Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Legendary Brain Fuck

Oh, um, language NSFW warning... better late than never? I'm swearing, because that's what it's called. It's called a brain fuck. I don't think I've ever called it heard anything else.

One of the things I like to hear players say, probably third behind "that was fun!" and "let's do it again", is "what a total brain fuck!"

They don't mean the "urban dictionary" definition of brain fuck, which I'm pretty sure I've never heard used in real life. These players are talking in the "Evangelion" sense, where something has such radical twists and surprises that the gray matter makes a little "squeee?" sound and seizes up.

This happens often enough that I have learned to look at it as several different kinds of brain fuck. (At this point, reading this aloud on TV would have cost you about a hundred thousand dollars.)

The first kind of brain fuck is what I call the "non-sequitur fuck". This is when you do things that make NO sense and do not fit in at all. An example of this might be if you're playing a fantasy game and then, out of nowhere, the Borg land. I consider this the lowest kind of brain fuck, but done right, it can be hilarious.

The second kind is what I call the "big twist fuck". This is when something unexpected happens (or something expected doesn't happen), but it's not random. It makes sense, it's just very unexpected. This is that Evangelion fuck that was so popular way back when. I don't particularly care about this kind of brain fuck, because it's very easy to do and lacks finesse. It's kind of a "cheater's murder mystery fuck", in its way. Many of the most popular TV shows among the SciFi crowd use this all the time: BSG is written with exactly two in every episode, as far as I can tell.

To me, the highest order of brain fuck is called the "twisty pathways fuck". This fuck is built into the very nature of the game or show, such that when it is revealed, the audience realizes there was no way it could have ever gone any other way, even though they'd never thought of it. I try to incorporate this into every game I make via the rules: players never really understand the social implications of rules until very late, so it's surprisingly easy to do. For example, a good Star Wars game is built so that the rules of the Force make a surprisingly graceful, inevitable slide into the dark side that will surprise every player without seeming forced or arbitrary. You don't really understand "falling to the dark side" until you've experienced it in such a way...

Some shows (such as The Matrix) seem to have a twisty pathways fuck, but in fact do not. They just have big twist fucks that are based on their nature. That's definitely lower order...

Anyway, what makes you cry "brain fuck"? Do you like this sort of thing?

6 comments:

Olick said...

Mind Screw
TvTropes, codifying popular (and not so popular) culture since.. I don't know. Probably less than a year old by now.

Anyways the only series I can remember watching that was really twisty pathways was Serial Experiments Lain. I've seen some lesser variations, like MGS2's ending, which is a big twist, but while its happening there's tons of NonSequitur ones.. but.. a few of them make sense, in a postmodern way.

Do you count using sideways logic, like Hitchikers Guide or Discworld novels do? Its not.. unexpected, it makes sense, but only if you look at it sideways.

Craig Perko said...

I would consider them to be the highest order of big twist...

Patrick said...

Mad points for the Eva reference.

I'd like to point out that the big twist fuck has to do with sequential casuation ("we were fighting angels to save the world, but it turns out we were helping buy time for the Illuminati or whatever, who want to destroy the world using the same technology, but in a way that suites their ideas about Lillith, or something") while the twisty pathways fuck has to do with the conceptual grasping of an algorithm. You don't see that too much in sequential media because it's really hard to represent an algorithm sequentially without laspsing into a merely causal twist.

I came pretty close to experiencing a high-order mind-fuck while playing this game, though it didn't quite hit for reasons described.

David said...

I like this kinda of thing, but it's very hard to come by. The movie "The Game" is a bit like this.

PJammaGod said...

I know I might get stoned for this (she's a witch!!!) but I found Bioshock to be a 3rd order Brain-fuc|<. The magic doesn't work nearly as well during replays, but when the penny dropped (and there were signs, but I was just going with the flow and not thinking too deeply) for the first time my jaw kinda hit the floor.

Craig Perko said...

Euh, I found that I could predict every single plot twist in Bioshock down to the moment. It was a very simple theme: everyone with more than two lines of dialog betrays. They betray you, or their allies, or their ideals, your expectations... whatever they are in a position to betray, they betray.

From there it's easy to extrapolate exactly how.

I guess it was a brainfuck, if it caught you by surprise...