May 10, 2023Liked by The Bottom Feeder

About the only time I really like prophecies are when they're true but open to enough interpretation that it isn't obvious what exactly is going to happen and the signs are kind of like a mystery where the player/reader can try to sleuth what might happen next, or when you explore the actual ramifications of the prophecy and how it informs why people do or act the way they do. How an Odin-type rails against Ragnarok but then ultimately accepts and makes plans for how to meet destiny in the best way, let's say.

Defying fate is a fun concept that can feel powerful but it fate can be defied then it wasn't 'fate' in the first place, as you say. It can be done if you take care to show that the entity that claims to be controlling fate is unreliable and imperfect and how the idea of 'Destiny' is being used to control people when there really is no such thing.

I think I don't mind a 'destiny on rails' kind of situation where you're a defined character with a defined story, but I agree it'd be considerably more frustrating in one of your games where you're supposed to be defining your own character and making decisions on how you feel about things and what direction you want them to go.

Interesting comments on how it all relates to our real lives. Makes sense though why it's enjoyable in games to feel you have a say when you might not have as much say as you like in reality.

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May 10, 2023Liked by The Bottom Feeder

I’unno… “Destiny” is entirely specific, while “you can’t control every aspect of the future” is just existence set to normal.

Besides, “destiny” also implies the existence of “greater” forces than you dictating your life in specific, purposeful ways. That can be a very uncomfortable thought. Rarely are the powers that be 100% benevolent in fiction, so much so that, “eight overdressed teenagers kill god” has become a meme whenever JRPGs are discussed.

But I think the biggest potential pitfall of adding traditional destiny to your story is you’re basically framing your story on a spoiler. Which isn’t as inherently bad thing as that term has come to be, but you’ve effectively locked your story down to what you’ve told your audience it’s going to be in act one. And maybe watching it unfold is still satisfying – suspense vs. surprise and all that. But you’ve gone from, “anything can happen” to “this specifically happens” which takes your story’s options from ∞ to 1.

Now, you can still subvert this to an extent even in the classic sense – “interpretation” of prophecy throwing curveballs is almost as central to the idea as any part of it. But either that, or some subversive analysis of the idea of prophecy really feel like the only two paths for the idea these days – some twist or play on words, or some diatribe about how prophecy is kinda a messed-up idea.

And maybe that’s why stories where prophecy is played straight *are* something we need more of. When it turns out that, no, actually God isn’t secretly evil and we don’t need to send a team of J-pop stars to stab him a bunch, I’m more shocked and engaged than when that is the case. This could easily be the same thing. Perhaps the idea of prophecy has been subverted and over-analyzed into paste. Is there anything left of it to meaningfully subvert or analyze beneath all the tongue-and-cheek upending or weighty think pieces?

That said, defying destiny itself is too much the ultimate power fantasy to ever truly go out of style with video games. A character going “you’re not the boss of me, God/destiny/fate/providence/ineffable-forces-of-the-universe!” and actually backing that up will always have too much appeal to ever really go out of style. And this isn’t entirely a bad message either – yes, you’re limited in what you can control, but you should also be empowered to control and impact what you can. And if a plucky fictional hero can go out and successfully stand against some universe shaping metaphor, then there’s hope that you too can go do the thing.

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May 10, 2023Liked by The Bottom Feeder

IMO, the key to good prophecy/destiny in literature is when it is:

a) unavoidable

b) at least partially intelligible (you have to know what is being predicted)

c) uncomfortable (a prophecy that you're going to be rich and your wife is going to be both hot AND nice aren't very interesting)

Why, then, include prophecy? Because it allows us to explore the effects of that partially foreseen destiny on the target's psyche. Wheel of Time does this excellently.


Rand knows that his blood will be spilled. Some aspects of his prophecy are intelligible, and some are only understood after they have come to pass. What's important isn't the ending, but rather how the viewpoint characters FEEL about the ending and how they summon the courage to march toward it, as painful as that might be.

