– Fine, - you cover the bunny with the blanket again. – Then I will not live in my room too.
– Seems outside is more preferable for you, right?
With that you see a mocking smile on your friend's lips. There is no one meaner in the whole palace than Genya Safin, when she's displeased.
– Oh, I'm sure Fedyor and Ivan will happily let me stay!
– What the hell is going on here?
You shyly turn to the sudden voice behind your back. Somehow none of you notices the general standing at the doorway with his arms crossed on the chest.
David pretends he's working hard, as Genya looks down at her feet immediately. But you can't take your eyes off the man in front of you, and only quiet squeak draws his attention.
– What is this?
You see his brows furrow as he is irritated by something. You only shrug your shoulders.
– A bunny. I found him under the south fence.
Kirigan's face hardens and he nods you to follow him, leaving Genya and David together again.
When the door closes behind your back, you find yourself in the half-empty corridor with the general marching along your side.
– Do tell me, what were you doing near the fence?
The territory of the palaces is huge but sooner or later you should search the borders. Just of boredom. Though Kirigan's odd glance says you it wasn't a good exploring idea.
– You have guards next to the borders, Aleksander. It was safe.
– What if it wasn't?
You stop in track, holding the bunny in the blanket tighter, and face the man.
– I'm fine, don't worry, darling, - you notice him softening at addressing. – But now I have a small furry problem.
He almost rolls his eyes, but finally looks at the animal. When the man extends his arm to move the covers, the bunny squeaks and curls up into a ball.
– See? You frighten him with your grumpy face, - you nod towards your arms.
The man scoffs walking further down the corridor. Since that night, that you two have spent together in his room, you didn't discuss it. Seems like everything is happening between you in its natural way and no one is going to change it.
Some nights you were half awake and heard his quiet steps next to your door. Sometimes you woke up in the middle of the night and saw the man sitting in the chair in your room peering into one spot, not aware that you were watching him. You abandoned the idea of closing your door a while ago.
Anyway the thought of him watching over you is calming your mind down, but after some time you start feeling his presence wherever you go.
– Actually, I was searching for you, Y/N, - you arch your brow wondering what it could be.
– Me?
Aleksander cocks his head sending you a mischievous glance.
– I thought you wanted to vary your leisure time here? Cause I have some options for this.
Since when he is concerned about your spare time in the palace? Until this time he wasn't interested, and you usually met when you're both unoccupied.
– And what it is, general?
– I want you to train young recruits, - he nods to someone passing by you. – Archery. Nothing you don't know.
– You mean kids? - the man feels your sceptical mood, and his lips slightly go up.
– Teenagers, - he corrects you.
– The same.
You are watching his faint smile still playing on his lips, and just wondering about the reason of it. Is it your reaction or the thought, that you will be encircled by a bunch of magically gifted sweet little monsters.
For some time you both walk in silence, and you notice, that the man leads you to the training grounds. But you did it too late.
A small group of several boys and girls are standing there waiting for you patiently. They are about twelve, and what for Saints' sake you can teach them!
You turn to Aleksander to voice your protests, but he only reaches for a bunny on your chest and takes it away.
– Go now, you don't need this.
– What? - you wave towards the kids. – You wanted me to train them, but didn't say it would he now.
– But you didn't refuse though, Y/N.
You roll your eyes, holding back a loud grown.
– You bastard!
Your words make the general give up a short laughter. Aleksander pushes you slightly to them.
– You are brilliant at it, Y/N. It will be an honor for young grisha to learn from you.
His quiet low voice is crawling inside your bare soul. Bare for him. Sometimes you can't resist his requests and now is exactly this moment. To your surprise, this trick works on you.
– I hate when you do this, general, - he wonders how long you will call him by his title in public.
– Do what?
– Manipulate me.
Your serious sharp, but still light gaze evokes a slight worry in the man. But he prefers to ignore it. Pretends to. Your accident words make him fear that you will really hate him, when learn about who he is.
– See you later.
