Words That Maketh Art

20.8.2012

“Hey Chief, you okay? You playin’ corpse or you puttin’ the blinds on the Dusties? I thought you were a deader for sure.”

The iconic opening words of Planescape: Torment, the game that despite its age always pops up when talking about game scripts and whether games should be considered as art. The sentence is so captivating it’s almost irrelevant that the speaker is Morte, a bodiless skull floating in midair, or that the player character is also sort of a distinguishable fellow to say the least. It’s well known that the opening sentence is the most important set of words in a book, so judging by the quote above Planescape could be the best book you have never heard of. However the otherwise great novelization of Planescape starts with a line or two about the game intro and thus just misses perfection.

If we dissect the Planescape dialect we quickly find one major contributor to the mesmerizing feeling. The magic comes from the pseudo-familiarity of the words, your brain signals you that you understand the words but then again you have no idea what they mean in the context. The use of rare slang words supplemented with carefully crafted made-up words create a lingo that’s strangely familiar in an other dimension kind of way. For a game world of dimensions and planes, it’s spot on.

The awesome glossary of Planescape provides a much better starting point for a fantastic journey than most “real” authors could ever hope to achieve. The fact that the themes and concepts of the game are on par with the text is no small feat. Ideas like the dead-book, clueless primes, planes and the whole multiverse are so compelling, it’s sad that the game mechanics are somewhat clunky and awkward. However Planescape: Torment is a rare gem and should be experienced by fantasy fans, so try the novelization at least – it’s free!

Yes, in essence this post was about a single quote. I like words.
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One Response to “Words That Maketh Art”

  1. drewpan said

    Words are art, and it also makes RPGs like Planescape all the harder to write well. In traditional stories, there is one set path that the author takes you on, and thus the words and dialogue only need to be great on that one path.

    Games are interactive and have branching story-lines, and thus need a lot more pieces of engaging dialogue to ensure that the experience is fulfilling no matter which path the player takes.

    Star Control II has sooooooo much goodness packed into it, that I don’t think I can sum up that game in one single quote.

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