The Ludic Rashomon

6 thoughts on “The Ludic Rashomon”

  1. If you’ll excuse me for being that guy for a moment, I’d like to offer a slight correction or maybe a book suggestion. I balked at the opening line of “named after Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film”, since technically, Kurosawa’s film is itself named and adapted from two earlier short stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. Namely, the title (and some visual elements) of the film come from one of Akutagawa’s first works, ‘Rashmon’, from 1914, but the famously contradictory plot comes from a short story first published in 1922 called ‘In A Grove’.

    I bring this up not to be pedantic (or, well, not just to be), but because Akutagawa is an unbelievably great writer who is virtually unknown in the West. A collection of his works was recently published in English under the title “Rashomon and Seventeen Other Stories”, translator Jay Rubin, and it’s one of the first new English publishing editions in over thirty years. I can’t recommend it enough. As in his most famous work ‘In A Grove’, the tenuous and ambiguous relationship between Reader, Author and Narrator is a recurring theme in his short stories, and the writing so crackles with modernity its difficult to believe its close to a century old.

    Ha, so anyway that’s my PSA for Akutagawa. Sorry for veering off topic!

  2. I feel that your interpretation of Nietsche as “there is no reality except that which can be reconstructed with language” is marginally off the mark. The way I interpreted On Truth and Falsity in an Ultramoral Sense was broader than merely language. It has to do with our perceptions being limited to a certain intensity and quality of representation, such as how we can not see ultra violet light, or hear radio frequencies without a proper receiver. The metaphor is the representation that manifests itself in front of us in our everyday experience, and language is another layer of abstract representation further inflating it.

    That said, your reading of Nietszche certainly helped drive your ideas put forth in this article, and it was a most riveting read. It’s great seeing writers taking an interest in and applying critical theory techniques to the medium of game and other interactive mediums. Thank you so much!

  3. When you brought up Rashomon in games, my mind immediately jumped to Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. The story’s told from three different perspectives (Terra, Aqua, Ven), and while they never directy overwrite each other, you interpret the story differently each time you play through by virtue of playing from a different perspective. For example, Aqua’s story suggests that Terra easily gives into the darkness in his heart, whereas Terra’s point of view shows him more as trying to do something with that darkness rather than outright giving into it. Of coruse, Aqua only thinks Terra’s giving into the darkness because the villains lie to her, and she doesn’t have the knowledge to see through those lies. That’s a problem. Still, Birth By Sleep is another good example of a gaming Rashomon.

    1. I considered mentioning Eternal Poison, The Bouncer or the tutorial sections in Wild ARMS 3 since they’re the only other games I could think of that really narrate from multiple perspectives but none of them really try to emphasize differences in subjectivity the way that Rashomon does or even the way that FFVII inadvertently opens the Nibelhiem flashback up to new interpretations based on its subjective telling. I know that there must be games that try to do that, Birth by Sleep sounds like it gets close to it. I think that games could really play up intersubjectivity in creative ways. I’ll add Birth by Sleep to the list. Thanks for the comment.

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