You know, as I think about tone, a piece I wrote in the past now looks harsh in the light of current events. I’m talking about “How do other people do it?” which is a piece I wrote on Sept 18th, 2019. It’s short, so I’ll post it in its entirety:
I see other people down in town they seem to have it all together
Sure theyre’ dying of a plague but at least they arent’ depressed
Candle just died
Reading that now, it doesn’t seem as playful as I meant it when I wrote it. And I think it draws into question what the heck I’m really doing with this entire project. I think now would be a great time to talk seriously, if not solemnly, about tone. And to talk about tone, I have to talk about characters.
The characters in Thief 2014 are poorly drawn and uninspiring, most notably of all the main character Garrett. Garrett is a master thief, and he seems to just say whatever most shows that he cares the least. He watches a city fall to a plague called The Gloom and he says stuff like, “After all, when did I ever pay for anything?” Hard to root for. And yet I found I had so much in common with him. He likes to be alone, he thrives at night, he holds a lot of skepticism for authority, and he tends to hoard his belongings in case he needs them later.
And so I started this project, and have written over a hundred pieces inspired by this game, a game with a specific and confused tone. And when I write for Garrett I feel simultaneously a wealth of inspiration from my own life but also a profound barrier to empathy. It’s just impossible to really understand what he wants. Why does he steal, really?
I’m certainly projecting onto the character of Garrett that he’s depressed, but the signs are certainly not helping his case. He lives in a clocktower. Think about how awful noon and midnight must be! And you complain about your upstairs neighbor. He doesn’t respond to matchstick messages carried by bird for a year. He’s hard to reach. This speaks to me!
But I bring all this up to talk about tone, and how it relates to my piece “How do other people do it?” When rereading it in the midst of a global pandemic, it really starts to worry me that I haven’t been explicit about the differences between me and Garrett. Punctuation notwithstanding, I don’t think that piece is different enough from something it seems like I would say. And it isn’t! That piece is nothing like what I would say. And yet, I did.
In this project, I’m exploring a world, building a copy of it informed by myself, examining and critiquing a work of art, making my own art, and channeling characters to present it. It’s messy and misguided. Remind you of anything? Probably not, nobody really played Thief 2014. I’m talking about Thief 2014. Which is to say, I’m talking about myself. Which is to say, I’m not really talking about Thief 2014 at all. What am I talking about? Hmm.
Join me next time when I discuss the popular game Slay the Spire!