In the mind of the beholder: The role of ambiguity

by The once and future moogle 

Submitted by: (The once and future moogle)
Spelling 2
Grammar 2
Coherency 3.5
Strength of Arguments 5
Presentation 4
Originality 3
Penalties 0
Total 19.5

In RPGs, there are times when the images and words do not convey the entire picture, leaving something up to the imagination. Or perhaps there is the common 'problem' of the central character being entirely mute. And, naturally, most of the time, whether merely walking through the town or charging through the domain of evil, slicing monsters as they go, the party does not speak save when the plot requires it, or when they talk to an NPC.

Yet, surely, these characters must be saying something besides what's there as they go along their quests - shouts of encouragement to friends during a heated battle, for instance. There must be some sort of - likely caustic - words between the vagabond outlaw who joins the party and the chivalrous, if misguided, knight when they fight side-by-side in battle for the first time, or spend the night at the same inn, sleeping in the same room, only a few feet apart. And, surely, the main character must speak at times besides when the little choice menus appear, right? And, as a widely acclaimed example, the ending to Final Fantasy 7: What did those FMVs mean?

By contrast, in a book, no protagonist - or most anyone else, for that matter - is mute without reason. And the words will almost always describe exactly what is happening. Yet, at the same time, there are - usually - no images, nor does the book include carefully composed music. And, of course, unlike RPGs, a book is not a game. Yet, we always wonder what, exactly, any given character, or any given location, looks like, and we try to use their physical description to conjure up a mental image of this person or place.

Therefore, the difference is in the mind's eye. With a book, we try to create a mental image of someone or something, but with an RPG, we try to create a mental description, or a mental conversation, of something. A book shows us what something is and leaves exactly what it looks like up to us, while an RPG shows us what it looks like and leaves exactly what it is up to us. Some go out and make artwork based on a character in a book, or write fan fiction based on a game. They show the world what they saw when their mind's eye gazed upon something, as some who write fan fiction based on a novel or art based on a game reflect what the mindís eye saw upon further inspecting something from the real eyes.

Despite all this, characters in RPGs do, of course, talk and, naturally, there is a plot. And books often have some form of illustration, if only on the cover. This leads to the conclusion that, while sometimes an important factor, ambiguity is certainly not the end-all and be-all of RPGs or books. However, something left up to the imagination can become a source of inspiration, inspiring amateur artists and writers to create, filling in the blanks for themselves.

In conclusion, next time you play a game, or read a book, look at the things left unsaid, and question them. What did he say? What does that look like? Why did he just do that? Whatís happening? Ask yourselves these questions...and answer them. Donít let a good ambiguity go to waste.

For starters, this doesn't have any grammatical or spelling mistakes, but that's only 20% of the marks. Where did the rest go?

Well, simply, this editorial is an opinion, and this is one which did exactly what it was designed to do... make you think. The idea that is suggested is actually quite simple, yet something that none of us ever notice. Although the use of 'and' at the beginning of the sentence, although grammatically correct (It is frowned upon, but technically correct) does cloud things up slightly, but it's a minor blemish in what seems to be one of the most interesting editorials in this contest.

It delves into one of givens of RPGs that most of us never even notice, and brings it out for all to see. It does it very well, and most importantly, it makes people think. As they say, the most profound points are often the ones left unnoticed which are brought to the surface. It is certainly true in this case.

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