Purpose Over Place

November 23, 2010

Finally watching Deep Blue Sea (I know!) made me realize something about Geiger Counter.

Danny Boyle’s invocation of “ship, crew, signal” is insightful but also somewhat misleading. It’s not really about the “ship,” which should feel like a real place but, in truth, only exists for the purpose of pressuring the characters and enabling them (hopefully) to undertake whatever task has brought them here. There’s a reason that the classic “ships” are almost better described as “facilities”: the island in Jurassic Park, the retrofitted naval facility in Deep Blue Sea, even the solar ship in Sunshine. These places only take the form of ships if part of the mission of the crew is getting somewhere. But, all in all, the purpose of the “ship/facility” is in DOING SOMETHING and, in particular, as I’ve tried to set out clearly in the gamma draft, DOING SOMETHING THAT ILLUSTRATES HUMAN HUBRIS.

I’m experimenting with this new focus in the dungeonpunk horror hack that I’m trying to put together right now. Dungeons are a classic example of a place that clearly exists for a particular purpose — for the characters to explore it and uncover its secrets — which is pretty different than some of the locales in survival horror. Typically the characters are relatively familiar with a facility even if the audience is not, though there are good examples where both the audience and characters are equally in the dark: The Descent, haunted houses.

But, in dungeons, the thing that happens at the very end of most survival horror movies — where Ripley descends below, armed to the teeth, looking for something she treasures and prepared to kill whatever she has to in order to make it to the depths and back out alive — that desperation to put an end to this madness, even if it costs your life… that’s where a fair number of dungeons start.

This should be interesting.

2 Responses to “Purpose Over Place”

  1. Regina Says:

    Badass endgame Rambo run?

  2. One of my writing teachers told us that in some gothic or horror novels the setting was also a character in the fiction – I haven’t read any gothic novels, but I think of the Amityville horror where the house has a face, or the Nostromo where the crew even communicate with it. A bunch of different ways one could game that…one of the players plays the setting…the setting gets its own die pool, goals, stats…the setting’s interests and the menace’s interests are usually aligned, but not the same – the Nostromo wanted to bring the alien back to study, the alien just wanted to reproduce…

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