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'But that's another story for another time.'

- Michael Ende's 'The NeverEnding Story'

--

The novelization of The NeverEnding Story is one of my favorite books. The movie is a classic children's film, but the original book ranks up there with Narnia and The Lord of the Rings for me in terms of characterization, scope, and a plot that stays with the reader long after the book is over. The NeverEnding Story has a distinction that those other books do not have however which was also woefully missing from the cinematic interpretation.

And that relates to my recent taking up again of World of Warcraft.
(Bear with me!)

At every major departure of a character from The NeverEnding Story's main plot line there will always be a a short passage hinting that their own story did not end just because they left the narrative we're reading. The centaur who goes to find Atreyu for instance is so tired after his search he remains in the village where Atreyu lives even as he send Atreyu to the Ivory Tower. Now the centaur's role in the story is done so naturally you may forget about him much like any other background character.

But the book is careful to mention this...

'However after recovering the centaur did not return to The Ivory Tower himself but instead had further adventures in the land of Purple Buffalo...but that's another story for another time.' 

This concept of characters not ending the story but beginning new ones even if we don't see them continue ourselves gives The NeverEnding Story a true sense of infinite possibility. Every single player has their own story to tell and in fact at the end of the book Atreyu decides to go back and finish the stories that were left untold. The book is truly to me anyway a world trapped between two covers.

And The World of Warcraft as well as other Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games at their best can be the same. Since it was free I decided to try out a trial for WOW as one of the races I'd never tried out back in college when I used to dabble in playing it. The Goblin and The Pandarian sounded so goofy I figured even if the game was dull at least the characters would look interesting.

But Blizzard quite frankly amazed me.

The reason Warcraft was turned into a World may stem initially from aping the popular Everquest, but the other reason apparent when you actually play the game is that Warcraft has MILLIONS of stories to tell. 

You might suppose something as silly as a Panda race would have nothing to say for it, but some mad genius crafted for them a world that at once is a parody of martial arts stories (with more than a little Kung Fu Panda inspiration) but is also a fully fleshed out conceptualized setting. The island of the Pandarians is on the back of a turtle, and lo and behold one of the quests involves using a hot air balloon to visit the head of the turtle to talk with it! The Pandarians deal with different factions with their own disciplines and beliefs like an odd little microcosm of Japanese shinto only in the their case the elemental spirits are tangible entities they can play with to amuse. There's cursed pools that turn characters into animals, a race of baboons who have 'wisemen' with their own conflicting philosophies and their own deities. Even the quest to remove giant rabbits from the vegetable fields takes on it's own story dimension when you discover that the rabbits not only have their own clothes and society but in one corner of their burrow they have begun to worship an enormous carrot with candles and offerings! 

Same with the goblin. You might think something as simple as a parody of capitalism might come across as boring and preachy, but for all their society is like a twisted mirror of commercialism and industry the goblins themselves still act like people with personalities and always have something to do be it holding parties to gain influence, experimenting with strange gadgets, or in one case burning down their own dwelling for the insurance money...during a volcanic eruption. It could have been treated as a straight up farce and there's farcical elements but the writers intelligently and daringly seemed to tell themselves at every turn 'To the people involved in these stories their lives are NOT a joke'. 

We might laugh at the martial arts pandas, but to themselves they have a proud and ancient tradition to uphold, their own lives to lead, and their own beliefs to fight for. Same with the goblins who take themselves seriously even if the rest of the world considers them a punchline. 

Even the integration of both the goblin and the Pandarian into the ongoing war between The Horde and The Alliance is a smooth transition. You meet representatives from both sides and ultimately make your choice, and in the process you see the growth of your character from someone deeply involved in their own cultural dealings to someone with a more holistic perspective, now in the service of a grander ideology and actively deciding to pursue that ideology even if it comes into violent contention with another.

So what's the similarity between a German fairytale and an online roleplaying game, and why on earth do I think more stories should be like a type of game a lot of the time people accuse of having no story beyond fetch quests and 'kill x number of things to get stuff'?

It comes down to my favorite concepts again: the story and the world.

In the goblin campaign something as silly as a steam powered motorcar makes sense in the concept of everything we've seen. Goblins are advanced technologically compared with the rest of the world so we as the audience can buy in conjunction with the medieval technology of the mainland something like a submersible or a rocket pack. There's been some attempt to make the impossible seem probable.  

And because of that validity the focus turns from the absurdity of the situation to the people involved. I at least find it much easier to care about people if the world they live in makes some kind of self contained sense. If not I keep asking questions and gloss over what could be interesting characters.

Consistency helps to make a world feel real and, by extension, make the characters feel real unto themselves as well.

Of course another aspect of a story and a world besides consistency is something actually happening.

In NeverEnding Story as well as WOW the story never stops just because the focus has turned away. It's fair to say that from a general standpoint this is highly unrealistic. 100% of the time we are not involved in 'stories' exactly in our day to day lives. We could become involved by choice or by chance but it's more true to life to have periods of downtime in which nothing really is occurring naturally.

However NeverEnding and WOW have the advantage of being...FICTION.

Fiction can be life in fast forward. Sure in between all of your adventures the character in WOW would probably sleep, eat, or use the bathroom and in the course of The NeverEnding Story many characters might be entirely content to live out their lives with no further notable adventures, but the authors in both case realized that an uneventful life is not the stuff of entertainment. If might be a bit hasty for your goblin or other character in WOW to be told by a guy to rescue prisoners right after you finished defeating a boss, but without that being the case where is the story going to go? WOW gets creative in administering the same gameplay over and over again, but because the context changes you barely notice. Capturing cave paintings with a magic camera is not that much different from gathering raptor eggs, but because of presentation the actions seems diverse enough to hold your attention. Killing one monster isn't much different than killing other monsters, even bosses, but the differing scenarios, locations, and stories being told make each undertaking a fresh experience. 

Story as I noted in an earlier journal is not 'plot'. Plot is the action occurring and story is the thematic underpinnings; the ties that make events seem as if they have some kind of solidarity. This is why although I enjoy playing Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft is a much more enjoyable experience for me. Guild Wars 2 has polished graphics and a better interface, but nothing about it feels that thought out. In Guild Wars 2 things just...happen. They can be fun and exciting but they don't have a lot of reasoning behind them. 

Why are there two headed Ettins running around? Because fantasy game. 

Why griffins and semi-intelligent lizards? Why do some people have connections to spirit animals? Why do some people have magic? Where did the kingdoms of men come from? The answer is in general 'Why are you asking these questions? It's fantasy. Just go with it.'

There's some lipservice paid to backstory but it all feels like an excuse.

In World of Warcraft because of dialogue, a gazetteer, and a sense of history even the wackiest elements all seem to fit together with more than just the excuse of it being in the fantasy genre to do so. Why are there goblins? They have a story about that related to where they came from, what came before them, and why they live the way they do. One boss even announces to goblin players 'I remember when your race first arrived on these shores!' 

I smiled when, while shipwrecked on an island, the item for restoring mana in WOW turned from the ordinary spring water into 'Water gathered from a tarp' with the description 'The sand makes you teeth whiter'. 

It isn't necessary exactly, but THAT kind of detail shows dedication. That kind of attention draws me into an experience and makes me for the duration of a gameplay session believe in it.

More stories should be like this and it confuses me to no end that they are not.

They tried to release a series of comics based on World of Warcraft and they were all beautifully illustrated but also cripplingly dull. Why? Because you never got a sense of character. It was all based around plot with the major players just going through the motions with the same dingy motivations of revenge or becoming more powerful or the like. Nobody was actually DOING anything. They were being moved around like chess pieces to famous locations and watching battles happen. They never 'talk' about anything either except where they need to go next to fulfill some demands. Exposition is not characterization.

THIS IS NOT A STORY.

A story is when the events are effected by, and effect, characters.

In WOW again although it doesn't play a gameplay role you get the sense of your character directly effecting the world around them. Sometimes at the end of a chapter you will watch hopelessly as the settlement you started is burned to the ground or witness as a deep injury to the world is healed before your eyes because you defended the druids who were repairing it. The reactions of characters to you also indicates some subtle changes to them throughout their adventures. People recognize you as your deeds speak for themselves or make mention of how something you did earlier has come to fruition. 

You get the sensation you aren't just playing a game, you're participating in a massive narrative that's unfolding even when you aren't there to see it.

In The NeverEnding Story every event not only happens but it has some kind of payoff. Even something as innocuous as meeting a character puts into contrast the personalities of both characters concerned. 

When Bastian finally travels to Fantastica (in the movie they called the world Fantasia) he encounters a group of knights at one point each with their own distinct bearing and goals. He discovers rapidly that since he's literally wished himself to be the strongest that besting one of these knights causes them to become very embittered, especially since he defeated them soundly in the presence of a lady they were trying to woo. Bastian assumes he'll just have his fun and show off. After all he's telling this story by now. 

What harm could it do to mix things up: act like a god for awhile?

But the harm comes because he changes the course of a man's life. He forces the knight to depart, looking for heroic deeds to make amends for his loss. In a moment of carelessness Bastian has changed the story because of his actions. 

