The Enderwalk Saga: Building Tension
God I have so many things I loved about that stream its hard to pin down individual thoughts
But one of the things I really appreciate about the whole process of the stream itself is Ranboo’s command of tension. This is Minecraft RP. The suspension of disbelief and the tension of a scene is easier to pop than a bubble of silk. But this one hour stream managed to weave and hold the strings with damn near Arachnean grace.
Let’s start with the bait and switch.
For anything with slow-build horror, it’s really difficult to maintain that anticipatory fear at a rising incline so that the actual twist feels earned. This is especially true when you go into something pre-emptively scared (ie something happening to Michael). So it’s a classic move to do a near comedic bait and switch, because it means your starting tension starts lower than what everyone walked in with, giving you more room to ratchet everyone up the fear rollercoaster.
And furthering that, he manages to do the slight ratchet ups and maintain the tensions built at an excellent increment throughout, even with all the delays due to it being live. What I mean by that is if you’re doing a pre-film like with chunks of Las Nevadas and TFTSMP, you get the benefit of not having to fill dead air while you go between ‘sets’. But the way that his character’s written means that it makes sense that he needs to be his own soundtrack, that he repeats himself so it takes more time to get thoughts through the first time. The lessons come as natural placemarkers, like angle changes on the rising inclines in your tension rollercoaster, and the character interactions (foolish, sam) work brilliantly as mood plateaus that end up cranking up the incline even more by the end of them.
Now with what I mentioned earlier with Minecraft RP, another one of the things that could easily destroy tension is the medium and history its in. It’s still a meme server a lot of the time, there’s still ridiculous meme builds like letters in the sky and random mcdonalds and suspicious ‘shapes’ left on roofs. I think I’ll speak for most of us when I say the shining might have been less terrifying if everyone had to act in those inflatable dinosaur costumes. While he’s running back home in order to get to the final payoff and decision made for whatever consequences may come, mans has to run through a huge amount of all the nonsense built onto the server.
But that doesn’t take us out of the fear-build, if anything it adds more to it. Sure, it’s largely all silly and ridiculous, but the lesson that the season 2 finale left carved into everyone’s bones is that all of those builds hold meaning. They hold bonds with anyone that had to do in building them, they remind everyone of attachment. I’ve been in enough fandoms to know that juxtaposition of ‘silly throwaway thing’ and ‘heartbreaking ironic echo’ cement together with enough power to turn single words such as ‘davenport’ into instant hearbreakers.
When he takes us through the server, slowly consumed by terror of the consequences to what he holds dear, he takes us past all the things that we hold dear. The fun silly memories, the more serious storylines, the sacrifices, the fights, the pranks, the city on its last canon life and the cabin with all three. The beauty of the way that the stories have been told mean that Ranboo’s not acting without a foil, because the setting itself is the foil that highlights what he has to lose if he doesn’t figure everything out, if he has unintentionally lost everything.
Which takes us back to how I compared all of this to a silk bubble, not a soap bubble. Because at first glance, spidersilk is just as delicate and breakable, when there’s one or two strands. But if everything’s been woven correctly, if you understand how to command tensions, write out and adapt character decisions, make the settings work for you.... you come to realize why spidersilk has tensile strength beyond even steel
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Also like with the caveat of Your Yum Is Not Mine And That's Fine, and that I promise I'm not just being a bitter hater b/c I'm a BulkJack shipper first and foremost, the reasons Arrogant Ace Wheeljack engaging in pigtail-pulling with Stony Professional Ratchet doesn't work for me really is the lack of coherent motivation, Wheeljack having no real reason to antagonise Ratchet, but doing it just because it's fun to because he wants to be acknowledged by someone he thinks is cool
when, like... a source of conflict that is right there is the way Ratchet treats Bulkhead, the way he's just unerringly shitty and dismissive of his existence and contributions. Like, there's nobody on the team Ratchet is as casually callous with as he is with Bulkhead, no matter how successfully Bulkhead pulls his weight with the team.
If you want Wheeljack to act petty and vindictive and seek out a conflict with Ratchet because something about him threatens Wheeljack's sense of identity, you've got your conflict right there! Even if you don't want to tap into the potential of the one chink in Wheeljack's armour being that he really does genuinely care about Bulkhead and Miko, you could lean into him taking Ratchet's disrespect towards Bulkhead as his disrespect towards the Wreckers as a whole, and have Wheeljack feel threatened and offended that way.
Wheeljack taking it upon himself to be offended on Bulkhead's behalf is already a thing. Bulkhead not wanting to play that game and instead trying to keep the peace between him and Ultra Magnus is almost so painful he runs away entirely. If you really wanna write conflict driven by Wheeljack's arrogance and pride, you don't have to fabricate self-esteem issues for him, the bones of it are right there, in his pride as a Wrecker being threatened by proxy no matter how many times Bulkhead tries to tell him that it's not much of a thing to be proud of, anymore.
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