Could it possibly be the greatest tool to support the suspension of disbelief when done subtlety?
Indoctrination has such a negative sound to it doesn’t it? (Along with connotation but we’re not here to get into that, this is just a place for my mad musings. Not a place for archaic academic arguments). You know if you take out the “indoctr” and add “you” it becomes urination. See what I did there? I mean I looked up synonyms of indoctrination and it comes up with brainwashing and propaganda! For crying out loud I couldn’t see a positive way out of this one. Anyway, what if I told you that creators could potentially trick us into giving their work a great amount of suspension of disbelief naturally? That’s where the beauty is my friend and it’s the small things we must accept to be able to see the bigger picture.
I’m Fruity, who finds incredibly boring things utterly fascinating and I want to discuss wonderfully subtle indoctrination in the media. I also provide zero pictures due to my crippling addiction towards Chesto Berries.
Now first off, let me just say I’m not implying we should all become lifeless dead husk when we consume any media or attempt to become the greatest critic there is. I’m just here to appreciate and show the small jabs of indoctrination in certain media formats which personally I think is brilliant.
Spoilers for Bioshock, so if you haven’t played it or don’t want it spoiled, please would you kindly skip over this section.
Remember the 2007 critically acclaim hit game “Bioshock” from 2k? Of course you do because the twist was absolutely mind blowing and unforgettable to which today we still reference to as a joke. The indoctrination in the game is a lot more carefully implemented, built from the ground up and actually uses our own understanding of game mechanics and narrative storytelling. Firstly we need to introduce the character, who is you the player. We must now show the player how to interact with the world, hence a tutorial but wait, instead of having tooltips and dialogue boxes telling us how to play the game we can introduce a vital helpful character (Atlas) to seamlessly integrate a tutorial within the plot of our game. Now from what we understand, Atlas will offer goals for us to achieve and tasks to handle within Rapture while all along building and exposing his personality to us. I believe Atlas is the only person our character Ryan talks to for a good portion of the game, meaning there’s only one outlet of information and conversation. See how it’s all moulding together, that us as a player is being enclosed like our character Ryan in Rapture? What makes it so great is because we have to accept it mechanically otherwise we don’t progress through the game. So by following this logic, we understand Atlas must be a “good character” if he wants to help the main protagonist through the game. Which he does on multiple instances this man who’s talking to you, instructing you, helping you throughout reinforcing the notion that Atlas is good character and hopefully casts any doubt out of the our mind. Mixed in with the long single exposure of him as well, we don’t get that space for a second opinion or an alternative thought pattern. What makes it so tantalising is that you are powerless to refuse, it’s not like a RPG where you have conversation paths and choices. No, there is only one outcome, this is fate, and you can’t or stop the inevitable. Sure there are hints that are dropped throughout the game that might colour your opinion of Atlas, yet you are powerless to stop Ryan from reaching this conclusion, all you can do is enable it. That is how you indoctrinate the player! (Granted the character Ryan is indoctrinated himself) You utilise the player’s concept of how a game works, manipulate it and create this menacingly powerful moment. The fact that you’re doing this out of your own volition, you think you’re doing the right thing by helping Ryan when in reality you were the one being played by the game.
Spoilers for Ace of Diamond, so if you don’t want it spoiled, please would you kindly skip over this section.
Right how about a passive medium in which the outcome is still rigged (hmm might sense a pattern here). A rather fun little sport anime called “Ace of Diamond”. Problem with the sport genre is that it’s reasonably predictable. Let’s quickly break it down, and it generally goes down in 2 ways. You have an underdog who then has go through a training montage, appears hopeful that said underdog will win, and wins match by the skin of their teeth. Secondly is the underdog who goes through training montage, appears hopeful that said underdog will win, loses in the big final match, undergoes more training, then wins the next tournament/rematch. That’s a broad cover, and obviously there are some exceptions. Ace of Diamond is not one of those rare exceptions, but what it does do is implant a little notion that this team will win. It’s not down how hard these kids train, how great the coach is, and the history of the team or amazing the team is. No, it’s not any of those I just listed. It’s this ever so small thing they do at the end of every episode where they say “Let’s win the national” THOSE CHEEKY WRITERS! This is a series that has aired over 70 episodes so far, week in week out without any breaks. For over at least 60 of those episodes they’ve had this small little audio clip of one of the characters in the main team saying “Let’s win the nationals!” That’s over A WHOLE YEAR, 60 Weeks! 420 Days, 10080 hours! A lot of seconds. Now generally I’m a pretty shrewd person when watching a sport show, and there’s reasons why it’s rare to see them being made in most other mainstream media. Obviously because why do you need an entertainment medium on it, when you can go and watch the damn sport itself, but it’s also hard to make a compelling story in sport unless it’s either a documentary or an adaptation of a sport persons biography and by that stage you’re just admiring the sport. So when watching Ace of Diamond I’ve been subjugated to over a year of self-belief of a fictional team to win the nationals, they’ve planted the seed, they’ve watered the seed, they’ve tended to the sprout (I think you tend to sprouts, I’m not a gardener) and now that the sprout has flowered, it was horrible because as I’ve mention, the underdog will lose a tournament. My god did it hurt, not only did I have to go through 60 episode of heart pounding (or doki doki) baseball action (a sport which I don’t really care for). The fact that I genuinely believe that this team of fictional people was going to win! It shattered my heart because as the series went on, I actually bothered to care for the huge ensemble cast of characters in the baseball team, learning about the 3rd years (or senpais), the pressure on the coach and the history of the school baseball achievements. All they had to do was make me believe, and they did so with a simple 3 second audio clip at the end of the episode saying “Let’s win the National!” Of course they didn’t! Now we have to go through a transition period seeing all the 3rd years leaving high school, deal with loss and how it affect the squad now, it’s absolutely life draining to see!
