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What is fantasy?

Posted at 15:38 on July 16th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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In a behind the curtains discussion about the themes, we found a problem. What is fantasy?

I, personally, have grown with comics and short stories that always said "fantasy and science fiction". The orcs and elfs kind (aka Tolkien rip-off) was something I saw few times, and that I never liked much.

But that's what people think of when talking about fantasy. There should be mages shooting fireballs and dragons. But there is more fantasy on something like the invisibles, a comic about a group of modern mystics that use all that gestalt or whatever magic that could be called postmodern magic just because it sounds cool (basically, in that comic reality is shaped by people beliefs). And you see, the invisibles lacks elves and orcs, at much they have a quick trip to the renaissance using an old windmill.

And that happens on games too, of course. Dreamweb is a violent game about a psychopat directed by magic beings, and it is cyberpunk. And Loom is purely fantasy, yet it's original.

So what is fantasy?
Posted at 03:41 on July 17th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Fantasy is having sex with two girls at the same time.
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Posted at 11:54 on July 17th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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I must say that I prefer the "oldscool" fantasy games like the Ultima Series or Might & Magic. A medieval scenario and the typical type of enemies (Orks, Dragons,...) mixed with an good magic system and maybe even a party with different classes of heroes. That's fantasy for me.
Sure. There are a lot of games which could be sorted into the fantasy theme which don't have any of those features (e.g. Final Fantasy, Outcast). But in my opinion most of them fit better in the Science Fiction theme or in the not yet existing Anime/Manga/Asian theme.

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Fantasy is having sex with two girls at the same time.


That's not fantasy. It's the dream of nearly every male who isn't gay. BUT it is highly overrated! You have to talk with two females after you are done. ;)
Posted at 12:46 on July 17th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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The problem occurs in many 'horror' themed games, too. Many of those contain 'supernatural' elements. Does that classify them as 'fantasy'? In most cases, I didn't apply the Fantasy theme, because I assumed most people would already understand 'Horror' as 'likely ot contain such elements'.

Another one: religion themed games. What about games containing Christian motifs? Fantasy? You're brushing that off? What about Ragnarok then? That's religion, too, isn't it? Or is it Fantasy?
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Posted at 13:58 on July 17th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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If something has scientific sources for super-human abilities, then it's sci-fi. If it has mystical sources, then it's fantasy. (Personally, I've always despised the fact that fantasy & sci-fi get lumped together. Would you lump romance & horror together? Mystery & comedy? Western & political? No? Then why the fuck fantasy & sc-fi?!?)
Rants aside, it's as simple as that. It all comes down to the source of the abilities, if the hero can fly due to nanscopic anti-gravity robots in his bloddstream then it sci-fi, but if he can fly due to a magical spell then it's fantasy.

Keep in mind though that while defining a category may be easy, placing any given stopry INTO a single category usually isn't. If one character can fly due to nanoscopic robots & another character in the same book uses magic spells, then the book is both fantasy & sci-fi (often referred to as science-fantasy).


Also keep in mind that there are different forms of fantasy. The most fundamental of which are "high fantasy" and "low fantasy". High fantasy is stuff completely detached from the real world, with fairies & elves, and no science beyond how to build a wagon or forge a sword. Tolkien's works are the epitomy of high fantasy. Low fantasy in contrast has close ties to real-world stuff & typically involves either people from the real world getting warped into a world of elves & dragons, or of dragons & wizards somehow existing in the modern world. (Personally, I despise both scenarios. It really pisses me off when I see what looks to be a good book, but then while reading the description I see some "suzy found herself whisked away from her 10th street apartment & into a world of dragons" type shit.)
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Posted at 14:43 on July 17th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Quote:
Personally, I've always despised the fact that fantasy & sci-fi get lumped together. Would you lump romance & horror together? Mystery & comedy? Western & political? No? Then why the fuck fantasy & sc-fi?!?


Because they are pretty close. What is the difference? That where there is science there can't be magic? On the contrary, the more advanced the science on the world, the more factible magic is.

Using the invisbles again, the outer church is one of the two realities that overlap creating ours. They are a fascist reality of black and white formed by hive minded demons, their leaders can reshape reality creating surreal places. How do they change reality? The same way they do all their magic, with nanometrical robots.

Or take a look at Jorodowsky's comics, like the world of the Incal and the Metabarons. Science fiction and mystical fantasy.

Really, fantasy is much more than a middle ages world with people who can throw fireballs just because they can, that is what you usually get from anything labeled as fantasy.

Another example yet. Watership Down, it's a heroical tale about rabbits. Not only it is a fable in which their world mixes with the real world, but they even have their own culture and legends. That's fantasy, a fantasy story after all is one that gets away from what is real and possible.
Posted at 14:53 on July 17th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Originally posted by Cypherswipe at 13:58 on July 17th, 2009:
Then why the fuck fantasy & sc-fi?!?

Probably because everything which has been labelled 'magic' throughout history later turned out to be 'science'?
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Posted at 15:01 on July 17th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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wandrell- Standard sci-fi rarely involves anything "fantasy", it's mostly about spaceship & the like. Standard fantasy on the other hand doesn't involve anything remotely scientific or high-tech. Yes, there are a lot of crossover stories, but there are a lot of crossover stories between mystery & romance, or western & political, etc too. Fantasy is fantasy, sci-fi is sci-fi. Just because some individual stories cross over doesn't mean the 2 distinct genres should be lumped together.

The only real connection between the 2 genres is that they usually share the same audience. Nonetheless, that's no excuse to treat them as a single genre.


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Probably because everything which has been labelled 'magic' throughout history later turned out to be 'science'?

