Author Topic: Originality: How much does it matter?  (Read 8313 times)

lordcloudx

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Originality: How much does it matter?
« on: March 04, 2010, 03:25:49 am »
A discussion that started in #teacup. The topic wasn't too deeply explored in the chatroom, so I thought I'd bring it here for further input.

This discussion could apply to a wide range of subjects, but to provide a boundary, let's limit it to entertainment media (tv series, movies, anime, manga, cartoons, video games etc.)

So my question is this: Say there are two things that seem similar enough to warrant comparison and, at a glance, look like palette swaps of each other with some substantial differences, would it negatively affect your view of the newer piece? I know it all depends on execution, but what about your initial reaction to the newer work? Personally, I've never let this bother me, but I'd like to know what other people think.

For a concrete example; let's take GTO vs Gokusen.

GTO synopsis from Dramawiki
Quote
Onizuka Eikichi, a graduate of a third-rate University and the leader of a motorcycle gang, whose lifelong dream is to become a teacher. After being hired by a seemingly eccentric director, Onizuka begins his unconventional way of teaching a hopeless group of troublemakers. Although he meets much opposition from the students and teachers themselves, his passion for teaching, and more importantly, his students, eventually convinces everyone that Onizuka truly has the makings of a great teacher.

Gokusen synopsis from Dramawiki
Quote
The story of a young, idealistic teacher who enters Shirokin Gakuen with hopes of making a difference in the students' lives. However, Yamaguchi Kumiko (Nakama Yukie) is in for a rude awakening when she finds that she will be the homeroom teacher of 3-D, the hardest class to maintain in the school. The students have multi-colored hair, sloppy uniforms, and show absolutely no respect to her. The leader of the class, Sawada Shin is lazy but bright and shows some interest in Yamaguchi when he notices that she is very different from other teachers. The students try to bully her to make her quit, but their attempts don't get them very far.

What the class and the rest of the school does not know is that Yamaguchi Kumiko is actually the 4th generation heir to the Ooedo Group, a notorious yakuza clan. Even though her family would like her to take the title of Ojou when her grandfather dies, they have accepted the fact that Yamaguchi would rather be a teacher.

Eventually, the students learn to respect their quirky teacher because of her devotion to them, and even give her a nickname: Yankumi.

Similarities:
-Both are teachers
-Both came from a violent background (Onizuka was an ex-biker and Yamaguchi is the current heir to some Yakuza family)
-Both have to deal with a "problem class"

Differences:
-Onizuka is generally an idiot who relies on his instincts and street smarts and teaches Social Studies while Yamaguchi is a math teacher and actually knows her stuff.
-One is male the other is female, obviously ;D

I believe the GTO anime adaptation came before Gokusen.

Suggestions for improving the discussion for this topic are also welcome.

« Last Edit: June 02, 2010, 09:01:05 am by Vatina »

number473

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Re: Originality: How much does it matter?
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2010, 10:17:19 am »
I'm pretty sure you can be totally original while still totally copying someone else's idea. Okay, let me clarify that first. This doesn't mean that you're just doing exactly what the other person was doing. It means that you're using the same setting of template while creating the story (by that I mean all parts: characters, plots, etc) for yourself. The more you cut and paste, the more you will fail. But using the same idea and executing it for yourself can work out as well as you are able to execute it. This does not mean, of course, that you should set out to make the next GTO or something like that. But if you thought it was a nice setting and you wanted to make a similar story it could work as long as you put your effort into creating it as opposed to just copying it. You'll find out that it'll end up being unique in it's own way anyway.