Hmm maybe it’s best we go back to games.
A wonderful game that I shamelessly buy every year is FIFA. A game where I genuinely believe scripting is real, but we won’t go into that. Now FIFA has this wonderful way of indoctrinating a player by making them play as the real footballer most of the times. Generally speaking, most popular footballers tend to be the good ones, the very good ones. I am able to control some of the best footballers of our time, play as them and the team. Yes I am Zlatan, I am Cristiano Ronaldo, I have embodied Messi! Why stop there, let me manage a team and create the most unstoppable squad ever with all the greatest players this generation has ever seen! It is this wonderful power trip you get from playing FIFA the moment you step into the shoes of these virtual players. I believe I am the next Jose Mourinho / Sir Alex Ferguson. Once I’m in free fall, FIFA the game becomes a joy to play (most of the time). Watch as I swat aside these pathetic foes aside, I have become a footballing god! I mean one of the main reasons why FIFA is so popular is that it strongly simulates what football is like (and FIFA holds all the licences). I buy into the fact that FIFA is more or less like real life football (a fiery passion of mine) I fall in love with it, I play it and most important of it, I get absorbed by it.
Let’s go another round for my final example. Board games and trading card games in general have this fantastic way of indoctrinating a player. You have to simply follow and abide by the rules or you can’t play. Easy! These rules restrict and constrict any exterior thinking because you want to play the game thus you will do as Simon says. Imposing these rules will force the player down your desired route which is filled with crazy narrative and rather interesting mechanics. I will use Magic: The Gathering as my example. You’re not simply a human being playing a deck of cards; you’re a powerful wizard who’s locked in a duel to the death against another powerful wizard. What you might conceive as cards is in reality a powerful library of spells in which a wondrous wizard would cast from! In order to play those spells, you need mana but as we all know wizards don’t naturally have mana within themselves, they must be generated externally from land cards! See? I mean in most other general context of a wizard they either generally don’t use a precious resource like our young English wizard Harry Potter, or they already contain a source of this “mana” within their bodies like EVERY OTHER WIZARD IN AN RPG” There’s so many other little intricacies within Magic that I won’t bore you to death with, but it’s fascinating that the moment you accept these rules, the game becomes fun. AMAZING! Why, simply put that if you want to play the game, then you’re going to have to follow our rules, no questions, no treble.
Yes of course there are more examples out there, most video games have you play in the role of a character, thus the framework of the achievements are yours as the player, not the character’s. Mystery tagged shows are always trying to deceive us by showing red herrings here and there, throwing us off from the real perpetrator in the show (IT’S ALWAYS THE FIRST SUSPECT!). Advertised food always looks too good on screen in comparison to the filth they serve you loosely described as food, and that review you read off that one blog is probably biased in the shape of lots of “Benjamins”. What it really comes down to is the format, presentation and execution. I remember reading in a text book (it wasn’t mine) sometime ago and it reads
“It’s inconceivable to think that a generation of kids can learn all 151 Pokémons and not the name of each country’s capital in the world”
That statement really resonates with me, mainly due to the fact it applies to me.
Stories are in a way like fairies from the Peter Pan universe. Just a little belief in them can go an ever so long way. The moment we let it go, they will simply shrivel up, cough up their dying breath and die. So what’s the answer? Well I’m not quite sure really, but it’s just food for thought that we could all enjoy.
Fruity has resorted to illegal Chesto Berry farming to support his devastating addiction to them.