Thursday, March 29, 2012

Stream of consciousness

I've been working on a new game. Its about ghosts, and people who hunt for them. I have some solid pages down about the mechanics, and character creation. I think I know what I want to look for when it comes to artwork. I know my source material. I know the genre. I've studied what ghost stories mean to American culture. I understand scary stories.

But what does a ghost represent, and why am I so obsessed about stories about them? And why is it so hard to write about them?

My wife talked to me about what ghosts mean to her. She's really practical. To her, the meaning is really simple: its a person's lack of willingness to let go. A ghost is about our baggage. What haven't you been able to release? That's probably what will manifest.

Its elementary, I suppose. If you're going to write a ghost story, think about the stuff that hasn't been resolved.

I haven't been able to get any further than the mechanics. Every time I try to write about the ghosts themselves, about what they represent and about how people interact with them, I'm stuck. I'm not ready to talk, in a game, about what a ghost means to fictional characters.

Here's a funny story...I needed a palate for my paint. I have this old crystal dish that my mom used as an ashtray. As a matter of fact, I only ever knew it as an ashtray; I don't think it ever had any other purpose when it was in my mom's possession. It took effort, but I used it as a palate. I made a dumb comment about it on Facebook, just to ease the tension, a little something to help rip the bandage from the wound, I guess.

Does that analogy make sense? It has to do with my mom, too.

So, we were talking about ghosts. I've been jotting down notes about what ghosts mean in different cultures...about the angry poltergeist, about the Victorian haunters.

I had this professor in college who told us that we'll know what's real, what's true, when it comes to us in the still, small moments in the night. They're the things that wake us up. I'd forgotten about that. He always helped us get over what ever baggage we had when it came to academia. Remember what is real.

Grief is real, sure. But so is the creative process. So is the written word.


Teramis said...

What an interesting post!

While your wife is clear on her vision of what ghosts mean to her, I'm not clear from reading your post that *you* have come to a point of clarity about what ghosts mean or represent to *you* (although you seem to see value in her take on things). I think it might be useful to become more clear on that point personally if you are going to write in that subject area. It's certainly true that your (generic 'you') personal take on ghosts and similar phenomenon will hugely shape whatever interpretation surfaces in a game version relating to that.

Fwiw, in my personal experience I've had encounters with ghosts, including pure physical encounters (objects moving, other people seeing the apparition, etc), so from my worldview, ghosts are not merely an issue of an individual's subjective attachment to the one who has passed over. Seems to me the one who has passed over can also retain some agency, at least in certain circumstances. And that (for example) would result in a game with significantly different design mechanics, than one based on the alternative premise.

In any case: the subject fascinates me, and I wish you much good mojo in coming up with the right way to represent this through a game lens. It is a rich and mostly untapped playscape so far.

MWG said...

Thanks for the reply :) Your opinion and viewpoint are absolutely appreciated and respected. I'd love to hear more from you.

I'm not sure if my personal thoughts on ghosts matters right now. I have to get over a hump in the creative process. I want to write about ghosts. To do that, I have to exorcise some ghosts.

Vonnegut said that part of his problem with writing Slaughterhouse Five was that he was, at first, trying to write about what happened at Dresden. Things changed when he decided to move away from the factual accounting and write about what the firebombing at Dresden meant to him.

Thank you for the warm wishes; I appreciate them greatly. I've had my own experiences, too, and would love to share them with you sometime.

Teramis said...

Ah, that's kind of a different issue, then, the need to 'exorcise some ghosts', as you put it, before you can proceed with the creative work. I have a compelling story/book (based on true events) that I haven't been able to write for over 30 years because I have not yet come to terms with those ghosts. (Although I think I'm finally there (!), and it is definitely a tectonic shift when your innerscape realigns so your outerscape can produce the creative flow again).
Good energy to you, navigating those currents. And yes, I suspect we have some interesting stories to share. :)