If it hadn't been for Bastian maybe the knight might well have won the love he sought, maybe he would not have been driven to go elsewhere looking for redemption.

And yes, that knight's story is 'Another story for another time'. 

We don't learn his fate but the description does say 'He found another love'.

Our actions cause ripples in the pond of life, and fiction shows those ripples reach the shore more rapidly than our day to day existence. 

But it's those ripples that hold our interest: that keep us reading another page or watching the film or playing the game. Even if it comes to something like gathering the hides of animals to make an orc shaman happy the reason I at least kept doing so was because I knew in some capacity the writers would introduce a reasoning behind the action. In WOW for the most part nothing is just single tier busywork. Gathering naga hatchlings in one mission provides incentive for an ancient naga god to allow the goblins to settle on an island. Gathering materials means that a blacksmith can forge you armor or new weapons. Rescuing prisoners is the first action in preparing an army to attack a base...etc. 

Like The NeverEnding Story the addictive quality comes from one thing leading to another: a domino effect of plot and intermingled story.

And is there story in World of Warcraft or the unfinished narratives of The NeverEnding Story? I would say yes. It seems hard to believe but for an MMO based primarily on killing things there's a lot of thematic ideas at play no matter what race you choose. The Horde and Alliance are not only opposed by bad blood and land disputes, they also have conflicted philosophies. The Alliance believes in, well, allying the races in a grand singular vision. Ironically to do so they need to brutally attack races that will not follow their guiding principals. The Horde believe in anonymity and freedom even unto taking what they want and killing whoever disagrees with them, and ironically they need to unite their races in order to stand against The Alliance. The two societies are neither entirely in the right or wrong despite all appearances and both are can sometimes be united against a common enemy like The Undead or the demonic forces. The thematic ideals of the side you choose determines the nature of your missions. Alliance prefer a civil way of dealing with things while The Horde prefer much more direct and barbaric approaches. Serving The Alliance may have you defending villages or spying on orcs while serving The Horde may have you collecting enemy heads or recovering weapons for escaped prisoners to hold their own against bounty hunters.   

Is it all the same collect/kill gameplay? Most usually yes.

But the 'story' comes from following a thematic idea throughout the course of the plots. Even races have their own 'themes' like goblins generally solving their problems with technology, the undead looking for acceptance in the eyes of their peers, the orcs with a strong shamanistic and martial discipline arc, the elves with natural defense and magical investigations, the dwarves differentiated from the goblins by a stalwart individualism as opposed to a corproate mentality and so forth. Nearly every aspect of WOW seems tailored to make you feel like you're acting out a role. 

It's the difference between playing and role-playing.

In Guild Wars 2 again it's difficult to role-play. There are story based sections but they are detached from the major gameplay. You can only role-play so much as yet another wandering adventurer with inexplicable abilities.

In WOW the game and the story are one. 

And in fiction that's the way it should be. Action? Drama? Romance? Comedy? Horror? All of this and more in the course of a story should be woven indissolubly into the fabric of the fiction itself. These should not be discernible 'beats'. The story shouldn't slow to a crawl for someone to have a 'character moment'. If you're good at writing these moments should seem like a logical motivated pause. You shouldn't have to hurl one character at another (sometimes literally) in order to have them fall in love. It should feel like a natural extension of everything that came before.

Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Batman...these kind of big name properties got to where they are in the cultural eye because they seem like treasure houses of story. You could place the enduring character, their worlds, their lives into practically any context and still tell a story. You don't need to excuse Batman for having an adventure, adventures just naturally seem to follow him around. Star Wars isn't just 'that thing that happened to Luke Skywalker' it's the whole history of the fiction universe in which Luke's adventures were only a small part.

This is what cheeses me off about so many reboots/remakes. Reiterating stuff that happened before is NOT a story. In the Star Trek reboot, does anyone seem to have a life beyond doing passable impressions of the actors from the original Star Trek show? Can you imagine Spock taking time off? We see Kirk having bedroom escapades but they don't seem to effect who he is. Scotty hangs out at a bar, but he doesn't do anything there except make a phone call. 

In the original Star Trek series you'd have scenes of Captain Picard in his ready room playing a flute. Kirk's cabin in Star Trek 2 has a collection of old flint lock pistols on the wall. Spock in the first Star Trek movie apparently meditates in his cabin with a special ceremonial robe for the purpose. Even when they aren't on the bridge these are people doing things.

Heck The Enterprise itself until the reboot is the size that is it because other things beside the crew's lives are going on. In episodes where the ship is attacked in previous series there are scenes of civilians running for their lives to the escape pods. We see delegates meeting for peace treaty agreements. We see shops and entertainment centers, a rec room, the holodeck. The Enterprise was always intended to be a self contained world which was constantly alive with activity.

The adventure of the week was only part of the story being told.

So where did that go? Why do things like Guild Wars 2 try and fail to tell a story and get that notion confused with just convoluted plots? Fighting a dragon is not a story. Fighting a dragon because you want to defend you homeland IS, but Guild Wars 2 and many other online roleplaying games begin and end with the arbitrary action and only the sparest explanation of the motivation. 

Why do comics think we'll be invested in characters with nothing to do? Sure the character may dress up in a nifty sort of way but just having them travel through time or the world be attacked by aliens or zombies or whatever is not a story, even if the people involved look picturesque on the cover. If they have no personality, no emotional stake in the events, no direct ties to what is happening then I at least find difficulty in caring even if the fiction human race is in danger. 

It doesn't help so many comics are convinced the way to make us care is to literally blow up the world and start over. So the human race is so pointless in your story that you can just blow up the world and keep on with the plot anyway? Guess what? I don't care. If all you have to show is invincible scowling space dudes and dudettes beating each other over the head THAT'S NOT A STORY.

It's not a story if the character in the video game is looking for bloody revenge; not unless that effects who the character is and what they do. Max Payne I consider great because, like World of Warcraft, the gameplay is a means to the end of telling a story. Shooting hundreds of bad guys could get repetitive even with slow motion involved, but because the story keeps tight focus on Max who isn't an unlikable guy we want to see what happens to him. Will he get revenge, and more than that, will that revenge even make his life better? It's what sustains a lengthy game with basically the same gameplay, and it's also the reason that for all its variety Max Payne 3 was not an enjoyable experience for me. It turned Max from an active into a reactive character: an errand boy for a bunch of other people we were supposed to care about. But I didn't. Nothing changed about MAX. He never met anyone interesting or did anything important. The gameplay seemed like an excuse for a plot that wasn't investing, making both equally dull to me. 

This is why I LIKED The Ewoks animated series. Again, as silly as it might have seemed, at least there were CHARACTERS involved who were always DOING something. Even if The Ewoks weren't involved in some kind of fight, there might still be some action going on. Episodes would begin with something like an upcoming festival, a recent theft, a character who has decided to go in search of something or the like. And the story stemmed from the fact that each character represented their own personal arc: Wicket looking for a way to prove himself as a warrior, Latara struggling with her avarice and creativity, Teebo's shyness and magical affinity and so forth. Their characterizations determined their adventures and each adventure was in turn effected by their characterizations. 
As risible a concept as Ewoks might be in theory, in practice the writers had the Ewoks not consider themselves a joke and always gave them plenty to do. 

In My Little Pony Friendship is Magic, a show I used to really like for similar reasons as the above, this seems to be a bit of a dying art. Characters forget everything they learned for the sake of a moral which holds iron rule over an episode. People are introduced and forgotten just as quickly: just tools for the plot. Nothing grows. Nothing changes. The characters rarely actually have things to do now. It seems more like they make up their problems by acting like fools or something happens to prevent them from doing not much of anything. We've gone from people who seemed to have their own goals and aspirations to one note objects that spout the same catchphrases. Maybe opinion is against me (again) because there have been some entertaining episodes, but it seems so focused on having episodic plots that it no longer has a story surrounding the Mane Six characters.
Also introductions of characters like Tree Hugger indicate that no one is taking the story that seriously anymore. It's setting its sites lower and lower. 
It can still pick up perhaps, but only if they return to the notion of Equestria as a place and the characters as stories in and of themselves: not just a stage for a series of moral plays and actors to eke out the same scenes over and over again.

And with that final tangent I leave with this notion: the plot is like a coatrack for the stories to sit on. The war in Warcraft is in all practicality the impetus for a million side plots revolving around the characters involved with the war itself secondary in importance to the people involved. In The NeverEnding Story the search for The Childlike Empress is only one millions of branching stories to be told with every new location unearthed and every new character met a wealth of opportunities. 
The war in Star Wars again introduces us to The Jedi Order, the Sith, The Empire, The Rebel Alliance, the many aliens and creatures that inhabit the universe and even with just those including humans theres a myriad of walks of life from councilor to smuggler. In Lord of the Rings the war is prescient, but only slightly as interesting as the race of elves, the dwarves, the men and hobbits involved in it.

So think of your plot as an introduction to your world and a world as an introduction to your characters. Think of each new subplot as a quest where motive drives purpose and where the outcome effects the nature of the people involved as well as the world itself, even in a small way: where each new action leads to reactions.
Ripples in the pond.
And every character is an untold story, from the guy the heroes purchase things from to the seemingly faceless armored knight guy from the villain's army. 