Your last phrase are left without a response, and Alexander is still standing on the spot when you turn to him with your back and move towards the children.
For about a week you are training young grisha and start slowly understanding that you are falling for them helplessly.
They happen to be diligent and well-schooled and you don't regret teaching them even for a second.
Nevertheless you have two students who are still struggling with some basic things and you don't know how to help them. You are just not a natural teacher as you think.
– Keep the elbow up. And, - you move a boy's leg a bit. – Bring this foot forwards.
These children somehow find their way to distract you from grim thoughts and foul mood, and dealing with them for you is like being in completely another world.
While others are doing great, a boy you are helping now and a girl on the other side of the line are your problem children.
All of them are lined by you not that far from the targets, and when you are about to head to another end to the girl, you see the familiar figure right next to her. Way too familiar.
During these five days you didn't see Alexander at all, and as Ivan told you, he was busy at the meetings, so you decided not to disturb him.
And now here he is. Talking with this little girl whose eyes are wide from surprise like these buttons on your kefta.
– Are you abandoning your duties, general Kirigan?
You come up to him with a smile, noticing how tense other children become in the presence of their superior. Even in this young age, they see him as their general, and some of them as a parental figure.
– I thought you could use a bit of my help here?
– Your arrival couldn't be better, actually, - your hushed voice makes him grin. After the man corrects the girl's posture, he joins you while you are watching students firing the arrows. – Shouldn't you be on a meeting?
– Don't want to see me, my lady? - you roll your eyes at his teasing tone. Aleksander is simply fishing for compliments this time. – You look gorgeous, by the way.
You are wearing his another gift, and this dark green short jacket-like kefta suits you just perfectly.
– Did you sneak away from the war room to flirt with me, Aleksander?
– Oh, here you are, finally calling me by my name.
He doesn't get to finish his words, as you both hear the muffled laughter behind your backs. Looking over your shoulder you notice one of your children overhearing the conversation. But the boy immediately turns back, when sees your glance at him.
– Enough for today, - you clap your hands and they start collecting arrows and leaving the ground. – Don't forget the start time tomorrow, Victor.
You ruffle the hair of a boy standing next to you and allow yourself a small smirk. Victor is your best student and you couldn't be happier watching him making fast progress.
When the ground is empty and you and the general are left alone, his arm is snaking around your waste leading you towards the palace. It is your free time now till the dinner and the man is not going to share you with others.
– They like you, - these words make you turn your head to the man, trying to search for any signs of mockery or something like this. But there is none of it. He is pretty serious.
You turn back looking somewhere away, and a heavy sigh breaks out.
– I'm afraid, I am getting attached. Too much.
– What do you mean? - you are already at your door and Kirigan just pushes it to open, coming in and dragging you along with him.
You legs are crying from constant walking and now you only see the bed as your final destination point. Flopping down on your back, you watch Aleksander sits next to you.
– They are future soldiers, - the man nods to your words. – They are just...cannon fodder for Fjerdans.
– They are not-
– But it is the truth!
You sit straight again, looking at him. The absence of any distance between you two doesn't bother you anymore, and you keep eyeing the man, whose face is inches away from yours.
A second passes and his broad palms are on your forearms.
– There is still a long way for them to become soldiers, Y/N. They have it to learn how to survive, - he leans closer and carefully kisses your forehead. – And even then I won't let them die.
Worry for the children and adoration to this man are overwhelming you, and the next moment you throw your arms around his neck in a tight embrace.
– Promise me, - the general feels your hot whisper on his neck. – Promise you will protect them.
His face is blank, emotionless, but you can't see it. He can promise you everything you will ask for. But will it fit with his own plans? Nobody knows.
He slowly closes his eyes and presses your slim figure even closer, burying his face in your loose hair.
– You have my word, Y/N. I promise.
During the next archery lesson you feel restless. One of other trainers rescheduled his training and you had only evening time for the archery practice. Now all of you feel like after taking sleeping pills after dinner.
