Jack

Programming / Video Game Link

I’m in my “monster” period since I pulled the Odyssey out of my closet – let’s continue in the “monster”. Today : Jack

My Jack is, I think, not yours.

But my Jack is not so far away. He hits the road too…
He is a French Jack – we say: Jacques – like Jacques Chirac.
And this guy is the starting point of the exploded narratives that will flourish in the video games. Yes he is.

Jack is a book – a monster – a totally iconoclastic book – a book that nobody reads anymore by the way – and that my students had renamed: Jack.
And they were so proud to have read Jack.

These students hated reading – the stories – the stupid stuff you like, ma’am – and since I don’t care about that at all, I had forced them, for the first book of the year, to read: Jacques The Fatalist, by Denis Diderot.

Grimm and Diderot

So they hated me – they bought the book because I’m a totally authoritarian, anti-democratic teacher.
They read it for the same reason.
And they were hallucinating.
After the first week of reading it, they were waiting for me and asked me if I was serious, is this a real book? I played dumb. They continued – it’s not a real book, ma’am, the author does anything, he talks to us, he doesn’t care about his story, he proposes lots of variations, he abandons a character he thinks sucks after all

…well, yes, that’s exactly what this book is.
And they, who didn’t like stories were glued by an author who didn’t like stories either. As they found the title a bit old – they were right, Jacques le Fataliste, it’s a bit old France, they renamed it : Jack – Jack, it sounds a lot funkier. I thought it was great, I banked it and we studied : Jack. Some of them still talk to me about it.

Do you have an idea of the style?

So Jack is a novel written in the 18th century that tells the adventures of Jacques, a basic Frenchman and his master. We are at the time of the French aristocracy – which starts to flap its wings in earnest, the pigeon will end up crushed on a guillotine a few years later.

It starts with an argument between the two of them: can you tell how someone is hurting? The master finds that Jack complains a lot about his knee pain – but what does he know about knee pain? Physical pain is not shared. And from there, they will compose a comic duo that will have great moments of real comedy – to the disadvantage of the aristocratic master, of course.

And then I can’t tell you the story, because there’s no story line: it’s just a story about a guy who travels and meets people.

These people are characters that the author finds more or less interesting.
And the whole thing is a patchwork of little stories, which may or may not intertwine – to end with three possible endings and it’s not the author who chooses, it’s you, the reader.

Where I say – from the top of my science and my great height (yes I am tall, for a girl I am very tall) – that this book is at the origin of video games, it is because the author does not stop soliciting us and making us participate in his story.
He offers us choices – he makes authorial jokes and then he gives us the trick – he comments live on his ideas – in short, we are in a narration that, for the first time, leaves the hand to its audience.

I’m not telling you this to crush you with my science – that would be totally pretentious and totally untrue, I don’t even want to look at everything I don’t know because it’s so huge. I’m not telling you this so you can put it in your curiosity room as a trophy: I found the dinosaur that gave birth to the exploded narrative video game.

I’m telling you this so Jack can exist again. He deserves it, frankly.
It needs a little sprucing up – my students had started –
But the base is pure genius.
And what I like about Altair is that Jack wouldn’t make anything, but nothing at all in the movies. There have been attempts – they have failed – because Diderot really speaks to us, so we really need a Diderot in the room, who will come and talk to us and ask us what we think of the scene, the actress, the actor, the suite, the setting, the action :

yes, we need the author to come into the room and look at you and say: doesn’t this girl suck? yes, look, here, no, there, the other one there, the one with the red skirt. We’ll turn her to the right, no ? in fact we don’t care about her, she’s ugly and useless.

Can you imagine your reaction?
Your astonishment?
Actors coming down in the middle of the audience is always an infinite joy in the room – and also a great moment of terror.
But actors asking your opinion about what’s going on on stage, about a character – then we go to the maximum terror of the classic audience – and enchanted terror of the audience more used to these narrative changes – the audience of players, and yes, I am stubborn and I have one goal in my head and not two.

Now that I’m on the monster trail, I realize that I have plenty of them available, all ready to be revived on stage.

And since we’ll be in France, under “reinforced braking measures” – we don’t confine ourselves in France, we brake – from Saturday and for at least a month – that I don’t have any job from Saturday, not really the right to go out of my house, and that I’m not going to get depressed and especially not to think about my bank account – I’m going to be able to play with these monsters – it will change my mind.
I’m currently finishing going through Gorky’s play to place my Borderlands characters, trying to find the Odyssey in my books to see what I’d like to hear on a stage. In short, I will invent my own occupations…

Featured Image : from The Nightmare before Christmas / Jack Skellington & friends – by Tim Burton.

9 Thoughts

    1. Thank you very, very much! I’m answering a little late, this time the fever is for me, and it’s a rough one, to make an old horse tremble – so I’m more in bed freezing than burning my eyes in front of the computer … but it won’t be long, I don’t like being sick. Merci !

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