'Maybe it's another drill'.
A stormtrooper says irritably under the influence of Obi Wan Kenobi.
With just that set of words alone you have a sketch of a person we may never get to know but who lived in their own right. It's why the storm trooper was such a phenomena I believe, because as much as they were fodder for the heroes to shoot at they seemed to have their own autonomous reality about them. 

Enough tangents: go out and write yourself a world! :D

'It is equally clear that the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Tex., was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.'
- From Free Speech vs Hate Speech : New York Times Article by The Editorial Board

'He was already dead, he reflected. It seemed to him that it was only now, when he had begun to be able to formulate his thoughts, that he had taken the decisive step. The consequences of every act are included in the act itself. He wrote: 
Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death.'
- George Orwell 1984

-

Are you allowed to say whatever you want to whenever you want to?
As a child you're cautioned against non-discretionary speech because words CAN hurt and words can also lead to trouble and even damage. If you scream 'FIRE' in a crowded 
movie theater you're risking actual lives in the mad dash to follow, all for the sake of a joke. If you call on people you know to hurt others and they go ahead and do it you are implicated in the action you called for. If you attack someone personally and it negatively effects them than the blame for their state of mind falls at your feet.

But should we, as adults, but soundly told once and for all what we can and cannot say?

According to a disturbing amount of people in my opinion the answer in modern times tends to be yes, and it all boils down to the rampancy of the term 'ism'. 

The 'ism' derives from a Freudian idea; that there are certain behaviors in the human animal that are instinctive and subconscious. You are not 'responsible' for a reflexive reaction and someone who has a psychological or physiological condition is not generally blamed for their behavior be it swearing, stealing, or throwing a fit. 

Some bright spark decided to apply this same notion to the concept of inherent biases. People are, without exception I believe, prone to conceptual bias based on their experiences, their upbringing, their research, their personality...etc.
But a recent development in the war against freedom of speech has become the open secret that some people are just no good because their reflexive attitude is attuned to bigotry and unreasoning hatred. 

In other words: ignore what these people say or silence them.
They cannot help being prejudicial.

This is what is meant when you accuse someone of being racist or sexist or or any other 'ism' you can dream up. You are straight up stating that a person is beyond reason; suffering from some kind of psychological condition which prevents them from thinking properly. You aren't looking into the reason someone might harbor these biases because you don't believe there is one. You say what you do because you HATE black people. Clearly. Without question. You can't help it.
All I can do is ignore you.

Calling someone a 'sexist' or a 'racist' is no different than pointing at someone and shouting 'RETARD!'

Because someone who is mentally impaired can't help themselves. They can't improve and so most of what they say is incomprehensible. 

But the major difference is that a retarded person is not blamed for their action. Somehow someone who is 'racist' and prone to racism is ENTIRELY responsible. They are simultaneously reflexively bigoted...and PURE EVIL. People are apparently able to be conditioned to think incorrectly, but in charge of their minds to the point that they are ALSO willfully believing incorrectly and hatefully and should thus be scorned and punished for their actions. Would you punish someone for being retarded? No.
Would you inherently ignore someone for being impaired? No.

But 'isms' are different. It's like the perfect storm of accusing someone of having something wrong in their brain, and also willfully sinful to the point that accusing someone of being a racist deserves the worst we can imagine. Torture. Death. All well and good. Ask a lot of people and you will discover that they are totally in favor of visiting all manner of horrible things on people who are SUSPECTED of being racists.
If they are implicitly racists all bets are off.

And this again strikes me as odd. If someone advertises that they intend to kill someone, do we give them the death penalty if they don't follow through? If someone calls another person a 'poopy head' then do we immediately call for their execution?

No.

But if someone dares to call another person by a racial slur we are incensed to murderous anger. We want them to apologize to everyone everywhere. We want them fired. We want them charged. In our own fantasies we imagine them being tortured and killed. For THINKING about something as heinous as racism or sexism that person is beyond help, beyond logic and reason. We can't deal with them as people anymore: they are no different than criminals to our eyes. 

And their families are not exempt either. Association with someone accused of an 'ism' is damning. When Sarah Palin was accused of all manner of thought crimes her family was attacked personally by anchors for all manner of media outlets because it was open season as long as one of the family had been implicated. People who worked with others accused of being racist are considered contaminated by the same influence. Calling someone a 'bigot' is like calling someone a 'bastard' in the Middle Ages when heredity determined your wellbeing. Born out of wedlock implied someone who was accursed and exiled from society.
It is no different to attack someone's central trustworthiness and decency by calling them an 'ism'. 

You'd think then with something is terrible being so easy to accuse someone of then people would be less inclined to throw the 'isms' around. Accusing someone of rape can ruin their lives and reputations until the day that they die, even if they're innocent of the charge. The false accusation of a crime like rape carries high penalties because you are willfully using a shocking means to destroy someone who may be entirely guiltless. 

But racism? It's a DAILY accusation.

Everyone who disagrees with anyone nowadays seems more than willing to trot out the accusation of racism or sexism: to accuse people on the air of being wrong in the head and deserving of nothing more than ridicule and...ironically...hatred. It's just business as usual to say that a political opponent is sexist or racist with all of that implies coming along for the ride.   
And none of if comes with a price tag. Accuse someone of being racist and it turns out to be a hoax...nobody hears about it and nobody cares. Without a single care you can affix an opponent with a label and step back.
Again, ironically, you are accusing someone of being hateful and singling people out...so you single out people you hate to be hated by others.

But here's the deal. I'm okay with people doing this.

Accuse anyone you like of being a racist or sexist or whatever. It's your right, at least as an American Citizen. You can claim you didn't take any of the cookies from the jar when you totally did too. Mom will have something to say about it, but that's her jurisdiction. Go ahead and call yourself a purple ostrich for all I care. 
You aren't one clearly, but that doesn't matter.

THE STATE DOES NOT HAVE A SAY IN WHAT YOU SAY.

Or shouldn't. Seems a lot of people have started weighing in and demanded that people who say 'hateful' things should be censored. People who lie should be silenced. 

It is extremely worrisome to me when someone asks me if I think something is sexist or racist and then insists that such things are simply 'wrong'. You might say that obviously indicates I don't care about human dignity. 
Quite the opposite.
I care so much about human dignity I don't want to give any one group of people the power to tell others what they can and cannot say.

Because how deep does this rabbit hole go?

Imagine if tomorrow someone said that all statements that Global Warming is not a dire emergency were silenced. You might cheer because you believe that Global Warming is a danger, and anyone who says otherwise is obviously a bribed person for a big oil company, a liar, insane, or just predisposed to bigotry against liberalism. 
So now no one can say anything against Global Warming which is so obvious a truth that anyone who even thinks differently should be told to shut up, possibly fined, possibly imprisoned for their cheek.
NOW...
What's to stop the same people in charge of canceling out this part of speech from going further? All scientists who disagree with Global Warming hereafter must give up their practice. They're obviously infected by the lies or secretly spies for evil corporations. We can't have them staffing our labs or fooling with our experiments.
And lets go further. Anyone who says anything that is scientifically untrue should clearly be silenced as well. I mean if it's proven in a lab it must be true, and since all the evil scientists are gone and only the good scientists remain than only doubly so.
So religion? Right out. Too many contradictions and scientific inaccuracies. In fact since religion is a lie you can't talk about it, you can't think about it. Those books on religion? Destroy them. Lies all. If you are caught teaching these forbidden things to a minor is it any different than child abuse? Lets go one step further. Child molestation. 
And if lies are outlawed, than any lie is outlawed. Lying online? Finable with a prison sentence. That means if you harbor any sentiment towards something like conservatism which is obviously wrong and corrupt you get to go to jail if you can't pay your fee and why not just ban anyone from internet access if they insist on spreading those lies and teaching them to others? If your website is suspected of harboring seditious conservative messages it will be blocked and your reputation destroyed. We can't have you perpetuating lies, can we?

And so forth.
Suddenly telling one group of people to shut up leads to more and more until in the end only one group is allowed to speak, and they can decide anything they please.
Lest you think this is only one way politically imagine if it was the other way around. Only religion is truth so all science is out, and anyone who says Global Warming is a real threat should be silenced.
Unthinkable, right?

Then why are we so willing to give away our power to say anything into the hands of people who are so paranoid they are spying on their own citizens as we speak? 
Do you think if you gave someone the power to silence or open the mouths of others they wouldn't abuse it? If you wanted to silence every instance of hatred in the universe do you think you wouldn't be tempted eventually to lock up, or worse, people who disagreed with you? 
Then where's the line? You wanted to silence someone for hatefully dividing people into groups and saying all of them are one way.
So in order to stop such things you divided people into groups and said all of them are one way. 

Hypocrisy aside it will be a sad day when telling a racist joke won't just be wrong, it will be illegal. Because by that time it may be impossible to say anything.

Speech codes, trigger words, isms...all of these may be intended to make discourse civil and to save the emotions of others.

But we all know where the road of good intentions leads.

Every cloud has a silver lining. These guys I genuinely thought were threatening, interesting, and powerful foes to be reckoned with.
From order of least threatening to...wow.