Everything is going smoothly, but sometimes you feel like being watched. This phantom buzzing feeling on the back of your head, that you got living in the woods, doesn't fail your senses. But turning around you see nothing, and come back to your work instead.
There is already late, and when that feeling becomes unbearable, you rapidly look over your shoulder and your gaze falls on the dark foliage of trees. Someone is standing there, on the edge of the garden, but you can't recognize who exactly.
Finally dismissing your students, you head to this person. The closer you come, the more familiar he is. Or she is.
– It was pretty scary, you know? - your displeased glance meets with almost the same of Baghra, and the woman only nods you further into the garden.
– Are you saying, general Kirigan's night visits don't scare you, witch?
You stop in tracks, watching the woman stops too, not rushing you, to your surprise.
– How-
– And I am sure his little gifts are flattering too. Along with that power he has over you with all of these tricks..
– Kirigan has no power over me, - you can't understand where your conversation is going, but you already don't like it. – Or you think I will allow him this?
– You already have, girl.
With that she turns with her back, continuing her way to the small gazebo, you once shared with Aleksander.
You feel the slight pang of resentment, like a silly child who are reprimanded by adults. Yes, you accepted gifts from the general and your growing feelings for him are hard to hide, but you are not going to do that.
Your relationships with the man have nothing with the power thing. At least that is your opinion.
– Why are we here? - you throw your arms to the sides, looking over the place the woman sits. Honestly, you'd better be in your room than here.
– Because you have no idea who are you dealing with-
– Oh, and you decided to show your mercy and talk some sense into a little stupid girl, right? Enlighten me then.
– Don't mess with me, - Baghra's voice is gravely serious, but you remain still, not sitting with her, crossing your arms on the chest. – I thought you are not the one who would allow a man to manipulate you, but it turned out that you were like others.
– The general doesn't manipulate me, - the woman's eyes narrow, as you prefer to ignore words about "others". – I am not that naive little girl to-
– No matter what your excuse will be, because deep down inside, there is a part of you that feels for him.
Your jaw clenches in helpless anger. Aleksander and you don't show your affection in public, moreover you often don't show it to each other as well.
– And he does too, - your words are sharp but Baghra isn't taken aback. Just a small bitter smirk appears in the corners of her lips.
– It surprised me, but yes. He does feel it too, - you want to say, but she cuts you off. – The thing, that he hasn't experienced for a long time.
Baghra doesn't usually say words only to say them, and this remark alarms you.
– For a long time? How long?
The woman smiles wickedly to you as anticipating your failure, but you prefer to ignore it.
– Aleksander, I think he's already told you his name, is way older than you may guess, girl. Not only you are blessed with eternal life. Or damned. That depends.
It is like all sounds just fall away for you. No rustling foliage, not birds singing. Nothing.
You do realize that he didn't tell you much about his past, but your anger is not aimed at the man right now.
– So you want to say-
– Your precious general Kirigan is the Black Heretic.
He created the Fold.
If her words are something that should finish you off, now is the right moment for this. As much as you don't want to say a single word, you have to respond.
– How do you know this?
The woman waves her hand in such a familiar gesture and all of the shadows gather around you two in a blink of an eye.
– You are his mother, right? - Baghra nods, and you need only a second to make a decision. – But it doesn't change anything actually. What you said to me. It changes nothing between me and him.
The light smile on Baghra's lips slips, as she rapidly stands up coming up to you.
– You are stupid and naive, if think that he will show mercy to you, once he has power in his hands!
– I don't think anything, because it is his war, not mine. I am a third side here, I am off this game.
That buzzing feeling appears again, but you hold back the urge to turn around. Whoever it is, he has to wait.
– And, - you take the final step towards the woman looking down at her. – I may live in the woods, but I am not naive. I may love grisha like my own kind, but Kirigan is their general, not me.
The sudden thought that Aleksander would glad to hear your words now, flashes in your mind. He wanted you to feel at home, and surprisingly now, you do feel.
– Then why Aleksander's subordinates think otherwise?
