I watched The Wind Rises again last night. It’s a movie I really enjoy, though I’ve heard criticism (and heard it again last night) that the ending is weak. It reminds me of another conversation I had about the endings of long-running shows, and which ‘delivered’ and which didn’t.
It got me thinking about endings in general, for any kind of media. I think I’ve come to prefer the endings that acknowledge that time goes on after the events you’re watching have run their course, rather than the kind that tie everything up neatly and leave nothing left to worry about, until the Next Big Thing occurs (read: sequel).
It’s hard to put words to this preference. I can sense the shape of it, but it’s hard for me to define. It would be easy and simple to say that “time goes on” endings are more ‘realistic’, but that’s not really it. Nor is it accurate to say that I feel some kind of rebellious urge against the concept of “happily ever after”, though that’s not entirely wrong either.
I think it’s because I relate with things that don’t clean up nicely, but that you have to move on from anyway. I read a blog recently written by someone who had been blogging her weight loss over something like two hundred pounds. Her goal was to be in the 120-130 range from being over 300, and as of the writing of the post I read, she’d accomplished it. Rather than a victory cry, though, the post read as a profound statement of loss and uncertainty. For months or years she had blogged about weight loss, working ever closer to a goal that seemed impossible, and when she accomplished it, she realized that it doesn’t end. She couldn’t just relax, or she’d backslide. It wasn’t an ending.
When I was growing up, I used to come up with games for my friends and I to play (it’s honestly shocking that I never played D&D growing up), and when I started seriously pursuing work in the games industry, my drive was to make a big game– one people had heard of and that all of my friends would play. It was my dream, and one that seemed impossibly far off.
Last year, I did it, and the question arose: what now? I accomplished my dream, I proved to myself I could do it. I could keep doing it, but I wasn’t sure if that was what I really wanted to do. When I took a moment to relax and really think, I realized that I’d put many, many things on hold for that dream and it wasn’t like credits rolled and everyone went home afterwards. Time went on, and there are other things I want to do. I developed skills working in games that I want to build on and explore, that I didn’t realize I had, and weren’t really an important part of the job I was doing.
It’s not a story I talk about often, because I don’t feel like telling it in a nice, compact way is really accurate. There’s no real ending, and it doesn’t tie itself up cleanly. It’s an experience I value too much to reduce to a one-and-done story.
I think I like my stories that way as well. I value the experience more when I feel like there’s more to it that I’m not seeing, that comes after the end. My favorite games have extended epilogues that suggest that more happens that I don’t see, but can imagine.
I like that. Time goes on.
Source: Digital Initiative