As an example I might give shounen manga. Bleach, Naruto and Dragonball Z all are noticeably shounen manga: they've go the fight scenes of various lengths with intrigue in between and so on. But I don't think you could find anyone that would say these are just the same thing at all. They're all unique, and they're all also pretty much the same  ^^

You can actually more easily fall into trouble going the other way: if your story/ movie/ game/ whatever doesn't conform to any standards at all then no-one (well, I mean most people) will be interested in even giving it a chance. This is basically alienating your audience because they don't quite know what you're going on about. That's why many of the best whatevers are those that seem at first to be a whatever, and even start out that way, but then go ahead and blow every rule out of the water. They've been created to the point where they break free from their root and go on to be something bigger, which then sets a new trend.

mikey

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Re: Originality: How much does it matter?
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2010, 05:20:16 pm »
Quote from: lordcloudx
Say there are two things that seem similar enough to warrant comparison and, at a glance, look like palette swaps of each other with some substantial differences, would it negatively affect your view of the newer piece?
Well, I'd say one can only very generally say that previous experiences always affect future views - other than that though, it's not possible to say whether it will be negative or positive, obviously, there are so many factors at play. I don't actually know how the answer can be anything else than "it depends".

From my perspective, I think I have a few prejudices (or biases) which help me filter out things - I normally have those set to certain genres or environments. So as a general rule I for example dislike everything with school/schoolgirls (environment), and like everything that follows the gentleman superspy formula (genre). But the fact that something is "ripping off an original" doesn't typically cause me to be biased or prejudiced. Those seem more like principles for respecting a game, but not necessarily factors for enjoying it. At least not for me.

MoonlightBomber

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Re: Originality: How much does it matter?
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2010, 10:41:29 pm »
A quote I picked up is highly suited for this topic, and it somehow reinforces my view on originality.

Quote
"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don't bother concealing your thievery -- celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: 'It's not where you take things from -- it's where you take them to.'"

---Jim Jarmusch

Meems

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Re: Originality: How much does it matter?
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2010, 08:02:58 pm »
I'm sure I heard that there are only seven basic plots in all of fiction.

Now, it is possible to write something that is so clearly ripping off a specific piece of work that I will not touch it with a ten foot pole, but in general, it doesn't matter if you want to write, say, a comedy set in a hospital, and someone's already done that, just as long as you write it well and make it interesting. (I would like to apologise for that horrible run-on sentance.)

Or to put it another way, you could have two comedies set in hospitals that were very different in every regard but the setting - different character types, different plots, different styles of humour. Is the one that was created last "unoriginal" just because they share that one element?

Vatina

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Re: Originality: How much does it matter?
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2010, 06:07:20 am »
I have actually seen two comedies set in hospitals. They were VERY different :P I can definitely watch them both and enjoy them.

I guess it depends for me on whether it is a cheap knock-off on someone else's success, or if you can tell that the creators actually have something great to tell with this "re-used" premise.

mikey

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Re: Originality: How much does it matter?
« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2010, 09:22:01 am »
Quote from: Meems
I'm sure I heard that there are only seven basic plots in all of fiction.
I know several variations on this, but to me, this is more than anything a "game of wits". Basically, you challenge people to fit stories and concepts into templates - the most use I've been able to observe is pretty much just to put down people's ideas by saying "oh, it's the "everything turns out to be a dream" formula". Either that, or over-analytical applications like some of the plot tags on vndb http://vndb.org/g823 , which are just geeky.

Also, I feel like the discussion seems to say it's okay to have non-original content as long as it's "done right". Which may be true, and nothing is 100% pure original, because everyone grew up in a social environment and was exposed to things and thoughts from other people - but there has to be some individuality, especially from the point of view of the maker (and I'll focus on this since this is a place for creators).

It's at some point very important for your sense of self-expression to at the very least *feel* that something is "yours". Most will try to balance this - making something that people like, while at the same time still not feeling like you sold out - the threshold differs from person to person. And when I said *feel*, I meant the feeling you created something original is subjective - I can write a story and then find out that it's been done already, and that's really fine, because I don't feel like I copied anything. But also, I can take and materialize an idea that someone else has done already, but which I feel so close to, that I don't feel like it's not *me* when I work on it. This can change over time, so my fanfiction which I felt was "my creation" may later not suffice to satisfy my sense of originality, and I'll be compelled to create something entirely new.

