Thursday, November 12, 2015

Narrative Warfare: The Core Role of Iconic Fantasy

I've been wrapped up in some more hype over World of Warcraft: Legion over the last day or so, as initial information about how the game's existing classes (and their specializations) will change in the upcoming expansion.

As I noted previously, the developers for the game have (by, I expect, independent effort) reached a conclusion similar to what Robin Laws did when he wrote a definition of the Iconic Hero (vs. the usual Dynamic Hero we're told--falsely, for the most part--is the way to write our heroes). The developers use "class fantasy" to discuss this concept, but it's clear that they're after the fulfillment of an iconic hero experience.

There's insight to be had here.

The Iconic Hero arises most often in the form of an emerging mythology, be it a truly emergent folk mythology that may later be formalized or (as we see now) the deliberate creation of fiction intended to mature into a body of mythology later on. Iconic Heroes are mythological characters, as such they need to be unyielding in their character and remain fixed in their essence.

James Bond, Beowulf, Batman, Superman, Arthur, Robin Hood, Paul Bunyan- as mythological characters, fulfilling mythological functions, they must be Iconic because their function is to impose order on chaos and enforce that order. Exactly what that order is, and in what context their function executes, varies wildly; what does not is that these are the agents of cosmic metaphors (when not literal) for essential forces of the universe within a mythology. As such, deviation from what the icon represents is not tolerated.

This is what happens when someone embarks on a Narrative Warfare campaign. They are attempting to create a mythological work, and into that work there must be a Hero and a Villain. This is why nuance is bad; it confuses what a narrative structure makes simple to comprehend (however false it is). This is why facts are weaponized and curated; it has to be something the targeted audience identifies with, invests emotionally with, and derives satisfaction from- and the whole truth, facts entirely on the table, messes all of that up.

Iconic Heroes & Villains are a Narrative Warfare tell.

Listen to the language used. If you can detect someone shaping the idea of their position into mythological structures, that's another tell. You want to learn how to defeat this abuse of human nature, then you need to know how this stuff works.

And here's a takeaway: the developers for World of Warcraft explain their design decisions on the basis of fulfilling an iconic heroic fantasy experience, the same emotional investment and payoff that Narrative Warfare seeks to exploit for their own perfidious ends. Fuck up that fantasy, wreck that investment, and you're going to get shit done in resisting a Narrative Warfare scheme.

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