You already turn to leave, when her words make you halt. Honestly, you are so done here with all this new information that you got, that there is no desire in you to hear more of it.
– Ask them instead of torturing me, - but your snapping triggers the old witch even more. Shouting at you she tries to put sense into your stubborn mind.
– He is a monster!
– He is your son!
That is enough to drive you completely mad. The final nail in the coffin of your patience, and you feel fire sparkles on your fingertips.
– And I have never met a mother who acted like this towards her child, Baghra.
– It doesn't change what he's done.
– But it doesn't make you better as well. Maybe he needed you, - you of all people have a right to say about living without a family. – All this time he needed you! I don't know him like you do, but Aleksander is not the man, who can do this on purpose.
You can't tear your eyes off the woman. The anger on her and resentment on Alexander are eating your soul out. The fact, that he didn't tell you none of this. Means he still doesn't trust you this much.
– My son killed innocent people, men, women, children. I can't understand, Y/N, how you can justify it in your heart-
– Oh, then what will you tell about me? - you try to calm down, realizing that this woman wants to save you from her son and talk out of this. But the truth is that you don't want to be saved. – I've burned the whole village to the ground, because I couldn't control my powers. Does it make me a monster?
Baghra remains silent, and noticing disappointment in her intense gaze you turn away and leave her stand in the gazebo, heading towards the palace.
Thoughts are flashing like a whirlwind in your head and you feel like something is tearing you from inside.
When you are about to go out of the gardens you bump into someone with all your force. As soon as you raise your head you see Ivan, and then you finally understand the reason of this buzzing feeling on the back of your head in the gazebo. The question is how much he got to overhear?
The heartrender's glance is hardly readable, but you won't do this anyway, cause your head is cracking with sharp ache.
– Take me out of here, Ivan.
Your whisper is barely audible, but the man just nods and turns with his back for you to follow. Any other day you would be displeased by his silence, but now you are so much grateful for this.
But why he is here at all? He couldn't know about your whereabouts, so maybe Aleksander sent him to find you.
– Am I needed somewhere? - the man just shortly looks over the shoulder at you.
– The general wanted to see you, but I think it's enough for visits for today, isn't it?
You allow yourself a small tired smirk. Usually the man obeys the orders unquestioningly, but now something changed.
Of course, he heard your yelling, he must be deaf not to. Ivan was never one of those who trusted you, so from this day he will never do this again.
The moment you step on the first floor of the palace you feel the whole weight of this day on your shoulders. You dismiss Ivan, knowing that he probably only wants to meet Fedyor and no one else. The heartrender nods, the thing he has never done to you before, and leaves you to just stand.
Almost running up the stairs to your room, suddenly you are dragged around the corner by a someone's strong grip. But before you get to scream out of surprise, a warm broad palm lays on your mouth to prevent further actions.
You see the general in front of you and his mischievous boyish grin makes you forget about previous conversation with his mother.
Your anger and resentment vanish immediately as soon as you see your Aleksander.
– What the hell are you doing here?!
You are still frightened by what he's done, sneaking you out of corridor like a thief. But a slight smile is still playing on your lips.
Your next words are shut by a fierce kiss that leaves you without any sane thought in the empty head. You can't help but answer him throwing your arms around his neck and deepening the kiss.
The man's smell of pine wood and leather is intoxicating, crawling to your senses, calming your previous mood down. Somehow you get used to him, his arms, that embrace you after nightmares, his light forehead kisses after a long training days, easing the pressure in the muscles away.
But the problem is still here. He didn't tell you about his past, and you partly understand it. But usually when a person asks you to trust him, you expect his trust back.
There is no sense in lying to him now, the man will recognize it. So you just try to wave all the thoughts off.
– I missed you, - when both of you split for air, you voice your feelings immediately, causing the soft smile appear on the general's face.
– Missed you too, Y/N.
– Walk me to my room, then. I'm tired.
His arm embraces your shoulders and he turns you to your room direction.
