Meta Is Boring

I understand that not everyone partakes of media at the same pace. There are things that, for you, are brand new. Someone out there is experiencing, for the first time, a work that feels like Coyote Gospel, or their first time a webcomic literally leans on the panels of the comic. I know, no matter how much I may feel a thing, it doesn’t make it a universal rule. You are not, in any way, beholden to my tastes.

But god I find meta boring.

This shows up when you google image search ‘meta comic’ and ‘labelled for reuse.’ Bonus: The source explaining it is in Italian, so I have no idea about the context. The good news is, it doesn’t matter, because I’m recontextualising this work.

‘Meta’ is a memetic shorthand. It isn’t really about postmodern commentary, not really – the kind of people who ‘use meta’ are also the kind of people who dislike the word ‘postmodern’ or who dismiss the idea of postmodernism, often without necessarily understanding the term or its meaning. Meta is a particular kind of wisecracking too-cool, disaffection, and it’s often used in videogames and tabletop games as a sort of get-out clause for failures in their own fiction.

This isn’t to say I don’t like ‘very meta’ works. I after all, really enjoy Portal, which uses its deliberately puzzly structure to talk about how puzzle games work. Meta can be fun. What bothers me, though, is that there’s a lot of modern ‘meta’ work, especially in games, that cares more about using the meta-ness as a get-out clause for the fiction it wants to construct. Indie videogames are rife with videogames that want to draw your attention to the fact you’re playing a videogame…

And it’s so flipping boring.

If your world, if the story you’re telling me, isn’t interesting enough to keep my attention, maybe take it back to the workshop and go for another round or two? I’ve been thinking about this a lot, since I heard of the plot and structure of Glass, the movie, about how it’s a movie that’s mostly about being a screenwriter masquerading as a movie about being a supervillain.

Maybe the story doesn’t need to be clever, per se. Maybe you can learn a lot by making your story fun.

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