10: Tom Riddle 'Lord Vauldemort'

A compelling and nuanced character who however was a somewhat underwhelming villain, Tom Riddle AKA Vauldemort has the distinction of having a sympathetic backstory but remaining till the last completely unredeemable by his own choice. He's low on the list because he's a little generically 'villainy' down to laughing maniacally and making dumb decisions, but as a villain even before he shows his presence is felt. No one speaks his name allowed (which turns out to be a practically as well as a symbolic decision later) and he's said to command minds, summon monsters, and twist reality to forward his schemes...all while being a disembodied parasite! He looks nifty and suitably villainous, there's nothing he won't do to accomplish his ends, he has some degree of strategy, he's unapologetically cruel and unrelenting, and earns himself a listing in the ranks by becoming a living infamous legend of our time. 
If he had been a little more competent and a little less maniacal he might have gotten higher rating, but to make the list among the best is no mean feat for me!


9: The Shark

Technically not named 'Jaws' despite the title, The Shark is never named in either the novelization or the film and is forever kept a raw, animal terror: a primal fear factory which has only one purpose. To kill and to eat. 
I'm a fan of sharks, but I wouldn't be crazy enough to swim with them, and The Shark from Jaws is like a realized nightmare of someone afraid of the water and the things that live there. The Shark isn't just a persistent foe who isn't afraid to attack and devour children he's invisible until he needs to strike, he's enormous, and he is very difficult to destroy. He embodies natural evil for lack of a better word: merciless and uncompromising ferocity as summed up not only by the current shark's attacks but by a chilling tale of survivors from the war being devoured one by one as they waited in vain for rescue. 
The Shark made people think twice about the ocean and lent fear that a few chords on a cello. Not exactly a calculating villain but one worthy of respect and one that still summons a measure of fear whether he's on screen or not.
And to think. His real name was 'Bruce' on set XD


8: Buddy Pine 'Syndrome'

If ever there was an animated character to manifest realistic villainy to a scary degree it would be Buddy Pine or Syndrome as he later named himself. Buddy is a rare case. We meet him initially as an idealistic young boy who is treated like a comic relief, but later in life that same ridicule and mockery he received from the heroes of the story almost as a reflection as the audience's own predisposition to mock him has turned him bitter. And not just bitter, literally murderous. That same wide-eyed youngster has grown into a  young man by all appearances, but one who is smart enough to build deadly weapons and driven enough to use them. In the course of his brief life he has murdered DOZENS of super heroes willfully and calculatedly with his machines, all so he can destroy the very notion of being a super hero in the first place. He declared war on his idols and a lot of people suffered the consequences of his one-man quest for personal satisfaction and revenge against his past. In the end he plans on kidnapping a child to twist its mind into hating its own family. He's the closest Disney has come to a person who by their own choices turned themselves before our eyes into grade A evildoer in every sense of the word.
He's low on the list because he has very specific personal goals with only so much reach and mostly he's goaded into his actions by jealousy and spite instead of true maliciousness. 
There's a reason that when Disney/Pixar depicted the onscreen death of a teenager no one was that broken up about it. Syndrome went from strength to strength, depending into irredeemable levels of darkness not through bad decisions but by the WRONG decisions, and turned a funny little boy into a fearful super villain.
 

7: The Lord Marshal 

This might just be me but I liked The Chronicles of Riddick, almost unapologetically. There's some cheesy lines and bad acting but for the most part it's a creative and entertaining science fiction action picture and a radical departure from the sci-fi horror movie Pitch Black which had come before it.
One of my favorite aspects of the film, even more so than Vin Diesel's scowling anti-hero, is The Lord Marshal: leader of The Necromongers. This guy is a surprisingly rare example of a villain who is motivated by religion. Not for personal reasons. Not using religion as a blind for greed or some other goal. He is truly convicted to his way of life and spreading that way to others. Everything he does is out of true faith with one exception...his cowardly desire to maintain his own life. This stumbling block derails him somewhat, but for the most part he's without qualm about trumpeting the reasons for his his actions in as many words. He wants people to share with him and his followers the new life in Underverse, he inflicts pain to strengthen people, he pits his allies against each other to test their loyalties. He has a very flowery way of speaking but not to no purpose. It's part of who he is, and its satisfying to me at least to see a villain with a bit of class and nobility. He fights with cold, precise movements and his only reaction to being stabbed?
'It's been a long time since I've seen my own blood.'
Badass. 

6: Imhotep

Can a villain break your heart?
Imhotep from The Mummy and The Mummy Returns is played by a consummate character actor who unfortunately seems to even up more often than not in trash, but not so with the adventure series in which he played his role as a resurrected undead mastermind with panache and quiet dignity. Imhotep's story is one of betrayal and love. His villainy is a byproduct of his defiance of The gods and his king and secondary to his goal of recovering the princess he had pledged his heart to long long ago. He is immensely powerful and rarely without legions of followers undead or otherwise but none of this matters to him as much as regaining the girl he left behind.
And in the end SPOILERS he fails.
His final moment on screen in the series is a sad smile, tears standing in his eyes as he lets himself fall into Hell. The actor did a marvelous job on this tiny scene. Spurned by his reincarnated love he whispers her name, nods his head, and dies all over again his life worthless without the object of his search. 
A villain you love to hate but you almost wish would succeed. An antagonist you are afraid of but you also pity. It's a fine line but Imhotep, who incidentally is based off a real person with his own tragic story, is one of those examples of that line met perfectly and the scales balanced. 

5: Sauron

What's worse that killing your enemies?
How about killing a world?
Sauron isn't after your life so much as your soul. He will use your love, your wishes, your insecurities to bend you to his own will, make you destroy everything you care about personally, and then enslave you forever. Death is only a temporary escape. 
Sauron has his own tragic tale behind him as once a gifted and powerful smith who was tempted by forces of supernatural darkness into becoming apprentice to an even worser evil Morgoth. When Morgoth was banished his servant began his own schemes for domination, and even managed to live past the death of his body with his spirit so poisoned it continued to infect and degrade others after his destruction.
Sauron is at once a scheming sorcerer and a force of nature. His malign influence is present everywhere even as he himself is more localized. The Great Eye is only an external version of his true self. In both the novel and the movies Lord of the Rings he appears to Merry Brandybuck in a Palantir and although vaguely described physically he does things like smile which eyes cannot easily do. Sauron can make mistakes which oddly makes him a little bit more frightening. The same force that is destroying the planet and twisting hearts and souls is human enough to maintain a sense of arrogance and pride. 
Tolkien said that he preferred it if his work was not considered allegorical so Sauron is not a stand in for The Devil or a dictator. He is what he is, but in being so he represents a kind of power lust run rampant, a hatred that becomes action, and a will strong enough to branch out unless the lowliest of things ends its reign.


4: Professor James Moriarty 

From Game of Shadows.
By no means is Moriarty as strong in magic as Sauron or command an army like other villains. He's a fairly vulnerable middle aged man with an unimpressive figure who works as a tutor at a local university. 
How come he's so high on the list?
The reason is because everything to James is a game. A game requires strategy. A game accepts losses. A game thinks far ahead. At every moment up till the final concluding duel The Professor has planned out not only his scheme but the eventualities of the schemes failing, picking up the slack with an auxiliary plan. James can think on his feet and adapt to changing conditions, and he isn't afraid to wait to see his ultimate goals realized. Even more interesting is the reasoning for his actions are summed up in two words by Holmes who reads his personality based on his handwriting. After praising his wit, Holmes makes the call that he is also arrogant of his powers of thought and ultimately suffers from 'Moral Insanity'.
Moriarty is scary because he does what he does either because he feels there's no reason not to or he enjoys pushing the boundaries and breaking down the walls of what is morally acceptable. In his own cryptic head, brilliant though he may be, he doesn't feel confined by the laws of decency. Any underhanded trick, any foul action is worth it to realize his ends. 
And in the final confrontation he resorts to fighting with the ferocity of a cornered animal, the mask pulled away. James is probably singlehanded the most dangerous on the list to date because although all of the above might be able to cause more immediate damage none does so quite so willfully and none is quite so far reaching in their thought as to what it means to truly 'win'.

3: Emperor Palpatine/Darth Vader

The classic double act. These two are almost inseparable even before the introduction of The Emperor because Darth is the hand of the empire which is summed up in the presence of The Emperor himself. Darth has some autonomy but not on subjects that go beyond his missions. If he can order a search he cannot decide to go anywhere or do anything The Emperor does not approve of. By himself Darth is a formidable foe with terrible powers and dogged determination to see his Emperor's will through, but in conjunction with Palpatine it's no wonder these two managed to practically bring the universe to its knees. Palpatine, at least in the original trilogy, was a master strategist. Like Moriarty he planned everything in advance and made up backups to his schemes if they failed. His favorite strategy seemed to be making his enemies maneuver themselves into traps almost willingly, believing they had the advantage. Just as the rebel fleet believes that The Death Star is not operational and zooms in to attack only to be ambushed Luke is invited to surrender himself believing he can singlehandedly redeem his father Darth.
When The Emperor fails it's through no fault of his own. Ironically it's through his allies proving to be better people at heart than he could have imagined them to be. Darth too only 'fails' when he's doing so by the will of his leader. His death would have meant the rise of Luke as a dark Jedi. Win win.
Both The Emperor and Darth have the distinction of almost no major set backs. The Death Star is destroyed once but they were building another one. Darth is knocked into space but recovers and regroups. The Emperor is thwarted in capturing The Princess but it turns out The Millennium Falcon was ALLOWED to escape because it had a homing beckon hidden aboard.
This double act was menacing, powerful, smart and until the round up had everything in hand and were constantly on top of the heap, making the heroes appear all the more heroic even as the villains maintain their threat.  
 