Quote from: Jim
"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. --- If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent.
So all I am trying to say is that it's not as easy as dismissing originality by saying it doesn't exist - that quote about nothing being original can only be true if you take a definition of originality that's extremely general - even by suggesting a new term, "authenticity" to replace it, it just takes the discussion into a very unpractical, abstract direction.

Sore Hand Games

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Re: Originality: How much does it matter?
« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2010, 01:55:49 pm »
I'm the writer of SHG and here are my thoughts, for what it's worth.
Originality is valued differently by people. Some value it a lot. Some don't bother with it. People also have different opinions on what is original or not. Result: A Big Huge Mess. If you ask 1000 people what originality IS, you'll get 1000 answers. Maybe some answers may be more original than others, but how can you tell?
While it's impossible to find a definitive, complete and absolute Originality, descended from heaven in all its glorious perfection, it IS possible to have your own definition of originality. You have no guarantee that will work for everyone else, but that's life isn't it?

But if there's one thing that I really don't swallow is the whole "There's no such thing as originality" school of thought. I mean, really? No originality? So... The remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie, poster child of cookie-cutter re-makes and lack of innovation in Hollywood, is just as original as Citizen Kane, with its incredible cinematography that is still impressive even by today's standards? Both are just as original as each other and every other movie ever? No originality at all?
That is not even funny.
There IS originality alright. It's subjective as hell, it's different for each person, but it's there.

When I write something, I try to be as creative as possible, while trying to make a game as good as possible, from my own viewpoint. You can't please everyone. It's impossible. You just do what you feel is right and hope for the best.

Hime

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Re: Originality: How much does it matter?
« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2010, 02:36:54 pm »
Since this seems to have a lot to do with storytelling and writing, we could consider moving this into the development discussion section.

I know several variations on this, but to me, this is more than anything a "game of wits". Basically, you challenge people to fit stories and concepts into templates - the most use I've been able to observe is pretty much just to put down people's ideas by saying "oh, it's the "everything turns out to be a dream" formula". Either that, or over-analytical applications like some of the plot tags on vndb http://vndb.org/g823 , which are just geeky.
It seems to me that doubting originality is actually kind of trendy these days. In visual arts communities, especially those with a low average age, there is a lot of comments like "that really looks like character from game to me" or "your drawing looks really familiar, are you sure you did not plagiarise it from somewhere?", and in a plenty of cases these happen without any real basis. Unoriginality has become the new deadly sin, and it is cool to be a part of the witch hunt. It is considered neat when someone acts as the authenticity police, and the worst cases even use it as a disguise for insults. I could imagine art is not the only field in which this happens.

I think that in this regard, originality is sort of overly appreciated nowadays. Just because a story is unlike any other it does not mean that it is a good, enjoyable or creative story, and vice versa. A few months ago I read a very original book of poetry that broke the conventions of content, language and even the way the text is laid on the page. Sounds interesting, no? Not exactly. Honestly, it all just seemed like some superficial, drunken rebellion to me.


Then again, I can see where these people are coming from. Far too many stories try to fit stereotypical moulds - or happen to fit in them unintentionally. This seems to be the modern paradox of storytelling: unoriginality is bashed, yet we seem to be less and less creative than before.

There is a good link in the topic The Writing Nursery about a writer's need for experience, which could be part of the roots of problem. We live in a world of mass produce where stories are becoming mass produce too. This may limit in our view of what a story could and should be. When you have consumed only certain kinds of entertainment for your whole life, it can be very hard to think outside of the box.

For a writer who has this problem, I think the only way to escape it is to simply go out of your comfort zone in both what you read and what you write. If you want to take it one step further, go out and get some new experiences in real life, too! If you do this with an open mind, you will surely find something new and interesting that can stimulate your creativity. This can be an inspiring experience, but it can also be a troubling one, or a conflict with your values that forces you to rethink.

