Gardstad

We have to get something out of the way before I tell this story: I’m not into fan-fiction. The way I see it, it’s a little redundant. Either a fanfic writer is cheating by using someone else’s characters (clumsily), or they’re using their own characters in someone else’s setting, which makes me wonder why they didn’t come up with their own setting in the first place. Now, I’m not as down on it as I used to be because a friend has shown me what they do with fan-fiction. I can see it’s not always about author insertion, or romantic fantasies about your two favourite characters, or just plain lack of imagination. It’s harmless fun and has worth purely as a writing exercise, but it’s still not something I’d really bother reading. Or writing.

Except for this one time.

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One of the big Kickstarter success stories was that of ‘The Banner Saga’, a strategy game featuring vikings, horned giants and gorgeous Sleeping Beauty inspired artwork. It was fresh and different in a medium prone to stagnation, and the developers were obviously huge animation geeks. It was inevitable I would fall for it.

On the 25th of February last year, a teaser of the full game was released – a free multiplayer-only demonstration of the combat mechanics called The Banner Saga: Factions. Players could face off against each other with their own team of characters. There wasn’t any story to speak of, but man, it was great fun. It had a real chess-like quality to it. I was never any good at chess, but when I got my shit together long enough to actually engage with the game it became nail-biting stuff. The Banner Saga: Factions was much the same. It was beautiful in its simplicity and tactical depth. I’d tell you how many hours I spent playing it, but then I’d be revealing myself as a wastrel.

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I dug the setting, too. It wasn’t sci-fi or high fantasy or modern military. It was kind of low fantasy, grungy medieval stuff with a touch of Norse mythology. Something a bit different. I wanted to know more. While I was looking through the developer’s website, I came across a story written by one of the writing staff which served as a taste of the setting. And I thought to myself hey, I could do that. That might be a fun way to pass a couple of hours that’s a little more productive than playing video games and drinking coffee. I haven’t written a story in years. It’s not like there’s any established story or characters to step on. Why not?

I started tapping away on the keyboard, enjoying the feeling of writing about an entirely fictional situation once again. I gave up writing terrible fiction around the age of 18, and it’s not something I’m in a rush to get back to. But it was nice to have that feeling again. For old time’s sake. I almost dug out my old stories. Almost.

After a couple of hours, my short story was done. It was set in a village called Gardstad, which is sort-of Norwegian for “farm town”. Not very exciting, but I wanted the setting to be suitably Scandinavian without making up nonsense words. I posted it to the forums and went on to other things.

Shortly afterward, I received these messages from the developers.

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So that was cool. They actually read it and liked it. It really was a fun and productive way to waste a couple of hours.

Wait, did he just say he was going to try and put my fictional village in the game?

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Earlier this week, The Banner Saga was finally released. As you might guess, the first thing I did was find a map. And there it was.

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And it’s even described as I described it in the story.

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Sadly, you can’t visit it, it’s just a spot on the map. Maybe in the sequels. Wouldn’t that be something? But I can’t exactly complain. The developers of The Banner Saga worked really hard on making a unique game that I absolutely love, and to have made even the tiniest, most irrelevant contribution to that is something that brings me a great deal of joy.

It almost makes me want to try writing again, but I fear I’ve peaked too early as far as fan-fiction goes. After the author incorporates your story into theirs, where else can you go? It’s all downhill from here.

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