Why do we choose to write fanfics for fighting games? There are other mediums already rife with built-in characterization and intricate plotlines. There’s anime, film, comics, and even inside the video game realm, RPGs and adventure games have stories that are richer than fighters. But thinking about it, that’s probably why we prefer to write stories for fighting games more than any other genre for fanfics: fighting games leave just enough open to interpretation.
I remember reading this theory on video games about sprites. You see, back when we played RPGs on the Super Nintendo, we were exposed to overhead perspectives, with characters standing next to each other and talking. The theory goes that what we see in 2D graphics is a representation of what is actually happening: like in literature, how we interpret what’s going on with images in our own heads? The same holds true with the old games we played. Look at Pac-Man: do you really think Pac-Man was a featureless yellow mouth that gobbled rainbow colored ghosts in symmetrical black mazes? Or Donkey Kong: do you really think Mario persued Pauline in a New York City that lacked any sort of visible horizon?
Video games back then were acinematic; you were presented a representation of the events that occured, and you were compelled to reimagine them with your own images that were possibly even more legitimate than the action on screen. This graphic minimalism leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
Now, think back to fighting games. True, the graphics for Street Fighter II were state of the art at the time, but we’re still given an abstraction in the form of its narrative. Through in-game quotes and endings, we can piece together a storyline that we interpret on our own. You almost never see any of the background story that goes behind a game; instead, those scenes have their blanks filled in by you, the gamer and the viewer.
How does this affect fan fic writers? Well… you can make fighting game characters your own. You can’t pin down a fighting game character from his or her canon source; what you can do is interpret the personality of the character through his quotes, his intro animations, his attacks, his endings… and finally, and this is the most important part, the way the character plays. Because fighting game engines are inherently complex, there’s usually a variety of ways a character can be played, which holds that two seperate players can leave with two totally different impressions of that character. (Unless it’s Marvel. Then you’re either trying to play like Buktooth or SooMighty.)
The fighting game encourages you to have a unique experience, and come back with your own interpretation of it. It wants you to be yourself, to fight only as you would fight.
That’s why writing a fighting game fanfic is a unique experience to the fanfic writer. My interpretation of, say, Akuma, is completely different from yours. And they’re both legitimate, because there is no correct interpretation of Akuma or any other fighting game character out there. To me, a fighting game shares much more in common with the spirit of a traditional role playing game, than modern RPGs today.
With that said, I’d like to move on to the dynamics of dual-character interaction, or what I’d like to call the “buddy fic.”
Buddy stories work because they revolve around two characters who depend on each other, despite being near-polar opposites. There’s an instant conflict when working with, say, Batman and Superman: Batman is the introvert, Superman the extrovert. One dwells in darkness, the other in the light of day. One is feared, the other is loved. They aren’t always on the same level, but they know they have to cooperate with each other.
More in tune with the spirit of the “buddy flick,” let’s look at Lost in Translation. We have Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansen. Bill is an old, disconnected male American celebrity who finds Japan rather silly, but he’s just quiet about it. Scarlet is a young female photographer’s girlfriend who kind of finds Japan silly too, but she’s a bit more integrated into it. They pair up and they go on a listless, unremarkable journey about isolation that’s strangely more about peace than lonliness.
Now, this is a story about a male and female buddy. This type of buddy relationship can only be platonic if the two characters have significant differences between them. Otherwise, it’ll be Bill Murray trying to sleep with Scarlet Johansen. In this case, and in most cases, it’s their age that is the barrier.
With this in mind, I’d like to say that I’m much more fond of buddy flicks than romance. In romance, the two principal characters are in a conflict of control in their relationship. While the man tries to woo the woman, or the woman tries to win the man, they hardly ever get the chance to see the other character for who they really are. It’s superficial in my eyes. But the buddy flick? The characters are on the same level; one doesn’t control the other, even if the relationship has a de facto hierarchy, like student and teacher. Both learn, and both teach.
It’s like A Better Tomorrow, that classic John Woo HK gunfest. The relationship between Ho and Mark is legitimate. Their brotherhood is real. The relationship between Ho’s younger brother Kit and Kit’s fiance isn’t. It’s almost a mockery set against the devotion between Ho and Mark. Woo specializes in this kind of male bond. It’s not homosexuality, of course: it’s true friendship. A relationship devoid of ulterior motives. That’s why I see friendship as more legitimate than romance in narrative work.
I’ll continue this later today with a write up on Akuma and B.B. Hood, and another fighting game relationship I adore, Makoto and Ibuki. In the meanwhile, just feel free to discuss the topics.