Last but not least, I will offer perhaps my very best bit of writing advice: write what you want to write, not what you want to read. In most cases these two are not the same, and it is not rare for them to be the complete opposites of each other. If you write what you want to and do it with inspiration and love for the story, there is no way it will be truly unoriginal, but if you are trying to copy a story you like even though it does not fit you at all, well, people notice. This includes you during the writing process - you are likely to experience a lack of inspiration and difficulty finishing the story. So write what you truly want to write!
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mikey

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Re: Originality: How much does it matter?
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2010, 04:08:22 pm »
Quote from: Hime
Last but not least, I will offer perhaps my very best bit of writing advice: write what you want to write, not what you want to read.
Sometimes this may result in a perhaps initially strange concept - the stories which you write may not necessarily be the stories you'd want to read in your free time. But personally I don't see anything wrong with that. Many people say they make games which they themselves want to play - or that to make a great RPG game, you have to be a RPG geek. It never made sense to me - I could understand how a RPG fan could make a great RPG, but to make being a RPG fan a prerequisite to making a great RPG? I just don't believe that's true.

Quote from: Hime
if you are trying to copy a story you like even though it does not fit you at all, well, people notice. This includes you during the writing process - you are likely to experience a lack of inspiration and difficulty finishing the story.
And I think the reason is that very often you already are saturated with let's say "fantasy", when you consume a lot of it - so when you decide to work on a fantasy novel, you may not realize that fantasy is not what's actually missing from your life - this is not an issue in smaller projects where you "celebrate" your love for fantasy - but will come in play in bigger projects where the motivation always means that something is missing - you make your great work because you want to fill something that's missing. Otherwise you'll have to have other motivation factors like money, respect or other things from the outside.

Quote from: Sore Hand Games
When I write something, I try to be as creative as possible, while trying to make a game as good as possible, from my own viewpoint. You can't please everyone. It's impossible. You just do what you feel is right and hope for the best.
Quote from: Hime
A few months ago I read a very original book of poetry that broke the conventions of content, language and even the way the text is laid on the page. Sounds interesting, no? Not exactly. Honestly, it all just seemed like some superficial, drunken rebellion to me.
I'd say you just need to stay true to what you really want for the game - avoid making statements with it, but also not try to pretend you're ignorant of everyone else. My example is the game River Trap, where I put in an actual incest relationship, because that's how it felt was right - the general feedback was that it was against the conventional fake incest where in anime it always turns out to be your stepsister or so. On the other hand, I had a classical happy ending in Heiress II - the feedback was that that was too Hollywood. I understand that it's often very natural to root for the underdog, and to respect things which break the conventions, but that ending in Heiress II has the same right to be in my game than the incest one in River Trap. One breaks the convention, one follows it, you may think - but that is how others see it - to me, they both are precisely fitting in their games. So while I agree it takes strength to go against the flow when your work demands it, it also takes a certain strength to go with the flow. To me, standing up for my decision in River Trap was in fact easier, because it was a seemingly rebel decision - Heiress II did not have the coolness, if you will.

But that's how it is - people will more likely like you for standing up to someone because you have principles, but even though you use the same principles to do something that's "conforming", that action will not be so well received. I think the reason is in how we consume - the artist creates from the entirety of his personality, while the consumer typically is going just for certain attributes. In an example, a writer can write many genres and let's just say very loftily that all of them combined express his essence, but the audience which likes his crime stories will be different to that which likes his comedy, because when we enjoy something, we typically enjoy the work, rather than the artist.

