Defiance as a Future of Storytelling

Posted: June 20, 2013 in Genre, Writing
Tags: ,

defianceWe’re all nerds of some flavor around here right? Nerd or not, I should hope you’ve heard of Defiance. It’s SyFy’s newest show. What’s it about? Short version, Firefly meets Farscape. Most people I tell that to don’t need to know much more than that. Covers it nicely. And pretty accurate too. One of the creators of Farscape is working on Defiance.

Slightly less short version… The Votans, a group of aliens from a common solar system, emigrate across the galaxy because their own world is going to hell in a hand basket. They cross space in giant arks and get to Earth and whoops! Humans. They try to play nice for a while. Didn’t work (’cause that wouldn’t exactly be interesting if it did) and war happens. Terraforming tech drops onto Earth and screws the planet all up. Then a bunch of soldiers from both sides said “Enough of this” and laid down their guns for a common cause. Peace happened. Now there’s a Wild West – Post Apocalyptic – Sci Fi thing going on. Defiance itself is a city built on the ruins of St Louis (the arch is a major piece of imagery). Our main characters are ark hunters (salvagers) who roll into town and end up filling the roll of Lawkeepers. There’s the newly elected mayor, her sister the brothel keeper, the mine owner, the Boss Tweed-like gangster/immigrant leader. It’s a great show with a lot of different layers going on to it, mixing up a lot of different tropes.

I’m behind on my episodes though and only just got the game a few days ago! No spoilers!

“So you found a new TV show. How is that the future of storytelling? There have been lots shows with great stories, you referenced a couple up at the top there.”

I know I did. I have a point and I’m getting there. See, Defiance is also a game.

I actually heard about Defiance the game first via my Game Informer magazine. It was touted as an MMO Shooter that had potential. Shooters naturally play better on consoles than on PCs which also was a plus for me what since my desktop bricked a few weeks back. Also, I don’t have to pay for online access with the PlayStation. Lots of wins going on there already. The magazine was talking about gameplay that was pretty tight and (once you cleared out of the newbie area) a solid storyline. It’s not quite Mass Effect, but nothing is. I’m enjoying the storyline just as much as Fallout or Skyrim or when I tried out Star Wars the Old Republic which had crappy gameplay but an awesome story. And this story that Defiance the Game is rocking crosses over with the show.

Wait what?!

Crosses over with the show.

Bold to make sure it sinks in.

The stuff that happens in the game, effect the show. The episodes of the show, effect what happens in the game.

This fills me with nerdy delight. Nerds, and especially gamers, love Easter Eggs when they play. There’s a long tradition of easter eggs in video games. This goes way beyond finding little tid bits and getting the references in the game.

Example (very minor spoilers)… Episodes five of Defiance the Show involves Rynn who escapes from a transport taking her to prison in Vegas. Yesterday when I was playing Defiance the Game, I found her under siege from a team of E-Rep (Earth Republic) rogue soldiers. I shot them with great prejudice. Now Rynn started me off on a quest chain out in California. We’re shooting a lot of bugs. Gameplay may be a lot of bug shooting, but it’s all supported by a story. I’m digging up a story about rogue officers who want some knowledge that Rynn has that could be used for a big power play. Now because of this I’m picking up on some of the back ground of the E-Reps making them a lot more complex whenever they roll into Defiance the Show.

Still not cool enough for you? How about a player from the game being added into the show? Or a plague that may or may not make it to Defiance the city based on whether or not players stop it cold in San Fransisco?

Video games have already shown us they can tell a fantastic story on par with any movie or novel. All three use different tools and all three have different strengths and weaknesses. No one can deny what Mass Effect did across its three games was nothing short of spectacular. Mass Effect also broke away from the video game world and laid out some of its characters backstories, side stories and extra depth as novels and comics. One of the game’s writer’s penned Mass Effect: Revelation, one of a number of Mass Effect books. I’ve read just the one and a pair of the comics. I thought they were independently good. Strip off the Mass Effect name, and they’d still be a great read. The Halo series has some well received books, including one by Tobias Buckell and a trio by Eric Nylund, an accomplished novelist who’s dayjob is writing for Microsoft.

Mass Effect and Halo started the ball rolling with the novels but Defiance takes it to a whole different level because of the interactivity of video games. By playing the game I am part of the show. Watching the show and playing the game are enhanced by this crazy synergistic relationship. I got hooked on the show before I got the game and there’s a good chance I would have tried out the game even if I never saw an episode of the show. I know my parents aren’t ever going to play the Game, Sims and MarioKart are their speed. I’m sure there are people playing the game who have no desire to watch the show. Fine for them. They have have the pieces they want and enjoy it. You’re not missing out if you don’t put all the pieces together. The Matrix sequels tried that with a tie in game ten years ago and it fell flat. The game sucked, the movies sucked and they sucked a little bit more when separated from the other. You’re return is greater than the sum of its parts. Quality in, quality out. Defiance has quality in spades and is showing what happens when you put it all together. Voltron or Captain Planet style.

SyFy has already inked a deal for a second season. Clearly people are liking this. I hope the storytelling of Defiance, layered throughout different mediums, becomes the new Thing. As a fan, I get excited thinking of all the possibilities that they could do with this. Jeez, even the product placements with the post-apocalyptic Dodges are done smart. As a creator, all this potential must be intoxicating. I truly hope the people behind Defiance can add more Voltron pieces to their storytelling mosaic. The world is so interconnected, there is no reason for our storytelling to not be. A rising tide lifts all ships. The people are Defiance are not simply opening doors for writers, they’re creating new doors for storytellers. They may not be opportunities that would ever come across my table, but it makes me happy knowing they are out there. But I write novels and went to film school. There’s a couple Voltron pieces right there. Voltroning storytelling mediums can become a thing now.

Look back up at the title of this post. Notice I said Defiance is A future of storytelling. There is no One True Shining Way. There are many paths. The future has one more thanks to Defiance.

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Comments
  1. […] wrote a whole blog post on how Defiance is the future of storytelling. Season two has upped their game since they’ve […]

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