[WF-General]Discussion about OrientalMusic/Clichés in Games/Films and WF

Bryce Harrington bryce at neptune.net
Sun Oct 1 14:07:11 PDT 2000

On Sun, 1 Oct 2000, Adrian wrote:
> ****Discussion about (Oriental ) Music/Clich=E9s in Games/Films and WF***=
> Hello ,
> although i hadn't had the chance to participate actively yet, i would ris=
> the impoliteness to add a comment. It is very narrowly focused, on one
> sentence written by David Zokvic, but i think a general ideology lays beh=
> it .

Wow, a very good and insightful critique of the musical themes of Dural. =

I love doing things differently - sometimes extremely radically so - and
so of course, if the "desert music" style is heavily cliched, then count
me in agreement that we should encourage artists to shoot for even more
uniqueness. =20

Let me throw in a few notes in response to your post...

> David Zokvic wrote,(21/09/2000/13:45):
> >> "I am assuming something Arabian sounding for Tyr, but other than that=
> don't know what you guys want. " <<
> David, as many, assumes it here for granted that Desert=3DArabian
> Landscape=3DOriental music. This hit me hard. Many good games are doing t=
> intuitively, and much more films are doing this as well, but when i
> encounter such a clich=E9 it makes me all (bored,laughing,even angry) but
> happy. I'm aware that, being a half arab raised in Morocco and making ara=
> music since years, i'm not so representative for the average audience in
> Europe/US/Japan. But i'm also sure about the following points:

No offense intended; I think it is being used in the same narrow sense
that one would say "Mexican food" to mean the Burrito/Taco/Enchilada
type foods when real Mexicans in Mexico actually eat a much broader (and
even tastier) range of foods.  "American food" is not hotdogs and
hamburgers, either.  ;-)

Generally, generalizations are bad.  ;-)

> I) What do Arabs in a fantasy world ? Just because theres some desert
> doesn't means that all have to wear a turban and be carrying a snake in a
> basket.

To be honest, I have been considering the "Arabic-like people" of Dural
to be more like the characters in 1001 Arabian Nights.  I don't know if
they qualify as the "turban and snake" arab, but snakes and turbans were
present in those stories as I recall.

Why 1001 Nights?  One thing I always try to keep in mind when working
with fantasy game worlds is that sometimes it is more important to
adhere to the myth than the reality.  Heroes are more daring, kings more
wise, thieves more dashing and nimble.  1001 Nights was a very popular
book in the middle ages (probably in the same light as LOTR is today.)
Even if the characterizations it held were untrue, that is how people of
medieval Europe viewed the orient, and thus the mythical fabric we're
using has these stereotypes.  The turbaned arab stands is right there
beside the stoic knight in shining armor, the beautiful virgin princess,
and the evil warty witch.

Keep in mind that for our particular purposes, within this net project,
there is a powerful benefit to making use of cliches: Shorthand.  I can
tell you, "Oh, for that orc tribe, think Aztec."  This immediately and
quickly conveys a range of characteristics simply due to the common
cliches we hold of Aztecs - regardless of their truth or falseness.  And
in a project like this, where communication must be written, being able
to imply lots with a few words is quite handy.

Of course, lengthy stories relying on plain old stereotypes and nothing
more are absolutely boring, as you've pointed out.  So our job is to
break those sterotypes at every chance we get.  In fact, it'd be most
satisfying to use them to trick the players.  "Look!  There's three
camels tied up outside the inn!  al Rashad must be in there!"  "Three
gnarled, old, hairy halfling prospectors emerge from the Inn and curse
at you: 'Stay away from our camels and our treasure map, if ya know
what's good for ya.  If not, then stand right there and we'll bite your
kneecaps straight off.  And don't be callin' us halfling, neither: We
ain't half of nothing!'"

> II) Associating deserts exclusively with Arabic-sounding soundtracks is s=
> poor (no affront intended,David!) as associating every scenery involving
> Mesas and Canyons with a Square-Dance or some Apache songs. This could be
> fun and fully contextual in a game like "With Phileas Fogg Around The Wor=
> or "Tourism Tycoon" (:-), but in a Fantasy World like WF ?

Take a _Really Good_ look at the map of Dural.  Does it
seem... familiar?  We did not put arab like people in the Dural desert
by accident.  ;-)

> III) From a technical persepctive, it is extremely hairy to create such a=
> Arabic-sounding soundtrack which still sounds good:
>   I just want to point out that the oriental classical musics are very
> complex and represent often a total different approach of a musical conce=
> than the occidental music, and, that without at least some understanding =
> "oriental music", stakes are high that just this "4 notes clich=E9" will
> dominate the soundtrack/piece. WF needs great,big music !

The more interesting and unique the music - even if it sounds
dissonantly offensive and forces people to stretch their musical views -
the better.  Not all of the music *has* to be "oriental". =20

In any case, I think this will give some good creative challenges for
our musicians.  If we used "fantasy world music" alone, it'd get
boring.  By injecting something different (even a little uncomfortably
different), the variety should make the game much more interesting.

We have no bottom line to limit the degree of experimentation we're
allowed.  ;-)

> - DO the deserts of WF MUST be populated with "Fantasy- Arabs"?

When we started Dural, we considered setting it in a traditional
forests-and-river setting, but wished to be slightly different.  We
chose to go with a middle eastern flavor.  This does not mean we limit
ourselves to the traditional stereotypes, any more than we require that
all castles have knights or every bridge a troll. =20

Rather, I would like you to look at this as an opportunity.  You have
the advantage over us of being able to draw from your heritage to
provide Dural with a more realistic and/or interesting mythology than
many of the other developers.  I think Uta, being in Germany, has been
able to infuse exactly this sort of passion into the celtic culture of
Cambria, fleshing it out way beyond the stereotypical kilts'n'bagpipes
image that is prevalent in pop culture.  It would be wonderful if the
same could be achieved with the other cultures in Dural.

> - is there a need for clich=E9s (generally speaking) in ( WF ) music/artw=
> at all ? I would like to contribute some music to WF, and there are many
> "oriental" influences to be heard in my music. Does this means that i wou=
> have to make "desert-music" all along?

Is there a need for cliches?  Sort of, as I explained above.  But only
just as a shorthand to get started.  I would hope that when you get
below the surface, those cliches prove to be superfluous and merely
temporary until an expert in the topic comes along to set us straight. =20

Bryce Harrington
bryce @ neptune.net

More information about the General mailing list