Transformed

While playing Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, I was struck by the realization that what started out as a line of toys became something more dynamic and dramatic than it really has any right to be.  I don’t know exactly when it happened or at what point a bunch of space robots locked in eternal war changed into a legitimate exploration of war, sacrifice, obsession, heroism, and villainy.  It didn’t happen overnight.  It took years.  Hundreds of comics.  Dozens of TV series.  A few movies.  But, somehow, it happened.

I’ve always loved the Transformers because, hey, robots that turn into jets, cars, dinosaurs, etc., what’s not to love?  I will say that, for me, the Transformers were my gateway to storytelling.  I loved playing with the toys, and I would craft my own elaborate tales of adventure.  Fanfiction really is nothing new.  Kids have been doing it forever.  And with the aid of established characters, I was able to explore what made story and character work.

That was the beauty of Transformers, He-Man, G.I. Joe, Rainbow Brite, and so on.  I grew up with a generation of toys built for storytelling.  It wasn’t anything new, but it was so easy with the Transformers, who came with their own backstory, established personalities, sources of conflict, and fantastic premise.  They were helped immensely by tremendous marketing.  Every Transformer and G.I. Joe came with their own card.  Cutting them out and saving them was just part of the fun.  And if you wanted to know if Shockwave was stronger than Grimlock, you only had to check their power ratings.  Yes, Transformers was my gateway to story continuity.  And if you needed to know how the other Decepticons felt about Soundwave (short answer: his aloof nature creeps them out) or who Optimus Prime could always count on to watch his back (Ironhide), you only had to check.

Here’s the thing though:  All of this was in the service of a line of toys.  Everything was about convincing kids to buy toys, dolls, spaceships, what-have-you.  It’s easy to be cynical about that, and not without good reason.  Some parents feared that their kids would be reduced to mindless consumers, and while I think those fears ended up being exaggerated, it’s hard to not sometimes see my generation as particularly obsessed with its own childhood joys, sometimes to an almost pathological degree.

It always annoys me whenever I hear someone bemoan their “childhood being desecrated.”  It would almost be amusing if it weren’t so absurd and insensitive.  Just because Michael Bay made some bad Transformers movies, he didn’t “rape” anyone’s childhood.  Nor did he take some sacred piece of art and pervert it.  He just made some bad movies.  His real crime isn’t in perverting a line of toys.  It was in not treating it like the line of toys it was.  Instead of giving us robot on robot action, he elected to focus on a few people and the army and everything but the Transformers.  Which is pretty stupid because, everyone who has ever been a fan of Transformers would tell you, people are incidental.

But even then, it’s not the worst crime in cinema, and while I love giant shapeshifting robots from outer space as much as the next guy, it’s not that Bay corrupted them.  He just entirely missed the point.  To be fair, a lot of fans miss that point too.

Back to my original point, regardless of their origins, the Transformers somehow became characters in their own right.  Not only that, they somehow managed to transcend that origin.  Almost everyone knows of Optimus Prime, Megatron, and their endless conflict.  You’d be hard-pressed to find someone with even a passing knowledge of American pop culture who doesn’t have a vague idea of what a Decepticon or an Autobot are.

Fall of Cybertron takes full advantage of this familiarity.  If you’re a fan, you already know what to expect.  There can’t even be any surprises because the story of Cybertron is well established at this point.  And if you somehow managed to play the game without knowing it, the title kind of gives it away.

That’s the thing about storytelling though.  It isn’t usually the destination.  It’s the journey.  And Fall is all about that.  From Optimus Prime’s heroic defense of the Ark to Grimlock’s battle with hordes of Insecticons to Starscream’s (inevitable) rise and (also inevitable) fall, the game isn’t trying to redefine the Transformer universe.  It’s exactly what it should be:  a toy commercial.  But it’s a toy commercial with heart and soul.

The finale ends with Optimus and Megatron locked in deadly battle.  It’s not a spoiler to say so.  How else could it end?  And even knowing that neither can win, there is an epic struggle to the fight, an almost mythic clash.  In particular, I still got chills when Optimus realized, finally, that there can never be any reasoning with Megatron, that, in the words of the Autobot leader, “We can never coexist in the same universe.”

