Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster

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(Slightly subverting hermorrine's excellent idea, by being general rather than specific.)

A very interesting recent development on my Friends list has been the conclusion of nocturne_alley. This has billed itself as a Harry Potter RPG played over LiveJournal, and if something wants to bill itself as a RPG, then it has every right to do so. However, I think that that's a description from which it is easy to give nocturne_alley (NA) unduly short shrift.

The premise is that many of the most familiar characters in the Harry Potter universe have started to keep LiveJournals - the students originally as a Muggle Studies project, but it has gained wider popularity as a communication tool. The story has covered three years of school time in a little over two years of real time; it diverged with the books at the end of Goblet of Fire with a fifth year very different to that in Order of the Phoenix with sixth and seventh years naturally following. Much as the Harry Potter series naturally concludes at the end of Harry's seventh year, so does NA.

So far, so fanfic. One of the big twists is that there are something like fifty characters in the game, controlled by something like thirty different real-world players. (Who knows how many different people have been involved over the years?) At this point, the enterprise turns from merely "watching a RPG" into following a co-operatively plotted and written story on a grand scale. What OotP should have been, plus its sequels? Perhaps. There's very much a coming-of-age focus which is not shy from discussion of sexuality and relationships, though it's not graphic.

The really innovative twist comes from the way that there is no obvious GM and all the information comes through the characters themselves; you never get reliably and objectively told what happens, you merely see what the characters post about what has happened to their journals. Nobody posts completely neutrally; you have to interpret people's journal entries and try to deduce the facts of the story from people's perceptions and reports. It is very much like trying to follow a group of real people's interweaved lives through LiveJournal. In addition, much of the most interesting and revealing material is posted as comments rather than entries, just as in real life. Accordingly, you will need to delve deep into the discussion to find out all the story. One good way to (have!) read everything is to follow the community's Friends list, which covers all the posts and comments made by all the game characters.

A simple concept, but an artistically interesting use of LiveJournal to emphasise the role of people's perspectives on situations; LJ's Friends system provides a clear fourth wall to ensure that the game universe remains consistent and free from outside interference such as real-world journalists posting to PC's journals. The uninformed fans' speculation takes place on nraged. Very occasionally the game universe creeps out to real-world journals, but the inverse never happens.

So that's the theory; the practice is extremely well implemented for those who are predisposed towards this sort of enterprise. (As evidence of popularity, I cite the 600+ who follow nocturne_alley.) The cast list is not disclosed en masse, but the players who have outed themselves form quite a Who's Who of at least one particularly literate and prolific chunk of the Harry Potter fandom. Truly people who can write worth more than the statutory allocation of damns and who have entertaining interpretations of the characters we all know.

The end of the game has thrown up some interesting issues of the desirability of story completeness, co-authorship, anonymity and fanfic rights. Should people at large be able to say "please don't write fanfic about my character?" Is there ever an excuse for not respecting an author's wishes? Should whether you know the author or not (even if only at the extent that you and that author could realistically communicate through LiveJournal) make a difference as to whether you respect their wishes or not? Who owns fanfic characterisations of other authors' characters, anyway?

If you're intrigued, take a look at recent postings in nraged; people have posted extensive lists of their favourite moments. Of course, they would only have the proper dramatic impact in the correct context, which very much depends on having the appropriate amount of knowledge of the situation at that time. I've only been following NA for the last week or so since I heard about the conclusion to come, so I'm not the best person to ask, but I've been very impressed - and, more to the point, highly entertained - by what I have seen.

There are some people who have really bought into the way that NA uses the conventions of LJ, conventions that you and I are likely to be very familiar with, to make following the story as told this way a radically different experience from following serial prose or even serial drama. Accordingly, when the game has concluded, it's exactly as if several dozens of their favourite LJ posters, and favourite journals, have all left LJ for good at the same time. No wonder a lot of people are feeling upset at the game's conclusion. Hopefully none of us will have to relate to that except through a fiction's conclusion.

So here's love for all those who put many hours into NA, whether as a character, as a shadowy figure behind the scenes, as a commentator or just as a viewer enjoying the show, and here's love for everyone who has ever felt upset when their Friends left LiveJournal.

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