I’ve been really enjoying Magic lately, particularly the Return to Ravnica block, and as such I’ve started playing Duels of the Planeswalkers again.  After getting the most recent version, I realized that I’m a bit annoyed by the introductory video, and today I want to discuss why.  Before going into it, here is a link to the video:

Years ago I saw the original Dungeons and Dragons movie.  This film was generally accepted to be a bad film.  Some even say that the Sci-Fi Original sequel is better.  I tended to agree on both counts, but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was that bothered me about the film.  I don’t like to call a piece of art “bad” or “good” with no explanation as to why they are bad or good, so I spent a lot of time thinking about it.  Interestingly enough, I actually went back to watch the film a second time just to see if I could figure out what it was that bothered me about it.

In time, I realized the main problem was that they spent too much time showcasing, namedropping, and explaining everything that was going on.  They overused the awful device of having characters explain things to each other for the benefit of the audience.  This almost never has the desired effect, and almost always makes the scene look cheesy and contrived.  At the same time, they tried to shoehorn in everything from the monster manual that they could, to the point where local guards were using beholders as pitbull-like watchdogs.

I bring this up because I saw a similar thing in the Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 video.  Nicol Bolas, after taking time to explain how badass he is (something that genuinely badass characters never have to do),has to explain every planeswalker that he is dealing with.  Just in case, you know, the audience isn’t sure that he’s talking about Jace when he has Jace on the image. In his attempt to sound tough, he just sounds silly.

Compare this to the introduction for Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012:

I was in tears the first time I saw that video.  The depiction of Gideon’s secret weapon being friendship after such a heartfelt confession is a thing of beauty.

Not everything happening in the 2012 video is explained.  We see Jace, Liliana, Chandra, Garruk, Sorin, and Nicol Bolas, and not one of them is mentioned by name.  The names don’t matter when it comes to the story.  By omitting this information, we are left with a sense of wonder and excitement at discovering these other characters.

I’m talking about this on a gaming blog because games allow for a sense of discovery that most other forms of media do not.  When you are making a game, you should allow the discovery to occur naturally.  Don’t force feed the details of your story to your players; show them just enough to allow for the story to evolve on its own.