Ron Gilbert about art and bad endings

No, I didn’t meant to suggest that at all! :scream:

I was just thinking of whoever may read your response may get the wrong idea. I knew it wasn’t intentional. :slight_smile:

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I don’t know how I would define it, but I’m sure you can understand how I could make a distinction between something like Les Misérable and, say, a pulp novel.

(Note: Comparison not to scale.)

They are both printed material, and they are both creative works, yet I regard them both in different ways and hold them up to different standards – irrespective of how much enjoyment I get from either. :wink:


Time also changes ones perception of something being “art” or not. Shakespeare was candy for the masses 500 years ago. Today’s pulp novel is tomorrow Les Misérable. It’s a mistake to call one thing “art” and another “not art” or simply “entertainment”. There is no distinction, not from the creator or the consumer.

I enjoy making things that some people love and some people hate, not because I’m a sadist, but because it means I’ve created something that isn’t one dimensional. That’s all.


That’s fair, and I agree with that. What I disagree with is when you seem to say that you do it specifically to cause disruption or controversy. If controversy is the natural consequence of your creative expression, I can accept that; if that division and frustration is what you are actively seeking to do, that’s just some post-modern masturbation.

I admit that perhaps I may have read too much into your comments in the past. For that I apologize.


Well, that and it was a talk (at PAX), which you have to structure a little differently than if you were writing. Also, it wasn’t an academic talk where you can go into detail with slides and stuff. It’s mostly for entertainment.

Also… I did say…

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Just video games…
JUST video games?

That’s why we spend hours a day on this forum dissecting the minutia of these games from 30 years ago?

Phew, I guess I can stop now.



Thanks for the candid response. I’ll seek that talk online if it’s available. :slight_smile:

I think it´s the one linked in the first post of this very thread.

Oh, DOH! :nerd_face:

I read the transcript but didn’t notice the link. Thanks!

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It is a great talk. Worth the ~50 minutes you’ll spend listening to it.

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Ron: "So, I woke up this morning…"
Crowd: [cheers and applause]

Story of my life…

The video doesn’t show the slides. Well, I hope there were slides. Otherwise some things like the “woke up” thing wouldn’t make sense. :slight_smile:

But I recommend to watch the the whole talk.

There are only four endings and they’ve all been done a million times before, so I’m not sure any of them really make people “think” that much… on some level everyone recognizes the four endings and so you just go, “oh, it’s one of those”. To me it’s more how well each one is executed.

  1. Good guys win (used the most)
  2. Bad guys win (often used in the middle of trilogies, sometimes in horror movies)
  3. Ambiguous unexplained ending (every “arty” movie, TV show, or book, mostly cult or niche things… if it’s not the final part of a series then it’s more of just a cliffhanger)
  4. Twist ending, everything you knew was wrong (every M. Night Shyamalan movie, how satisfying it is depends on cleverness of the twist and build-up)

MI - good guys win
MI2 - ambiguous unexplained ending
TWP - twist ending

Twist is probably the most work because the twist has to be great and everything beforehand usually has to be meticulously planned for it to make any sense in the end. Ambiguous is the easiest because nothing has to tie together at all, you just end however you like, however suddenly you like… the job of figuring it all out is left to the audience.

It will be interesting to see which one Games of Thrones chooses. “Bad guys win” is probably the only way to end it interestingly, but it will still annoy some people… “ambiguous” or “twist” at this stage is only going to really, really annoy people, and “good guys win” would be too predictable.

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Classifying MI2 ending is not easy because both MI1 and MI2 contain elements that should have made sense if the whole story would have been revealed. The ending of MI2 seems to me a cliffhanger for a third game that will probably have a twist ending.

Planting hints in MI1 was cited in a Ron Gilbert interview (year 1990, after MI1 and before MI2):

I read a lot of novels and reference books, more for the flavor of the period than for accuracy. This isn’t a historically accurate game. In fact, you’ll see when you play that there are a lot of anachronisms, like the vending machine at Stan’s used ship yard. They’re there to add humor to the game of course, but they also have a secret, deeper relevance to the story – but I’m keeping that secret for the sequel.


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Well but that only confirms that Monkey Island takes place in an alternate universe that is neither consisent with our historical past nor with the world we currently live in. Which I thought was kinda obvious…?

I’m pretty sure that most people who played MI1 (and not MI2 yet) thought that it was a game about pirates in which anachronisms are used only as a comedic device.

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Yes, true… it was a cliffhanger that was never resolved, making it a sort of de facto ambiguous ending.

Certainly. If you see the anachronisms as foreshadowing to the twist ending…I admit I even like the idea of Guybrush only having been a kid that played pretend(kinda like you as a player), but then there had to be that cliffhanger…

It´s a bit like that ending of the first Nightmare On Elm Street movie. On the one hand you had a nice morality (“your dreams can´t hurt you if you don´t let them get to you”) but also a bit of a cheesy resolve (everyone is still alive, mommy doesn´t feel like drinking anymore) and then they had to put on a shocker ending on top of it (everything bad is still going on!), I mean I love that movie but that ending is a convoluted mess.

I think the “ambiguous” part is not always a separate ending per se. Those endings you listed (good wins, bad wins, twisted) can also be ambiguous too. (e.g. good can seemingly win but still a lot can be unresolved; or TWP may have a twist ending but still: who killed whom?)

Maybe your 3rd ending is a “no one wins” + possible ambiguous modifier? Does this make sense? :slight_smile:

There can be some elements of others, but there is usually one main overriding one. Like good guys win is the ending, but one of the main good guys dies, to add some spice to the predictable good guys win story.

I don’t think I’m qualified to start tweaking the 4 story endings! I got them from an MA literature course.