Only now you notice that Kirigan is not wearing his usual attire. Only black pants and a shirt of same color. You both are quite a couple, wearing all black, and it makes you smile.
– What? - he leans his head to the side, watching you curiously. You wonder, did Aleksander know that you were with Baghra, that he sent Ivan to the gardens to find you?
– Nothing, - the familiar warm feeling spreads across your body, and you think, that maybe it always was here. You feelings for that man. – Just glad to see you in the end of this hell of a day.
The man chuckles, but you are still eyeing him. You remember him, when you first met, grim and strict, cold and collected. Now he is completely another man by your side.
You are not stupid, love or affection doesn't change people. But maybe darkness doesn't need light. Maybe it needs a flame to guide it through.
The moment you reach the room you know, that the only way not to spoil your attitude towards this man is to let him stay the night. But you also need your time to rethink all that you learnt today.
– So? - Aleksander turns to face you, saying you good night. – Any wishes, suggestions for this night, my princess?
The addressing makes you laugh, and you playfully shove his shoulder.
– Nothing specific...But actually, - one thought comes to your mind. – This is not about the night. That girl in my group, I want you to train her.
Kirigan arches his brows in surprise. That is definitely not the thing he is asking about. He remembers this little girl you are teaching, the one he was talking with. You can't find any means to make her learn the basic archery things, and without it you can't move forward.
– Why me? We have a lot of people, who can help her. Professionals
– Because I trust her to you, Aleksander. I don't want professionals.
Because memories of him talking to that girl awake something warm in you. Like a belief that he can be a better person. Not the one Baghra mentioned.
That day on the training ground they both look so natural, you couldn't ask anyone else to do that for you.
The long look you give the general now confuses him, and it is probably the first time, when you see him embarrassed.
– Fine, - the man squeezes your fingers. – I will try to find some time...but I have a condition.
– Condition?
– We will train her together.
Your heart falls somewhere down, but you don't know if it from the happiness or something else.
You master the best of your smiles in hope that Kirigan doesn't notice your own confusion.
– I am in.
– Great, - he raises your palms in his placing a soft kiss in the middle of your hand. – Good night then.
– Good night, Aleksander.
You put your hand down, cupping the side of his face with another one. He freezes on a second, when your lips touches his in a feather-like kiss leaving him motionless.
– Now, good night for sure.
You give up one sided smirk and hide into you room locking the door behind you.
You don't know what the next day can bring you, but this night will be the longest in your life.
@aleksanderwh0r3 @all-art-is-quite-useless
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clydethevehicle · 2 days ago
Text
FUCK IT I GIVE UP
Ok so, around a year ago, i started writing a story. I finished very little, and i have no clue how id write so im putting it here for whoever wants it. theres no name, and all the info ive got on it is here. Whoever wants it, write it, but if you do id like to see it please..
(Whole thing under the cut)
REAL LIFE
SETTING: MEDIEVAL FANTASY[?]