2: The Joker

Some people just want to watch the world burn.
Those people aren't necessarily insane. Those people aren't necessarily harboring a childhood grudge or desire something personal. Sometimes smart people just want to ruin things because they believe that's the way things should be: to introduce a little anarchy in defiance of the system.
And when they do so innocent people can be seriously hurt.
The Joker is an enigma from start to finish. Why does he wear the makeup? How did he get those scars? He'd be happy to tell you but like so many things from his mouth it's a new story every time. As if to stay by his anarchic convictions he's willing to turn the truth into a joke; to tell people just enough to make them leap into the wrong decision. Like Joker from the comics he also has an invested interest in destroying people by driving them crazy, but unlike the comics Joker Heath Ledger's portrayal is more like forcing them into stark sanity as opposed to madness. There's a cold, mechanical logic to the actions of Two Face. There's a fearful symmetry to the question of the two ferries loaded with explosives. There's a cruel joke in the way he toys with the lives of Batman's love and Batman's friend by deliberately mixing up the addresses. Like Moriarty The Joker sees to it that whatever happens he'll win, but unlike Moriarty its not always a logical victory. Even if he dies The Joker sees it as a win because in death he'll have forced his greatest enemy to break his only rule, and in doing so he predicts a downward spiral in which the hero of Gotham will became just as vile, if not worse, than him. 
The Joker is a person but at the same time is a personification of rejecting everything in favor of chaos. He is every anarchist and terrorist who ever lived even while being a compelling person thanks to little touches of humanity such as taking the accusation of being 'crazy' personally.
All around one of my favorite portrayals of a villain: the worst of humanity but none the less a human.

1: Hannibal Lecter 

And this is the top tier.
Hannibal Lecter is without a doubt completely insane...but that doesn't mean he isn't smart.
Something snapped inside this man's mind but he's maintained a surprising deal for his life of scholarly pursuits. He's an excellent painter, a poet who can quote classic verse from memory. He's charming, well spoken, and an inspired chef.
He also eats people after he's slaughtered them.
Hannibal (at least in Silence of the Lambs and later in the show Hannibal) is the quintessential portrayal of madness and evil meeting in the middle: like the loss of rationality unleashed a demon beneath the surface. Hannibal is evil. He's not troubled or practicing vigilante justice or following a belief system for justification. He's remorselessly and willfully evil. He will use every advantage to escape to perpetrate more villainy because he enjoys the experience. Even in a place of captivity when everything seems against them he delights in pulling apart the psyches of others to watch them squirm.
It's hard to believe the man is mad after half an hour of listening to him speak.
But after a day you begin to question if he's even human.
And for those convinced this character is completely beyond possibility it is my regret to inform you that there are and have been serial killers very similar to this. They seem lucid at moments and at others almost animal in their furor. The same man that can carry on the calmest of conversations can be the one who butchered a human being and ate their remains.
And Hannibal (until the godawful sequel) represented this odd juxtaposition of the genius and the psychopath. At times he's like an adult and at others like a child. Sometimes he seems to be planning things and others he speaks without meaning and drifts away into crazed reverie.
The frightening aspect of Hannibal is he is the face of madness itself: unknowable; able to turn man into a monster. The idea of our thoughts turned against us, our best and brightest willfully committing the darkest sins I still find terrifying. And that makes him the most impressive villain to me: unadulterated, almost supernatural villainy but housed inside a mortal. 

And that's my list. Would love to hear about any baddies I missed out on!
Because :iconedthesupersaiyan: :lol:
Why must you friendly people come up with new journals for me? Why!!??
I should be re-imagining things or working on my project outside of DA, but NOPE!
(Seriously though, thanks for the suggestion. I may also do a Best villains list.)

These are baddies who failed at being bad by being just...bad. Specifically from movies.
In order from most underachievers to absolute jokes...

10: Loki

Sorry Marvel maniacs, Loki is not a good villain. His plans almost never work and they rarely seem to be that advantageous to him personally. He's a fun and interesting character but basing a villainous plan around the half-baked schemes of what amounts oftentimes to a whiny teenager with daddy issues just isn't the recipe for menace. This isn't the actors fault: Tom can be genuinely intense and gives a great performance. The problem is that Loki never is allowed to shine as an effective antagonist. Everything he does is stymied, thwarted, or turns into a literal farce. No wonder they practically made him turn a new leaf. He actually makes a much better anti-hero then a villain. 

9: Toecutter

Mad Max's first, and worst, antagonist. This hairy bike gang leader is just underwhelming, especially compared to the later colorful rouges gallery The Road Warrior would face. He's low on the list because the actor playing him is so amazingly enjoyable. As a villain he barely does anything, isn't that definable, and buys it anticlimactically, but as a raving wacko he blazed the way for decades of ranting apocalyptic looneys to come. Not an impressive villain but, like Loki, a memorable character at the very least.

8: Jig Saw

What's less interesting than a villain who slowly but surely becomes a godlike entity? It may seem frightening at first to be staring down the machinations of a man who is able to predict every eventuality with unerring clarity and is never able to be caught of killed EXCEPT when he wants to do either, but then you step back and consider. If your enemy is capable of seeing every angle before you do and is basically untouchable you're screwed and the fight is over before it begins. Nothing to do but muddle through the guy's game until it's over, and as time and the series Saw went on too long Jig Saw became less of a troubled charismatic serial killer with a grudge to a social statement spewing deity who was impossible to stop or even plan around. As a man Jig Saw might have been interesting and scary as a villain, but as a god he stopped having any interest and became nothing more than an excuse to kill people in elaborate ways. Fine for gore-hounds I suppose but it just wasn't an idea with a lot of longevity, and not a villain with any lasting impression of personality. 

7: Jason/Michael/Leather Face/Freddy Krueger

The antagonists of Friday the 13th, Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and A Nightmare on Elm Street had great introductory chapters in which they played excellent foils for our heroes or at the very least survivors of their rampages. The mysterious hulking killer with the bag over everything except one eye, the silent 'shape' with the knife and the expressionless mask, the cannibal giant with the buzzing chainsaw, and the dream-stalking revenant who used your darkest fears to kill you all were all compelling and powerful nightmare fuel because of how original their concepts were, how creative their methods of death dealing were, but most of all how little we got to see or fully understand them. They were at their best when they were practically shadows in the corner of our minds. The focus of the film really was on the regular people struggling to escape, using their wits or luck to live another day.
Then came the sequels.
Now even ignoring the reels upon reels of confused and contradictory backstory which has sapped all the mystique from all three iconic characters they've gotten so overexposed theirs nothing 'other' or really all that scary about them any more than the dark helmet of Darth Vader inspires awe any longer. Merchandise and unnecessary attempts to humanize and sympathize with these villains has flat out ruined them as antagonists. We don't need Leather Face to be some kind of weird anti-hero for him to be an interesting character, nor do we need to know where he came from. He's a killer with a chainsaw: he's the catalyst of what should be the real story of survival and suspense. But there IS no suspense if the killer is immortal and we inexplicably spend all our time following him around so we even know where they are at all times and why they do what they do every time they do it. Without the mystery the nightmare seems silly, and then more often than not the studios decide that since the character is a joke already they should finish them off by making them into straight up parodies of themselves. Its a sad end to characters who were designed to be unknowable, unthinking, unfathomable forces of evil. Apparently that would be TOO scary.

6: The Scorpion King/General Greivous

Rather odd to lump two villains from different series here, but it's for the same reason. The Scorpion King from The Mummy series (I refuse to call it a trilogy) and General Grevious from Star Wars have something in common beyond their rather dodge CGI effects work. 
They're both so pathetic that the real question facing the heroes is always who will kill them off. 
These both are sacrificial lamb characters. With their deaths the heroes can get what they want so they engage in discussions about who will do the killing. These villains are so stock and boring apparently their deaths aren't a matter of whether or not this can be done, but when and where. Neither is all that outwardly weak or worthless, but when the heroes describe them more like obstacles than actually enemies it comes across as tossing them under the bus because the writer has stopped caring about them or their plots. At least expanded universe lore, fan-fiction, and in the case of The Scorpion King a whole series of films, explored somewhat their backstories so they aren't simply known to the day as 'Those guys the heroes had to kill in order to get something'.  

5: Ultron

I LIKE Ultron...as a character.
Unlike even Loki however Ultron isn't stymied by the fact his plans aren't allowed to happen, he's stymied because his plans make no sense. He wasn't developed to be a person like Loki whose schemes at least have some kind of justification: he's all but literally stated to be either insane or operating on faulty programming. From the moment he appears The Avengers are preparing to attack him because they know he doesn't mean any good. He's just not a very successful catalyst for a story as a bad guy because most of what he does seems random and pointless. He's funny and I enjoyed having him on screen but I was never afraid of him and his grand plan turned out to be so ludicrous it made him out to be little more than a tool for the plot; stripping away all of his possibilities for growth so that the movie could dispose of him without raising any eyebrows. A shameful treatment of what could have been a very compelling character.

