Sunday, April 22, 2012

There's A Trope For That - Week of April 22

Today, in honor of the fact that I feel like it, I'm going to select a trope from the wide world of Indiana Jones, Esq.

Hmmm... *skims list*

Okay, got one.

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present this week's trope: Malevolent Architecture!

"Imagine if, every time you went to work, you had to negotiate a complicated laser grid just to get in the building. Every time you needed to open a door, you needed to go on a long trek to find a key, which disappeared into the aether as soon as you used it. If you needed a new stapler, you'd have to push giant granite blocks around a room. Every room is a puzzle, every hallway a maze, and the slightest mistake invites death. Shortcuts? Forget it. They either prove impassable or zap you back outside the laser grid. And that's without having to fight every living thing that crosses your path. And it will be a different set of challenges during your next adventure. In short, everything is explicitly and obviously designed to make life as difficult for you as possible. (Not to mention in violation of every building code in existence.)

Such are the lives of video game characters, where the layout of buildings seems completely divorced from any practical purpose the designers might have originally envisioned for them. Castles aren't large walled structures where people live and work, they're intricate mazes riddled with spike traps and hallways with pendulum-swinging blades or maces. Temples aren't places where people go to worship their various deities, they're where the ancients practiced their Booby Trap- and Death Course-making skills (and they were so good at it that they are still functional after hundreds of years without maintenance). Even places like warehouses and sewers, where the design should be fairly straightforward, are designed solely to deter intruders, even if there is no earthly reason why it should be so, and even if it utterly inconveniences non-intruders. One wonders what the regular people do."


So, yeah, I always feel sorry for the kids in the first few Harry Potter books, trying to navigate their way around Hogwarts when the place seems to have been designed by wily tricksters intent on confusing the heck out of the little witches and wizards. I mean, shoot, I remember my first few weeks at college, trying to get to the dining hall without ending up in another county. It was a challenge, and that was in a place where staircase didn't move on a whim. Harry and Ron, poor dears, end up late to class in an early chapter and get in trouble, but how can it be their fault when they go to school in a humongous freaking castle? I even remember one book, I think it was #4, where Harry tripped on a trick step and got stuck in the staircase. STUCK! 

Then again, I consider just about ANY staircase I've ever tripped down to be malevolent architecture, and there are plenty of those.

Curse you, stairs!

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