It is without shame that I credit the Transformers for my current career in novelology.  They taught me the value of characters, the virtue of adventure, the joy of unbridled fantasy.  They showed me that the origin of a story matters a hell of a lot less than than the execution and that, if you treat your characters with enough care, others will begin to see them as something worthwhile too.

Also, the Transformers taught me that the only thing cooler than a robot that changes into a car is one that changes into a dinosaur.

But, above even that simple, universal truth, they showed me that telling a story is as simple as grabbing a bunch of cool characters, adding a bit of conflict, and giving yourself permission to see where it goes.  For that, and for a hell of a lot more, I’m eternally grateful to the Autobots and Decepticons.  Their war might have ravaged Cybertron, but it kindled the creative spark in me.

So even if you don’t like Transformers, you can at least give them credit, in a roundabout way, for Emperor Mollusk, Earl the vampire, Duke the werewolf, Vom the Hungering, and (most obviously) Mack Megaton, robot P.I.  And if that hasn’t made the world a better place, I don’t know what has.

Keelah Se’lai

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,

Lee

This entry was posted in Blog, Video Games, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

3 Comments

  1. Posted September 5, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic! Here is a different perspective for you. I grew up in Soviet Union, with not so much as even a single toy that would transform itself into something else. Guess what, I made up my own “Transformers” (it must have been in the air?). I’d construct a wall of plastic blocks around me (I think I was 5) and then imagine it to become a living city with cars, trains, space ships; moving, living, breathing, changing. In fact, I remember one of those instances so clear, as if it were an actual memory. So, you were lucky :) And love your books!

  2. Laura Jenkins
    Posted September 13, 2012 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    I just wanted to take the time and complement you on your books lol i discovered gills all fright diner in my grandmothers garage a month ago with a bunch of my books i had stored in there. I loved it and it started a bit of a frenzy in me where i have ordered almost allof your books via ebooks. The bad news is i suffered a brain injury in 08 so i have forgotten most of the books i have read in the past so gills all fright diner was new to me. the good news is i got to read it fresh all over again lol. I really like your style of writing i am now on the automatic detective i have read all the others but the emperor mollusk (i am a speed reader) but i just wanted to say i really enjoy your books they r very relaxing and fun to read ( i have 3 kids all in diapers. So i really enjoy the…escape now and then) i have one small favor will you let me know if or when you come out with a new book so i can buy it thank you so much have a nice day.

  3. Posted September 22, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I loved the living crap out of Transformers as a kid, despite the fact that I don’t think I ever actually had any of the toys. My cousin had a giant box of them, though, including Hot Rod and Omega Supreme, and I went over to his house all the time so it’s not like I was deprived like some starving Ethiopian kid with barely an Arcee to his name.

    Having established my bona fides, I must ask: have you watched any of the original episodes lately? Because I’ve discovered that they’re almost physically unwatchable. I say almost because I’m sure that I could watch Transformers again if I was strapped into a chair and had my eyelids taped open like in Clockwork Orange, but that’s probably the only way I would ever watch the 80′s Transformers again. They’re really quite terrible. It’s horrible how nostalgia messes with your head.

    Kids today have it awesome. Avatar, Legend of Korra, Young Justice – they’ll all be remembered with fondness by the tykes watching them now. Those kids will never squirm in embarrassment in their seats when they try watching these series again as adults and recognize the blatant consumerism that was being beamed straight into their brains.

    Ah well, such is fate for those of us who grew up in the 80′s. But enough of that, I also came here to tell you that I just finished Divine Misfortune and thought it was hilarious. Bravo, I was laughing out loud at several points during the reading, which by the way only took me two days since I couldn’t put it down. I could have finished it in one day except that I started it at like 8 pm last night. You have gained yourself a fan.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

*
*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

  • шкафы-купе киев
  • шкафы-купе киев
  • копирайтинг
  • SEO копирайтинг
  • копирайтер
  • копирайтеры
  • рерайт
  • рекламная кампания
  • обслуживание сайта
  • биржи статей
  • пресс-релизы
  • статьи для сайта
  • новости для сайта
  • коммерческое предложение
  • продающий текст
  • слоган
  • нейминг
  • Website Design & Wordpress Template by A.J. Roberts