CHARACTERS:
GHOSTS
THE GHOST OF THE TAVERN AKA CAIN,Isaac finds a polaroid of him and all the others, in their past looks with a caption for each written in blood, which allows him to see their ghosts.He’s trapped in an eternal rehearsal. His curse can only be broken by JUDAS coming in to practice the duet he was singing, so they can finally go out and perform. Always starts singing at 8:00 in the morning sharp and stops at exactly 10:00 AM.Sings other songs than his duet most of the time to help his voice, as soon as he stops singing, he breaks down into tears because he thinks JUDAS is never coming back, missing an eye, blonde hair, died from a gigantic hole in his torso and a slit through his neck, covered in badly stitched wounds, which is why JUDAS called him “Patchwork”, “Stitches”, “Ragdoll” or “Voodoo”.(In the photo he's got a gigantic lopsided grin on his face, making heart eyes at JUDAS)
HOSPITAL GHOST AKA LAZARUS, Acts extremely different from the first LAZARUS because the first memory he recalled was noticing EDEN’s betrayal, paranoid as shit, redhead, might be in love with ISAAC, one thing that he wants to do is torture and kill EDEN, leaves pills everywhere and everyone from back then feels like they should know what they do, but dont have a clue why. A few times he actually poisoned people, but none of the pills he drops are lethal, so it just made them extremely sick. Gives away his location when ISAAC is injured by immediately giving him the pills that will heal him directly instead of just dropping them and hoping they’ll be found
THE GHOST OF THE BOOKSHOP AKA EVE,
THE BAKERY SPECTER AKA MAGGY,
ISAAC [Might end up LAZARUS’S romantic interest, loves drawing,just kind of done with the other ghosts bullshit, good at crying on command, but otherwise, a horrible actor and liar]
HUMANS
MEMORIES
THE GANG:
CAIN AKA THE CLOWN (Laughs like hawkeye pierce but more cackly, best friends with JUDAS, very roguish, seen as charming, jokester)[Caption: once tried to eat [Something metal and inedible] barely survived]
MARY MAGDALENE [Nickname "Maggy”; gives nicknames to everyone. Special thing:”Heart”- it’s an actual human heart with a bite taken out of it; its ability is that every 4 hours it can heal one person from any injury if they take a bite of it but it does not work on diseases, nor anything mental, Caption: Pure of heart.]
EVE [Died much earlier in the story than the others; had a pet bird named Adam who follows Samson everywhere. Special thing:”Whore Of Babylon” Once she gets hurt almost to the point of death, she will transform into a horrifying demon who can gore people with her gigantic horns as well as gaining a major power boost, Loses capacity to speak and if healed in any way, will go back to being human, if in ghost from, once she calms down she´ll turn human again. Caption: Too serious for her own good.]
ISAAC [The kidnapper is actually his mother. Special ability: *Put ability here*. Caption:Sorta immortal, every time he dies, he comes back in the same place. ]
EDEN [ Everyone other than LAZARUS believes he had died years before the massacre, since nobody but him recognized the smell of the flower that represents EDEN’S ‘’BLESSING’’ just before they died, a villain because when everyone thought he died, he thought they abandoned him to die alone, and the eldritch being and him became unlikely allies. Caption: Died early, ]
LAZARUS [has a degree in medical science, extremely nervous all the time, former best friends with EDEN, recognized the smell of his flower just before his death, making him certain that it was him who engineered the whole thing. Caption: Knows how to poison you in fifty ways or more, but won´t if it's considered impolite.]
SAMSON [He/They, Strong man with absolutely ABHORRENT people skills, EXTREMELY STUTTERY, best friends with AZAZEL. Caption: Most socially awkward person I've ever met.]
LILITH She/her [Blindfolded and has a pavlovian response of immediate paralysis when it's taken off; Was the mom friend ; sister of LAZARUS, best friends with APOLLYON, redhead, has two pet demons that become rings in the new. Caption: Have called Mother by accident too many times]
AZAZEL He/Him [Kidnapper transformed him into a demon and implanted memories that suggested he always was, he was extremely sweet and cared for his friends, best friends with SAMSON. Enjoyed doing people's hair. Caption: I doubt a person more adorable could actually exist. ]
THE LOST they/them [Was a ghost since before CAIN showed up, prankster, looks like nothing more than a gust of wind, unless they're concentrating on it, in which case you can see their features, but it looks like they're made of glass]
JUDAS [Antisocial, CAIN's best friend, laughs like it’s forced out of him, acts emotionless so nobody will want to get close to him, possessed by The demon of Belial, but can control it. Can impersonate every single one down there with terrifying accuracy. His special ability {Other than the possession}stems from a book that, the second life, is a ring with the ability to become a tome with a ritual that boosts his power for 10 minutes, but also temporarily turns his eyes to void as well as causing them to bleed from the sockets, and it can only be used once every 2 hours, ghost of him reveals itself by laughing at an extremely stupid  joke the main character makes. Caption: Best actor there will ever be, impersonates me when nervous]
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