True, but I seriously doubt that anyone in the industry put that much thought into it. :p
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Posted at 15:16 on July 17th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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To get on topic a little more again, maybe it would be a solution to find a more general term for 'Fantasy'? Maybe 'Fantasy' is too loaded with prejudice (i.e. medieval, Orcs, Dragons,...). What about 'Supernatural'? Anything 'magical' would fit there as well. Religion, too? What do the religious people say? Is 'supernatural' offensive to them? What about practical considerations? Would such a theme become too crowded?
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Posted at 15:19 on July 17th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Individual stories... On all my life I've seen fewer stories that are purely the stereotipical fantasy, and most of them (the low and high fantasy) are Tolkien derivatives.

And science fiction is also a very broad genre. Hard SC is not exactly the more common, as it isn't the most popular, for each book like Contact you have fifty more or less realistical books, that include psychic powers and humanoid (or even human) aliens.

Also, as I said, science fiction and fantasy are too close, that's why several important SC magazines were science fiction & fantasy magazines. Look at Dune for example, not only there are psychic powers, but it's a setting that went back to an arabic looking feudal system. You could remove the science and the story would be the same. But it would be suddenly fantasy? No, because it was already.

What people usually think of when hearing fantasy is Tolkien derivatives. The same as people think of silly love stories when they heard of romantic stories. But both are a very small portion of the genre, that doesn't mark what each of them is.
Posted at 17:31 on July 17th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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So there are indeed a lot of games which are fantasy without the typical cliches. But how should we define Fantasy? Is Super Mario Land a fantasy game just because it takes place in a world filled with monsters and Mario can kill them with fireballs?
Which factors should be there to claim the title fantasy game?
Posted at 18:54 on July 17th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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1) Far & away the most high fantasy that I read is dragonlance & forgotten realms related stuff, which ammounts to way more than tolkien ever wrote. More people are at least loosely familiar with tolkier, but few people have read more that the LotR trilogy.

2) I think mario land/world/universe would be considered "fantasy".

3) What's really hard is drawing a line between "fantasy" and just plain "fiction". If you write a book about some 12th century duke who never existed, but don't include any elements of magic, is it fiction or fantasy?


My biggest issue with the word "fantasy" is that when people hear it they usaully think of "childish fantasies", "daydreaming", etc.
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Edited by Cypherswipe at 18:56 on July 17th, 2009
Posted at 18:57 on July 17th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Maybe it's time to repeat my suggestion of calling it 'supernatural' instead...
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Posted at 19:17 on July 17th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Maybe we should make a Tolkienesque theme, to where games even like Ultima would be added.

But then we have games like Spirit of Excalibur, that are partially based on the Arthuric myths (mixing it a bit with the D&D fantasy variety). Or Darklands, which mixed history with historical myths (creating a great kind of fantasy). And also Albion, where you have science fiction, but most of the game is in an invented world where you have a culture based on the celts and an alien culture with what could be called renaissance civilization.

D&D series also, like Dragonlance, would fit on Tolkienesque. But what about these others?
Posted at 10:54 on July 19th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Just to show people there is something new I reply instead of editing.

A good bunch of the RPGs games, those like Dungeon Master o Wizardry, can share as theme "dungeon crawlers", "dungeon romp" or something similar. That way these also wouldn't need the fantasy label, because usually these games are fantasy.
Posted at 10:56 on July 19th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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It's your topic, so it's up to you to just come up with a definite and exhaustive suggestion in the end. Maybe that time has come? Just write up a structure proposal and see if anyone protests...
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Posted at 15:41 on July 19th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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I think most religous types would object to "supernatural" & instantly label such things as demonic (not that I give a damn what religous types think). Also, I for one don't think of wizards & dragons when I hear "supernatural", I think of weird stuff set in modern times (things like ghosts, telepathy, etc).
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Posted at 22:35 on July 21st, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Maybe this would work:

Sword & Sorcery
Not only for the pulp stories like Conan (including the barbarians in skimpy clothes that it became in the films), but also Tolkien copycats, or games like Ultima.

Dungeon Crawler
Games in the style of Dungeon Master, Bard's Tale, Wizardry, eye of the Beholder... The thing is that some science fiction games are of this kind (and some Wizardry and the MSDos Might and Magic games are after all science fiction in underdeveloped worlds) so it can be too ambiguous. Any way, there are plenty of games that could fit (I count around 50 of them in my collection), so it may be useful.

Myths and mythology
Fantasy games closer to real myths, instead of the D&D version of myths. This means mystical fantasy (well, I can't think any better way to describe it), like Legend of Djel or Loom, which are much closer to the real world idea of magic (sciences that go beyond understanding, instead of guys shooting fireballs), and also would include Darklands or Spirit of Excalibur, game that take heavily from middle ages myths, and could add religious games (I personally don't see much difference from a religious story to fantasy that tries to have a poetic or mystical tone).
Posted at 02:50 on July 22nd, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Religion is just myths that people are still pretending aren't myths. The vast majority of stuff we currently categorize as myths was once proported to be the holiest of truths, it's only a matter of time before modern reigions wind up alongside greek mythology & mother goose.


Fuel for the discussion:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantasy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_fantasy
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_fantasy
http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O54-fantasyfiction.html
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/689765/fantasy
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Posted at 07:18 on July 22nd, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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I'm fine with putting anything religious on 'Myths & Mythology'. 'Sword & Sorcery' seems fine as well. 'Dungeon Crawler' on the other hand goes quite a into genre territory, doesn't it? Isn't it a gameplay related term rather than one concerning what the game is about? Hmm... could be both, but still, then it's ambigous.

Second, how would games like Super Mario Land fit into this scheme?
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