Sunday, January 20, 2013

Defining Greatness

Fringe ended last Friday. It still hasn't hit me that it’s gone. It's not as bad as the end of Farscape, but still. I know some people aren't going to be happy with this season but I'm satisfied. One of the things I always remember from the end of previous series finales of sci-fi shows I enjoyed, like Stargate Atlantis and even Farscape, was that the ending no matter how good wasn't what I remembered the most. It was the little things, the scenes that best exemplified the characters I had grown to love. Maybe a short lived show like Defying Gravity had a better series finale but Fringe has always been about looking at the whole.

It was a good run, a confluence of unlikely events that enabled Fringe’s creators to write the story they had dreamed of, and had to be experienced to be believed. I think it’s somewhat instinctual at the end of something to define its place in the pantheon of greatness. Comparing this show against that show, this episode against that episode, this character against that character; it’s a trap we all fall into at times. It’s instructive to remember that greatness has more than one definition. While one definition of greatness is comparative and is defined by the idea that for greatness to exist there must be the ordinary, there is another definition.

Path of the Exile is the new flavor of the month dungeons crawler. People were hyped about Diablo III, but they were somewhat unsatisfied. They then talked up Torchlight 2 and then promptly ignored it once it launched. Now it’s Path of Exile. Now don’t let me dissuade you, Path of Exile from all accounts is a quality title. From what I’ve seen and played, it accounts itself well against its more widely known brethren. Still to hear its proponents speak about the game you’d think it was the second coming of Diablo II, the undisputed King of the Dungeon Crawler; Path of Exile is many things but it does not reach that level of greatness. 

And so what, does a pie taste sweeter when you are told it is the best in the world? Does the music sound clearer because you are told the guitarist is the best that ever lived? Is a ballet ever the more beautiful because the greatest dancer who ever lived is the lead? Greatness is never dependent on anything else; it stands alone because nothing else can define it.

And so finally true greatness is defined. Greatness speaks for itself; it doesn’t need to be compared to or stood against all comers. Its beauty is entirely all its own. I’ve always believed that true greatness brings the rest of the pack along. Halo changed the way we play consoles games for more than two generations. Halo is not diminished by what came after it. Its greatness isn’t defined or eclipsed by those that came before or after it. A great game stands alone, unaffected by the passage of time. A great game speaks for itself; it needs no advocate to determine its place so I will leave you with the words of Lois McMaster Bujold:  I don’t confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is the higher achievement.

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