Two of my favorite films are Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I could talk about the characters, the imagery, or the adventures, but today I’m interested in structure; the short vignette at their beginnings. What I really take away from these short episodes before the main storyline is how beautifully they establish the themes and the story beforehand. Instead of getting the audience to the story, you’re establishing relationships and foreshadowing themes.
Isn’t that what a tutorial should be? A preview? I see a lot of games that preview elements of gameplay, but I absolutely adore a game that teases its story at the same time. It’s a natural part of the progression.
I think we’re so tied to the player as the character that we decide to tell an entire story sequentially. We start by getting the character to the action instead of starting with a separate action. This also kind of boxes the characters into the composition and leaves less room for continuity. Going back to Indiana Jones; the brilliance of the vignettes [even Temple of Doom] was that they were the conclusion of another adventure. This is what Dr. Jones does for a living. He goes to foreign countries and risks life and limb for his passion all the time. This is a huge amount of show vs. tell. If the film had started with him teaching his class, we would have deduced that he was an archeology professor, and wouldn’t have known what lengths he’d go to for his passion.
Let’s look at the very first level of Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. This entire sequence is a dream, but I still think that it’s a powerful example. His very first action is to kill his captor. Afterwards he uses his unique skills to escape the prison. This may be his dream, but this is also his plan. Riddick is the ultimate survivor, and we just got a look inside his head. We see how he treats those who mistreat him.
[again? Yes, again!]. This time we see a more sequential approach; we’re trying to get the Dagger of Time. His goal isn’t the dagger, though. He’s trying to please his father by using his own talents. What’s great about this is that he calls upon his unique acrobatic abilities before the main adventure, but he’s also in a different position. At this time, he’s the aggressor. He’s the one sacking the palace, and he’s using his abilities for theft. After the sacking of the Maja Raja’s vault, he’s no longer behaving as a thief, but as a survivor. We see the Prince’s abilities in a new context.