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kjohnson1585 avatar 11:58 AM on 06.07.2010  (server time)
The Lost Finale --> Lost as a Video Game?!

(SPOILERS about Lost and Final Fantasy 7 within.)


Now that everyone has digested, dissected, and in some cases, disposed of, the Lost finale, I shall propose the following idea: but first, a small anecdote.

I jokingly mentioned on Twitter mere minutes before I engaged that finale episode of Lost that the show's big reveal would be that everything took place in the Mushroom Kingdom. (If you think about it, that works more than it should.) It garnered a few laughs, but it kind of got me thinking, especially after the finale ended: if you think of Lost in pure sci-fi terms, you were probably disappointed; but what if you thought about it as a modern-day fantasy? Specifically, in video game-esque fantasy terms?

Lost was a show which utilized allusions of Western and Eastern culture, religion, and philosophy to weave a deep tale about redemption and character salvo. However, its "world" - its grand mixture of science and magic, logic and mysticism, all at the risk of thorough or satisfying explanation - might have been easier for gamers to swallow, since we're so accustomed to games that play with those very elements without delving into the how and why. Think of Lost as a game - as an character-heavy RPG almost - and suddenly, it "works". (FYI - I am aware there was a Lost video game, but since no one played it, and fewer talk about it, neither will I.)

And why shouldn't it? It is well documented about how Lost's appeal tended from its game-like structure; not only from the backgammon metaphor from the first season, but in how its fans delved into the entire series like a puzzle, examining pictures and dialogue as a means to figure things out. And even the characters themselves spent so much time backtracking and exploring to find answers and secrets to expand and explain the realm in which they existed. It was the TV equivalent of discovering secret areas in any game; and, like so many secret areas, they tend to be pointless (oh boy, 5 more potions? I'm already fully stocked!), but in the end, it was all about the journey to finding them. Lost has always been about the narrative journey, and on that level, it succeeded.

But I believe it also succeeded as a structure in itself, despite what the nay-sayers may say. Why? Because it told us what we needed to progress the "game," akin to any number of RPGs out there. For the sake of comparison, I'll use FF7 as a prime example, because its mix of science and magic melds so well with the mix of science and magic found on that island. Hell, certain ideas ring so close to each other it's scary; the Dharma Initiative sought to exploit the island's properties in Lost; the Shina Corporation was exploiting the planet's magic force in FF7 (I should mention I don't have much in-depth knowledge to the Final Fantasy 7 universe, but in a way, that proves my point: most gamers' knowledge of the FF7 world and intricacies probably don't differ too much from most viewers' knowledge of the Lost mythos, and yet, a fair amount of enjoyment was derived from both). Despite the number of FF7 spin-offs, prequels, and sequels, there's probably a host of questions that gamers may have yet lack the time (or wherewithal) to answer with a close reading and analysis of all those elements. But it's hard to suggest that those questions detracted from the overall enjoyment of these spin-offs, prequels, and sequels.

(Example: The question of what the "light" was under the island resembles what one might ask what the "magic energy" within the planet of Gaia. Sure, we know what it does, how people exploit it, the sense of its power, and so on, but we're never provided with a full explanation of where they came from, how it truly "works", and the full purpose of its existence, except that it's there and is exceedingly powerful.)

Japanese games, anime, and movies often delve into the bizarre interconnectedness of highly-derived technologies and inexplicable spiritual/magical forces; Lost is probably the first to do it for a mainstream American audience (at a much, MUCH smaller scale). This type of thinking may explain why the "next Lost" has yet to materialize; they fail to understand the importance of crafting its own world and rules - ones that gamers understand but audiences may brush off to focus on the narrative. Flashforward took place in "our world," so it's difficult to remove the weird occurrences from the everyday. Likewise with Happy Town. Heroes had the right idea with the first season; it just got really, really stupid. Hell, that show could have benefited from having a few gamers on staff, let alone, you know, real comic book writers. (While many may argue that Lost, too, took place in the real world, I'll argue that once the characters landed on the island, they no longer were in that world and were transported into another one, one where the island assumed control.)

I've never played FF6, but it seems to be the most loved among the gamers out there, and with the game's emphasis on character, it might make the better comparison to Lost. Or, better yet, Chrono Trigger - with its well-defined characters and time-travel exploits, along with its deep themes of science, magic, power, choice, free will, and destiny. Ultimately, though, as much as Lost was a TV show, it's sensibilities, structure, worldview, beats, and mythos had all the trappings of a modern day, fantasy-RPG, ones that we as gamers can truly recognize.

Now, understand, I'm not quite comparing the story of Lost to the stories of FF7 or Chrono Trigger. I'm merely comparing the kinds of worlds that these shows/games presented, and how their lack of a -complete- explanation doesn't detract from the narrative it presents.

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