4: Davy Jones

Cutler Becket (before he went full retard) was a great foil in the Pirates of the Caribbean series and the snorefest that was Blackbeard from On Stranger Tides would be too easy a mark. Davy Jones is a great example of a villain character with a full arc who is completely forgotten about by the writers and dwindles into uselessness in his final appearances on screen. Davy Jones has an interest look, an interesting backstory, and at one point had the potential to be a threatening villain with his enormous Kraken on standby. The problem was that the writers had too much to muddle through already so in short order he is forced to kill the Kraken (because The East India Trading Company couldn't possibly have a use for something like THAT) and although there's a scene hinting at a return to his love story with Tia Dalma the sea goddess the final battle happens and he dies without any resolution to that dangling plot thread. A prime and fan-favorite villain shot down because of the mad rush to finish off the series.  

3: Black heart, Laurel Hedare, Bullseye, Howard Saint

All the lame superhero movie villains basically stack up here. Black Heart from Ghost Rider, Laurel Hedare from Catwoman, Bullseye from Daredevil and Howard Saint from The Punisher. These absolutely pathetic antagonists did almost nothing during their course of their debuts and bowed out with a whimper instead of a bang. They talk a good fight (and my do they talk!) but they dress silly, fight badly, and have no motivation that travels much beyond 'fight hero...because'. 
They will go unmourned as lackluster performances, personalities, and disservices to the source material.
Speaking of...

2: The Mandarin 

What's worse then under-representing a villain?
How about defacing his grave? 
The Mandarin bait and switch from Iron Man 3 I take as an infuriating show of profound disrespect to a character people actually did want to see portrayed. You might bring up the whole racism angle, but the truth is that the origins of a character do not define the way they can become their own entity. The Mandarin wasn't just a villain in Iron Man's roster, he was THE villain: the arch nemesis of Tony Stark. This is like if The Joker in Batman turned out to be a painted up mercenary and the real villain was another wealthy white guy business man type. 
You might go into the argument against magic being in the Marvel movies, but then you consider the latest crop of films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor, and Age of Ultron basically stating that it exists anyway. It might be 'super technology' but it acts like magic, so why not have a guy with powers that appear like mystical arts fighting a guy who has based his entire life on personalized industry: the head of a nation against the head of a company? The animated movie The Invincible Iron Man is not the world's greatest film but it at least tried to give The Mandarin a new lease on life as a necromancer who was once a tyrant in China whose use of terra-cotta warriors and a dragon against Tony gave the Ironman armor an interesting post-modern Knight look.
But Iron Man 3 HAD to have it's by this time threadbare anti-Bush message. Get it? Because Osama Bin Laden wasn't REALLY the bad guy: he was clearly a puppet for evil rich white people to inspire hate. Terrorists aren't real: just big bad capitalists. 
Spare me.
He wasn't that funny, that interesting, or that important in his own right as a character.
It WAS an original move to make the main villain a total joke but there's a reason for that. It would be original if he'd turned out to be an alien looking for a mate...and equally as stupid and pointless and infuriating for a studio which to that point had tried to give both the heroes and villains of their universe their moment to shine. 

1: Michael Jennings and Other EBMs

Our courageous hero strings up the villain to a rope before shooting the tie and sending him plunging to his death in a pit of oil: drowning in suffering and agony right before the plant around him explodes.
From this description you might think this is a typical end for a villainous dictator, a murderous psychopath, a cunning super villain who kills his accomplices and has threatened thousand of innocent lives with his doomsday weapon.
But Michael Jennings from Steven Segal's 'On Deadly Ground' is a special case.
He's a business man played by Michael Kaine. He runs an oil company and apart from being a grouchy person who does employ mercenaries to do his dirty work he never once throughout the film personally kills anyone or causes their deaths by his actions or demands. His mercenaries are quickly shown to be torturing, murderous crazies, but Michael doesn't really have much to do with them.
In the end Steven Segal's eco-terrorist Forrest Taft kills Michael Jennings because...he makes money. Maybe it's because he lies on commercials or builds oil rigs out of faulty materials to speed up production in order to keep Eskimos from oil rights, but when has that been an offense worth of execution? 
The Jennings Effect is something I'd like to coin here: when it's okay to kill people just for being successful and unscrupulous. 
The EBM (or Evil Business Men) is a disturbing phenomena. In movies like Shooter I was profoundly sickened when our 'hero' decides to round off the story by breaking into the cabin where the evil government/business guys are staying and shoots them all to death. They aren't armed. They aren't planning anything. They did do bad things in the past, but our hero feels that he's so above the law he can determine they deserve to die for their crimes past, present or future.
I was going to write Evil White Business Man but the recent glut of examples of bad guys being bad because their rich can cross all boundaries nowadays. The evil business man/government guy from Shooter for instance is Danny Glover.
Same with the movie Wanted in which many of the targets our 'hero' kills are notable for only one reason: they're rich. In Uwe Boll's sequel to the only movie he's made which got light praise, Rampage, he depicts his anti-hero (if we can go that far) suiting up to kill hundreds of politicians and bankers for the crime of...being rich. Attack on Wallstreet paints a similar picture of a crazed gunman we're supposed to like because all of his victims are wealthy upper class people who I assume are evil by default.
Come on people. If you want to make a political statement, fine I suppose, but don't make it a hypocritical one. If you're going to complain about rich people taking the law into their own hands, don't cap things off by having the 'hero' take the law into his own hands! If you're complaining about violence, don't round things off with violence. 
And even beyond all this Evil Business Men aren't scary. They're designed to be cardboard caricatures of political enemies so they can't win, they can't have personalities, and they can't even tell stories. They never succeed in their schemes, they're cowards when they're cornered, and if they have backstories it's usually about how evil they are. An exception would be Don Rafael Montero from The Mask of Zorro who ALMOST has a sympathetic story about his love for Zorro's wife and his taking care of Zorro's daughter....but like ALL EBMs eventually he has to succumb to villainy and in the end is killed without fanfare and left unmourned. 

Bottom line. Villains are integral to a stories success, and that includes antagonists who aren't trying to blow up the city or kill everyone. Someone who is simply an obstacle to success CAN be interesting if they're allowed to be a character in their own right.
But if they continually fail, if they have no reason to do what they do, and if they aren't allowed the courtesy of a soul people like me tend to label them tools of the plot at best, wastes of time at worst.

'But that's another story for another time.'

- Michael Ende's 'The NeverEnding Story'

--

The novelization of The NeverEnding Story is one of my favorite books. The movie is a classic children's film, but the original book ranks up there with Narnia and The Lord of the Rings for me in terms of characterization, scope, and a plot that stays with the reader long after the book is over. The NeverEnding Story has a distinction that those other books do not have however which was also woefully missing from the cinematic interpretation.

And that relates to my recent taking up again of World of Warcraft.
(Bear with me!)

At every major departure of a character from The NeverEnding Story's main plot line there will always be a a short passage hinting that their own story did not end just because they left the narrative we're reading. The centaur who goes to find Atreyu for instance is so tired after his search he remains in the village where Atreyu lives even as he send Atreyu to the Ivory Tower. Now the centaur's role in the story is done so naturally you may forget about him much like any other background character.

But the book is careful to mention this...

'However after recovering the centaur did not return to The Ivory Tower himself but instead had further adventures in the land of Purple Buffalo...but that's another story for another time.' 

This concept of characters not ending the story but beginning new ones even if we don't see them continue ourselves gives The NeverEnding Story a true sense of infinite possibility. Every single player has their own story to tell and in fact at the end of the book Atreyu decides to go back and finish the stories that were left untold. The book is truly to me anyway a world trapped between two covers.

And The World of Warcraft as well as other Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games at their best can be the same. Since it was free I decided to try out a trial for WOW as one of the races I'd never tried out back in college when I used to dabble in playing it. The Goblin and The Pandarian sounded so goofy I figured even if the game was dull at least the characters would look interesting.

But Blizzard quite frankly amazed me.

The reason Warcraft was turned into a World may stem initially from aping the popular Everquest, but the other reason apparent when you actually play the game is that Warcraft has MILLIONS of stories to tell. 

You might suppose something as silly as a Panda race would have nothing to say for it, but some mad genius crafted for them a world that at once is a parody of martial arts stories (with more than a little Kung Fu Panda inspiration) but is also a fully fleshed out conceptualized setting. The island of the Pandarians is on the back of a turtle, and lo and behold one of the quests involves using a hot air balloon to visit the head of the turtle to talk with it! The Pandarians deal with different factions with their own disciplines and beliefs like an odd little microcosm of Japanese shinto only in the their case the elemental spirits are tangible entities they can play with to amuse. There's cursed pools that turn characters into animals, a race of baboons who have 'wisemen' with their own conflicting philosophies and their own deities. Even the quest to remove giant rabbits from the vegetable fields takes on it's own story dimension when you discover that the rabbits not only have their own clothes and society but in one corner of their burrow they have begun to worship an enormous carrot with candles and offerings! 

