Monday, August 11, 2014

Meta-gaming -- the good kind

Meta: A term, especially in art, used to characterize something that is characteristically self-referential.- Urban Dictionary

This past Sunday, my friends and I had fun meta-gaming. Okay, not that kind of meta-gaming in which you use information your character doesn't know -- one of the biggest taboos one can commit at the gaming table.  No, it was meta in the fact that we played actors playing our characters on the second season of a beloved franchise. Confused yet?

For the last few months, my friends and I have been playing a Firefly setting RPG and it has been one of the most memorable games I played in. As usual, about 75% of it was the people involved. We could play any scene and make it work and this last session was no exception. Our GM has mentioned in his blog posts that he is running out of steam (although admittedly, this is impressive because he has self-admitted GM ADD) making the "season finale" is next week. Perfect time to get one silly episode out of the way before then!

In the dream of the mind of one of the characters, we were all actors for a show called Firefly: the Reboot and it just got cancelled... AGAIN. Throughout the episode, we had to do our best to finish up the remaining scenes while our characters' actors' egos clashes constantly. We also had to dodge fans and reporters. We played Celebrity Gameshow in which we played charades against the old cast of Firefly. And it all ended at a convention.

Originally, I decided that I would model Q's actor after Jewel Stait -- Canadian and performed in a lot of Nickelodeon shows as a youngster and this would be his big break. However, I had picked an actor way back at the beginning which I used to describe Q. I pictured Q to be half-white and half-Asian (I mean, Firefly culture is so heavily influenced by Chinese culture I decided to incorporate it). I also wanted someone scrappy looking. So while thinking about an actor, I landed on Eiji Wentz.

He's 1/2 German and 1/2 Japanese for the curious

Of course, the acknowledgment that I chose him for the representation of my character uncovers one of my more obscure hobbies -- Japanese Dramas (I also like some Korean ones too). How I got into them is a long, arduous story best saved for another blog post. Anyway, one of my friends told me to just play Eiji.  The difficulty here had to do with I am very unfamiliar with what the real Eiji Wentz is even like. I knew he played guitar (or maybe it was bass) in a duo group called WAT and he did a bunch of dramas and movies and I knew his background but that was it. I felt uncomfortable about "misrepresenting him" for about five seconds and then I just dived in, right along with Bitchy Evan Rachel Wood and Drunk Paul Giamatti.

I decided to take a cue from one of Eiji's roles. I have only seen two things Eiji was in. One was Gokusen; a drama about a Yakuza Princess who becomes a high school teacher and gets assigned the trouble classroom. Eiji played a hikikomori (a recluse) who refused to leave his room and go to school. The other one was Nodame Cantabile; a drama about a Music College. When the main characters finally reach their dream of studying in Europe, they move next door to Eiji's character who is French and a complete weeabo. He is obsessed with anime and manga and a hardcore fanboy.

 Eiji having fanboy feels during a scene in Nodame Cantabile

It is the latter I got my idea for the actor. Eiji would be a Joss Whedon fanboy and Firefly was his big American Debut. It seemed he was the only one who would work with Joss Whedon again. I really liked Evan Rachel Wood and her hating on Jim Sturgis; Enzo's actor playing up how important he is because he has a show in Starz; And Cricket's actress constantly plugging neutrogena whenever possible (Here buy these Japanese mints I think they are?). We also played up in-jokes we had with each other during the actual game. Q and Jack also got their scene in which they were all brotherly. Yay! Also got a fight scene with Ira! Yay!

I had a lot of fun yesterday but I would never want to try a meta episode like this again. At least not with these characters.

The whole episode got me thinking about meta in general. It has been a popular lately on TV. Supernatural did an entire episode in which Sam and Dean wake up on the set of Supernatural as Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles and had to figure out why. The movie This is the End had plenty of meta with Seth Rogan and James Franco and the rest "playing themselves" dealing with the apocalypse. Then there is my favorite from Avatar: The Last Airbender in which our heroes have an episode in which they watch a play about themselves. The play read like bad fan fiction and the characters provided commentary.

I just wanted an Honor gif, okay?
I know meta episodes/movies tend to sometimes draw mixed reviews but also at the same time they also tend to be the most quoted. It is because meta humor is designed so only those who are familiar will get it in a *wink, wink, nudge, nudge* sort of way. Meta jokes often act like a secret handshake or an inside joke that get you into a fandom community. Just like inside jokes become the marking point of friendships.

 And the fact that the seven of us could play a roleplaying game made up of so much meta signals the strength of our group as a whole. It is great to belong to a group in which not only can you play games together but also to be surrounded by people who don't take themselves seriously enough to laugh at themselves. After all, if you can't act completely ridiculous around your friends, who can? 

No comments:

Post a Comment