Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Inception Director - The Folly of Ambiguity

About a year and a half ago I subscribed to the UK edition of Wired magazine. It was mainly to get me immersed in the techie culture which surrounds modern life but that can be sometimes difficult to penetrate unless you are willing to invest (sometimes literally) in the medium, to inform the research I was doing for my postgrad dissertation. Since then, I have really enjoyed getting the magazine each month and often I will read it cover to cover within the first couple of days.

One of the articles in January's edition is an interview with Christopher Nolan (the director of The Dark Knight and Inception) he discusses his view on the ending of Inception and what he thinks happens to the characters after the curtain falls. The final paragraph of the interview interested me the most and it is the reason I'm posting it here:

I've always believed that if you make a film with ambiguity, it needs to be based on a true interpretation. If it's not, then it will contradict itself, or it will be somehow insubstantial and end up making the audience feel cheated. Ambiguity has to come from the inability of the character to know -- and the alignment of the audience with that character.
(Christopher Nolan, 2011,

This, I believe, is a concept with which a lot of ARG's need to get to grips. Too many Slenderblogs and Blargs and other games end on a note of ambiguity, its seen as tension or suspense - perhaps they are leaving it open for a "sequal" or hoping the players will fill in the gaps - and all that is very well and good. However, what the PM needs to understand is that this approach can often be frustrating.

When we are invested in characters, perhaps following them over a number of months, years even, maybe even interacting or meeting with them - and then for them to just drop off the map is often a rather disappointing ending. If you choose not to communicate a concrete conclusion to your game and leave conflicting clues to convey that their fate may have been one thing or another, you must at least have an idea in your own head on how everything ties up and what happened to them, otherwise when you are putting it together it won't make sense and your own uncertainty will show through.

If you are interested in the entire article, it can be found here:

Btw, no I'm not talking about 15 Days! You've wrapped it all up nicely thanks! Carrots are tasty.

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