It's a mirror of the gospel message of Jesus in the garden. He knows what is coming for him, and he prays that the cup be taken from him. We see what is coming, and we see the fear of it. But the question is--how does he handle that knowledge?

Allowing someone to scoot through their destiny because destiny didn't anticipate how much butt they could possibly kick is lame. That's why people say that video games aren't art.

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May 11, 2023·edited May 11, 2023Liked by The Bottom Feeder

Prophecies and predictions that hinge on something the player character is going to do necessitate a lot of set-up to accommodate the possibility of simple player failure. (Admittedly, "and then the hero fell into a pit and died unexpectedly, the end" is generally an unsatisfying end to a story regardless of whether it also breaks the rules of Destiny) Games with immortal PCs like Dark Souls and Planescape: Torment have a leg up, here -- Fate can't be averted by the hero getting killed by level 1 rats when the hero can't stay dead.

Satisfying twists on prophecy I've seen in games:

Dark Souls, where the prophecy of "The Chosen Undead" is a divine con-- they've been handing out that title to every sucker they can.

Morrowind, where the rules of prophecy in the setting get dug into rather deeply (prophecies are for events that can only happen under very specific circumstances; the player is the only one in this generation who fulfills all the criteria to potentially make them happen), and other game mechanics are tied into this -- for example, if the player gets the wrong NPC killed and the main quest is now incompletable, the player gets the message "With this character's death, the thread of prophecy is severed". This was way cooler than just making main-quest NPCs un-killable the way Oblivion and Skyrim do.

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May 10, 2023Liked by The Bottom Feeder

Maybe you should add a prophecy and destiny to one of your games (hint: Queen's Wish 3). Prophecies, being the prediction of the most likely outcome of an infinite number of possible futures, have a lot of wriggle room, and it would be entertaining to see how the player could choose to fulfill their destiny, like the Delphian oracle of Croesus of Lydia.

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Destiny or fate often denote a predetermined condition where one is compelled to adhere to the path laid before them. These imply the existence of external forces which weave together an outcome, irrespective of personal choice. Historically, this concept has been copiously explored in art, the most profound and inevitable destiny being physical death, the ultimate fate from which no one can flee. Art and religion have continuously striven to provide solace against this certainty, offering interpretations that help individuals grapple with it.

Considering a longitudinal perspective of global history, the contemporary world hosts a larger population than ever before, with a decreasing percentage living in poverty and an increasing level of education per capita. Consequently, we find ourselves in an era where individuals are less compelled to reconcile with a distressing destiny they might otherwise be reluctant to accept. Contrast this with a bygone era where a young man might be fated to labor in a coal mine as the sole means of supporting his family. Today, that same young man has the world at his fingertips, courtesy of a globally connected internet, providing him with a plethora of professional opportunities. The chance to diverge from his father's destiny and select his own path is now within his reach.

Presently, narratives are increasingly centered around individuals surmounting unwanted fates, rather than accepting unalterable conditions. Whether this shift is perceived as beneficial or detrimental may hinge on the personal traits one values in others and whether one believes adversity is a necessary catalyst for human advancement.

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In response to your ideas in, "You Have a Destiny. You. Yes, You."

You reminded me of a scene from War and Peace (a scene I JUST read today... fate?!?) where Tolstoy uses a metaphor of a clock to describe the individuals in the chaos of battle. "...in a similar way the complex action of humanity in those 160,000 Russians and Frenchmen - all their passions, longings, regrets, humiliation and suffering, their rushes of pride, fear and enthusiasm - only worked its way out in defeat at the battle of Austerlitz, known as the battle of the three Emperors, the slow tick-tock of the age-old hands on the clock face of human history."

( I'm sure you're tired of getting your writing compared to Tolstoy, but as I said, I read that passage just today and it felt like a denial of my destiny to not comment on it )

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