Meems

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Re: Originality: How much does it matter?
« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2010, 07:27:56 pm »
I didn't mean to say that there's no such thing as originality, just that it's not the only - or even the most important - thing to judge a story on.

mikey

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Re: Originality: How much does it matter?
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2010, 08:42:07 pm »
Of course, I didn't assume you meant to say there is no originality - you just mentioned that quote / sentiment about the story archetypes, and I was commenting on that rather extreme view (of someone else). Also, that other quote that says "nothing is original" is obviously not meant literally, and I understand that as well. I wanted to point out that more than anything, people will (mis)use those generalizations to dismiss others' works or hurt them by being seemingly literal about it. Not the people in this topic, but generally speaking.

My approach to originality is that it's more a social attribute of the story than a fact about it. So I'd say it's not the plot or even the general idea that makes a story original, it's whether enough people perceive it as their first time having that kind of material presented in that way. So, if someone wants to create an original story, it's not enough that the story is original to them, they must create it so that it will feel original to the intended audience. And that actually seems like something that can take a lot of energy without any real guarantee of success. So especially for hobby writers the idea of just "writing what they want" is actually practical.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2010, 08:44:19 pm by mikey »

lvuer

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Re: Originality: How much does it matter?
« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2010, 08:41:54 am »
I believe the topic is not about originality itself, but rather your reaction to the newer work that you know similar to a certain older work. And because my answer would be more or less the same with others and my old answer (about originality), which is the most important things is not the idea but the presentation/execution.

Now, about the answer itself, my reaction would be...
At first I would think "Hey, this is similar with that anime/manga... buuu, uncreative..." After that, it depends on the work itself whether it manage to show me something different or rather interesting enough to keep me hooked. If it's only a totally similar but downgraded work, I will leave it immediately.

Vatina

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Re: Originality: How much does it matter?
« Reply #13 on: June 02, 2010, 09:00:30 am »
Just read this again on a whim (well, boredom...) and agree with Hime that this should be moved to development. So this is hereby done!

Also felt like commenting on this:

I'd say you just need to stay true to what you really want for the game - avoid making statements with it, but also not try to pretend you're ignorant of everyone else. My example is the game River Trap, where I put in an actual incest relationship, because that's how it felt was right - the general feedback was that it was against the conventional fake incest where in anime it always turns out to be your stepsister or so. On the other hand, I had a classical happy ending in Heiress II - the feedback was that that was too Hollywood. I understand that it's often very natural to root for the underdog, and to respect things which break the conventions, but that ending in Heiress II has the same right to be in my game than the incest one in River Trap. One breaks the convention, one follows it, you may think - but that is how others see it - to me, they both are precisely fitting in their games. So while I agree it takes strength to go against the flow when your work demands it, it also takes a certain strength to go with the flow. To me, standing up for my decision in River Trap was in fact easier, because it was a seemingly rebel decision - Heiress II did not have the coolness, if you will.

It's funny how that works. That stories with unconventional things like the incest you mentioned become more welcome, because at first glance they seem more "daring" and "cool". But in the end the wave of people who want cool and adult things like that make it so that doing so is pretty lame and unoriginal too. At least that's what I think. "Yay, another incest story. I wonder what the conflict will be here?"

(This is not a comment towards River Trap, just the feedback idea in general. This is usually my reaction towards yaoi stories, but that doesn't mean that even that could be made "original" and interesting.)

It all just really depends on general consensus among the people who will read your work. So, what is "unoriginal" today?

So yeah, write whatever you want. The story fighting to get out of your head is the one that should be told.

My brother loves war and sci-fi stories, but he himself ended up writing about a small-town hostage situation paired with an elephant falling from the sky. And it was awesome. Crime situations like that are not "original", but if you put in a little creativity then it can all turn out really good in the end.

Midnighticequeen

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Re: Originality: How much does it matter?
« Reply #14 on: June 22, 2010, 08:06:47 pm »
Quote
My brother loves war and sci-fi stories, but he himself ended up writing about a small-town hostage situation paired with an elephant falling from the sky. And it was awesome. Crime situations like that are not "original", but if you put in a little creativity then it can all turn out really good in the end

Wow. Is there anyway that any of us could read it too? It sounds interesting.  :D
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