Same with the goblin. You might think something as simple as a parody of capitalism might come across as boring and preachy, but for all their society is like a twisted mirror of commercialism and industry the goblins themselves still act like people with personalities and always have something to do be it holding parties to gain influence, experimenting with strange gadgets, or in one case burning down their own dwelling for the insurance money...during a volcanic eruption. It could have been treated as a straight up farce and there's farcical elements but the writers intelligently and daringly seemed to tell themselves at every turn 'To the people involved in these stories their lives are NOT a joke'. 

We might laugh at the martial arts pandas, but to themselves they have a proud and ancient tradition to uphold, their own lives to lead, and their own beliefs to fight for. Same with the goblins who take themselves seriously even if the rest of the world considers them a punchline. 

Even the integration of both the goblin and the Pandarian into the ongoing war between The Horde and The Alliance is a smooth transition. You meet representatives from both sides and ultimately make your choice, and in the process you see the growth of your character from someone deeply involved in their own cultural dealings to someone with a more holistic perspective, now in the service of a grander ideology and actively deciding to pursue that ideology even if it comes into violent contention with another.

So what's the similarity between a German fairytale and an online roleplaying game, and why on earth do I think more stories should be like a type of game a lot of the time people accuse of having no story beyond fetch quests and 'kill x number of things to get stuff'?

It comes down to my favorite concepts again: the story and the world.

In the goblin campaign something as silly as a steam powered motorcar makes sense in the concept of everything we've seen. Goblins are advanced technologically compared with the rest of the world so we as the audience can buy in conjunction with the medieval technology of the mainland something like a submersible or a rocket pack. There's been some attempt to make the impossible seem probable.  

And because of that validity the focus turns from the absurdity of the situation to the people involved. I at least find it much easier to care about people if the world they live in makes some kind of self contained sense. If not I keep asking questions and gloss over what could be interesting characters.

Consistency helps to make a world feel real and, by extension, make the characters feel real unto themselves as well.

Of course another aspect of a story and a world besides consistency is something actually happening.

In NeverEnding Story as well as WOW the story never stops just because the focus has turned away. It's fair to say that from a general standpoint this is highly unrealistic. 100% of the time we are not involved in 'stories' exactly in our day to day lives. We could become involved by choice or by chance but it's more true to life to have periods of downtime in which nothing really is occurring naturally.

However NeverEnding and WOW have the advantage of being...FICTION.

Fiction can be life in fast forward. Sure in between all of your adventures the character in WOW would probably sleep, eat, or use the bathroom and in the course of The NeverEnding Story many characters might be entirely content to live out their lives with no further notable adventures, but the authors in both case realized that an uneventful life is not the stuff of entertainment. If might be a bit hasty for your goblin or other character in WOW to be told by a guy to rescue prisoners right after you finished defeating a boss, but without that being the case where is the story going to go? WOW gets creative in administering the same gameplay over and over again, but because the context changes you barely notice. Capturing cave paintings with a magic camera is not that much different from gathering raptor eggs, but because of presentation the actions seems diverse enough to hold your attention. Killing one monster isn't much different than killing other monsters, even bosses, but the differing scenarios, locations, and stories being told make each undertaking a fresh experience. 

Story as I noted in an earlier journal is not 'plot'. Plot is the action occurring and story is the thematic underpinnings; the ties that make events seem as if they have some kind of solidarity. This is why although I enjoy playing Guild Wars 2, World of Warcraft is a much more enjoyable experience for me. Guild Wars 2 has polished graphics and a better interface, but nothing about it feels that thought out. In Guild Wars 2 things just...happen. They can be fun and exciting but they don't have a lot of reasoning behind them. 

Why are there two headed Ettins running around? Because fantasy game. 

Why griffins and semi-intelligent lizards? Why do some people have connections to spirit animals? Why do some people have magic? Where did the kingdoms of men come from? The answer is in general 'Why are you asking these questions? It's fantasy. Just go with it.'

There's some lipservice paid to backstory but it all feels like an excuse.

In World of Warcraft because of dialogue, a gazetteer, and a sense of history even the wackiest elements all seem to fit together with more than just the excuse of it being in the fantasy genre to do so. Why are there goblins? They have a story about that related to where they came from, what came before them, and why they live the way they do. One boss even announces to goblin players 'I remember when your race first arrived on these shores!' 

I smiled when, while shipwrecked on an island, the item for restoring mana in WOW turned from the ordinary spring water into 'Water gathered from a tarp' with the description 'The sand makes you teeth whiter'. 

It isn't necessary exactly, but THAT kind of detail shows dedication. That kind of attention draws me into an experience and makes me for the duration of a gameplay session believe in it.

More stories should be like this and it confuses me to no end that they are not.

They tried to release a series of comics based on World of Warcraft and they were all beautifully illustrated but also cripplingly dull. Why? Because you never got a sense of character. It was all based around plot with the major players just going through the motions with the same dingy motivations of revenge or becoming more powerful or the like. Nobody was actually DOING anything. They were being moved around like chess pieces to famous locations and watching battles happen. They never 'talk' about anything either except where they need to go next to fulfill some demands. Exposition is not characterization.

THIS IS NOT A STORY.

A story is when the events are effected by, and effect, characters.

In WOW again although it doesn't play a gameplay role you get the sense of your character directly effecting the world around them. Sometimes at the end of a chapter you will watch hopelessly as the settlement you started is burned to the ground or witness as a deep injury to the world is healed before your eyes because you defended the druids who were repairing it. The reactions of characters to you also indicates some subtle changes to them throughout their adventures. People recognize you as your deeds speak for themselves or make mention of how something you did earlier has come to fruition. 

You get the sensation you aren't just playing a game, you're participating in a massive narrative that's unfolding even when you aren't there to see it.

In The NeverEnding Story every event not only happens but it has some kind of payoff. Even something as innocuous as meeting a character puts into contrast the personalities of both characters concerned. 

When Bastian finally travels to Fantastica (in the movie they called the world Fantasia) he encounters a group of knights at one point each with their own distinct bearing and goals. He discovers rapidly that since he's literally wished himself to be the strongest that besting one of these knights causes them to become very embittered, especially since he defeated them soundly in the presence of a lady they were trying to woo. Bastian assumes he'll just have his fun and show off. After all he's telling this story by now. 

What harm could it do to mix things up: act like a god for awhile?

But the harm comes because he changes the course of a man's life. He forces the knight to depart, looking for heroic deeds to make amends for his loss. In a moment of carelessness Bastian has changed the story because of his actions. 

If it hadn't been for Bastian maybe the knight might well have won the love he sought, maybe he would not have been driven to go elsewhere looking for redemption.

And yes, that knight's story is 'Another story for another time'. 

We don't learn his fate but the description does say 'He found another love'.

Our actions cause ripples in the pond of life, and fiction shows those ripples reach the shore more rapidly than our day to day existence. 

But it's those ripples that hold our interest: that keep us reading another page or watching the film or playing the game. Even if it comes to something like gathering the hides of animals to make an orc shaman happy the reason I at least kept doing so was because I knew in some capacity the writers would introduce a reasoning behind the action. In WOW for the most part nothing is just single tier busywork. Gathering naga hatchlings in one mission provides incentive for an ancient naga god to allow the goblins to settle on an island. Gathering materials means that a blacksmith can forge you armor or new weapons. Rescuing prisoners is the first action in preparing an army to attack a base...etc. 

Like The NeverEnding Story the addictive quality comes from one thing leading to another: a domino effect of plot and intermingled story.

And is there story in World of Warcraft or the unfinished narratives of The NeverEnding Story? I would say yes. It seems hard to believe but for an MMO based primarily on killing things there's a lot of thematic ideas at play no matter what race you choose. The Horde and Alliance are not only opposed by bad blood and land disputes, they also have conflicted philosophies. The Alliance believes in, well, allying the races in a grand singular vision. Ironically to do so they need to brutally attack races that will not follow their guiding principals. The Horde believe in anonymity and freedom even unto taking what they want and killing whoever disagrees with them, and ironically they need to unite their races in order to stand against The Alliance. The two societies are neither entirely in the right or wrong despite all appearances and both are can sometimes be united against a common enemy like The Undead or the demonic forces. The thematic ideals of the side you choose determines the nature of your missions. Alliance prefer a civil way of dealing with things while The Horde prefer much more direct and barbaric approaches. Serving The Alliance may have you defending villages or spying on orcs while serving The Horde may have you collecting enemy heads or recovering weapons for escaped prisoners to hold their own against bounty hunters.   

Is it all the same collect/kill gameplay? Most usually yes.

But the 'story' comes from following a thematic idea throughout the course of the plots. Even races have their own 'themes' like goblins generally solving their problems with technology, the undead looking for acceptance in the eyes of their peers, the orcs with a strong shamanistic and martial discipline arc, the elves with natural defense and magical investigations, the dwarves differentiated from the goblins by a stalwart individualism as opposed to a corproate mentality and so forth. Nearly every aspect of WOW seems tailored to make you feel like you're acting out a role. 

It's the difference between playing and role-playing.

In Guild Wars 2 again it's difficult to role-play. There are story based sections but they are detached from the major gameplay. You can only role-play so much as yet another wandering adventurer with inexplicable abilities.

In WOW the game and the story are one. 

And in fiction that's the way it should be. Action? Drama? Romance? Comedy? Horror? All of this and more in the course of a story should be woven indissolubly into the fabric of the fiction itself. These should not be discernible 'beats'. The story shouldn't slow to a crawl for someone to have a 'character moment'. If you're good at writing these moments should seem like a logical motivated pause. You shouldn't have to hurl one character at another (sometimes literally) in order to have them fall in love. It should feel like a natural extension of everything that came before.

Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Batman...these kind of big name properties got to where they are in the cultural eye because they seem like treasure houses of story. You could place the enduring character, their worlds, their lives into practically any context and still tell a story. You don't need to excuse Batman for having an adventure, adventures just naturally seem to follow him around. Star Wars isn't just 'that thing that happened to Luke Skywalker' it's the whole history of the fiction universe in which Luke's adventures were only a small part.

This is what cheeses me off about so many reboots/remakes. Reiterating stuff that happened before is NOT a story. In the Star Trek reboot, does anyone seem to have a life beyond doing passable impressions of the actors from the original Star Trek show? Can you imagine Spock taking time off? We see Kirk having bedroom escapades but they don't seem to effect who he is. Scotty hangs out at a bar, but he doesn't do anything there except make a phone call. 

In the original Star Trek series you'd have scenes of Captain Picard in his ready room playing a flute. Kirk's cabin in Star Trek 2 has a collection of old flint lock pistols on the wall. Spock in the first Star Trek movie apparently meditates in his cabin with a special ceremonial robe for the purpose. Even when they aren't on the bridge these are people doing things.

Heck The Enterprise itself until the reboot is the size that is it because other things beside the crew's lives are going on. In episodes where the ship is attacked in previous series there are scenes of civilians running for their lives to the escape pods. We see delegates meeting for peace treaty agreements. We see shops and entertainment centers, a rec room, the holodeck. The Enterprise was always intended to be a self contained world which was constantly alive with activity.

The adventure of the week was only part of the story being told.

So where did that go? Why do things like Guild Wars 2 try and fail to tell a story and get that notion confused with just convoluted plots? Fighting a dragon is not a story. Fighting a dragon because you want to defend you homeland IS, but Guild Wars 2 and many other online roleplaying games begin and end with the arbitrary action and only the sparest explanation of the motivation. 

Why do comics think we'll be invested in characters with nothing to do? Sure the character may dress up in a nifty sort of way but just having them travel through time or the world be attacked by aliens or zombies or whatever is not a story, even if the people involved look picturesque on the cover. If they have no personality, no emotional stake in the events, no direct ties to what is happening then I at least find difficulty in caring even if the fiction human race is in danger. 

It doesn't help so many comics are convinced the way to make us care is to literally blow up the world and start over. So the human race is so pointless in your story that you can just blow up the world and keep on with the plot anyway? Guess what? I don't care. If all you have to show is invincible scowling space dudes and dudettes beating each other over the head THAT'S NOT A STORY.

It's not a story if the character in the video game is looking for bloody revenge; not unless that effects who the character is and what they do. Max Payne I consider great because, like World of Warcraft, the gameplay is a means to the end of telling a story. Shooting hundreds of bad guys could get repetitive even with slow motion involved, but because the story keeps tight focus on Max who isn't an unlikable guy we want to see what happens to him. Will he get revenge, and more than that, will that revenge even make his life better? It's what sustains a lengthy game with basically the same gameplay, and it's also the reason that for all its variety Max Payne 3 was not an enjoyable experience for me. It turned Max from an active into a reactive character: an errand boy for a bunch of other people we were supposed to care about. But I didn't. Nothing changed about MAX. He never met anyone interesting or did anything important. The gameplay seemed like an excuse for a plot that wasn't investing, making both equally dull to me. 

This is why I LIKED The Ewoks animated series. Again, as silly as it might have seemed, at least there were CHARACTERS involved who were always DOING something. Even if The Ewoks weren't involved in some kind of fight, there might still be some action going on. Episodes would begin with something like an upcoming festival, a recent theft, a character who has decided to go in search of something or the like. And the story stemmed from the fact that each character represented their own personal arc: Wicket looking for a way to prove himself as a warrior, Latara struggling with her avarice and creativity, Teebo's shyness and magical affinity and so forth. Their characterizations determined their adventures and each adventure was in turn effected by their characterizations. 
As risible a concept as Ewoks might be in theory, in practice the writers had the Ewoks not consider themselves a joke and always gave them plenty to do. 

In My Little Pony Friendship is Magic, a show I used to really like for similar reasons as the above, this seems to be a bit of a dying art. Characters forget everything they learned for the sake of a moral which holds iron rule over an episode. People are introduced and forgotten just as quickly: just tools for the plot. Nothing grows. Nothing changes. The characters rarely actually have things to do now. It seems more like they make up their problems by acting like fools or something happens to prevent them from doing not much of anything. We've gone from people who seemed to have their own goals and aspirations to one note objects that spout the same catchphrases. Maybe opinion is against me (again) because there have been some entertaining episodes, but it seems so focused on having episodic plots that it no longer has a story surrounding the Mane Six characters.
Also introductions of characters like Tree Hugger indicate that no one is taking the story that seriously anymore. It's setting its sites lower and lower. 
It can still pick up perhaps, but only if they return to the notion of Equestria as a place and the characters as stories in and of themselves: not just a stage for a series of moral plays and actors to eke out the same scenes over and over again.

And with that final tangent I leave with this notion: the plot is like a coatrack for the stories to sit on. The war in Warcraft is in all practicality the impetus for a million side plots revolving around the characters involved with the war itself secondary in importance to the people involved. In The NeverEnding Story the search for The Childlike Empress is only one millions of branching stories to be told with every new location unearthed and every new character met a wealth of opportunities. 
The war in Star Wars again introduces us to The Jedi Order, the Sith, The Empire, The Rebel Alliance, the many aliens and creatures that inhabit the universe and even with just those including humans theres a myriad of walks of life from councilor to smuggler. In Lord of the Rings the war is prescient, but only slightly as interesting as the race of elves, the dwarves, the men and hobbits involved in it.

So think of your plot as an introduction to your world and a world as an introduction to your characters. Think of each new subplot as a quest where motive drives purpose and where the outcome effects the nature of the people involved as well as the world itself, even in a small way: where each new action leads to reactions.
Ripples in the pond.
And every character is an untold story, from the guy the heroes purchase things from to the seemingly faceless armored knight guy from the villain's army. 

'Maybe it's another drill'.
A stormtrooper says irritably under the influence of Obi Wan Kenobi.
With just that set of words alone you have a sketch of a person we may never get to know but who lived in their own right. It's why the storm trooper was such a phenomena I believe, because as much as they were fodder for the heroes to shoot at they seemed to have their own autonomous reality about them. 

Enough tangents: go out and write yourself a world! :D

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jarredspekter
Dan
Artist | Hobbyist | Literature
United States
Current Residence: Seattle
Favourite genre of music: Techno, Rock, Industrial, Alternate
Favourite style of art: Bold pencil
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Wallpaper of choice: Something epic :D
Favourite cartoon character: Dib, Samurai Jack, Darkwolf
Personal Quote: The Joker can't win.
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:iconthatnerdwithglasses:
Thatnerdwithglasses Featured By Owner 10 hours ago  Student
what do you think of Paul Blart: Mall Cop?
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:iconedthesupersaiyan:
edthesupersaiyan Featured By Owner 12 hours ago  Hobbyist Writer
so, how exactly did the Hub go under again? Considering the shows it had under its belt, I thought it was doing pretty well for itself
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:iconthatnerdwithglasses:
Thatnerdwithglasses Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Student
"The Reagan, Clinton and to some extent the early bush years were the last good times to be a kid"
- yours truly via this boards.4chan.org/vp/thread/235…
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:iconjarredspekter:
jarredspekter Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Hobbyist Writer
Here's the problem.
'Free and open internet' mean internet entirely controlled by The Government. 

No mention of that anywhere is there?

Companies might be a cruel mistress, but can you trust a government entirely in charge of the internet? Telling you what you can and cannot see?
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:iconthatnerdwithglasses:
Thatnerdwithglasses Featured By Owner 15 hours ago  Student
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:iconthatnerdwithglasses:
Thatnerdwithglasses Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Student
I take it your against any form of regulation of any kind

plus TB is far from being anti-corporate
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:iconjarredspekter:
jarredspekter Featured By Owner 1 day ago  Hobbyist Writer
I'm against regulations that are based on consolidating federal power.

Not anti-corporate, but like any good progressive he probably sees no problem with a bigger government controlling everything. 
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(1 Reply)
:iconthatnerdwithglasses:
Thatnerdwithglasses Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Student
My ideal Pokemon game is a sand alone version of Pokemon amie
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:iconedthesupersaiyan:
edthesupersaiyan Featured By Owner 3 days ago  Hobbyist Writer
thoughts on "F for Fake"?
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