The Devil is in the (Errors Within Your) Details, or Mike Barr Didn’t Know How Football Scoring Works

I mentioned the other day how at SpaCon I picked up a run of several issues of Batman and the Outsiders.  Let me start by saying that I love this title, and it has better writing than a lot of the comics I’ve read. Katana is one of my favorite DC characters, so you can imagine how annoying it was to see her solo one-shot ruined by a fundamental lack of understanding regarding how scoring in football works.

The conceit of the Katana solo is that the radio broadcast of a game between Gotham and Metropolis is syncing up with the action as Katana foils the heist of a priceless museum artifact.  Sounds cool, right? It would’ve been, but in the first panel, the announcer tells us that Gotham is down 14-18 with only minutes to go in the fourth and Gotham desperately needs a field goal.  Not even Tony Kornheiser would make this call. When the day is saved by Katana making a Hail Mary pass to the museum curator, Gotham scores a touchdown to win the game 19-18.

So what’s my point in this? If you’re going to try to incorporate elements of a game into your story, be sure you can display at least a basic understanding of the rules, otherwise it will pull the reader/viewer out of the story, and they will only be able to focus on the part you got wrong. Or like how I wince every time I hear the line from Punk Rock Girl, “Someone played a Beach Boys song on the jukebox. It was California Dreamin.”*

This is something I’ve noticed that happens a lot when some show or movie tries to portray D&D, and it’s the point where shows get tons of praise for being within the ballpark.

I know, I know, this is kind of like the cultural appropriation argument, you’re thinking, but it’s not. I’m all for including stuff in your stories; you just need to make sure you don’t do it in such a way that people are going to think you’re an idiot or a space alien. If you’re going to include some sort of detail, whether it’s gaming or culture, that’s a key point in your story, you need to do the research to get it right for YOUR benefit so that people who might otherwise be drawn to your work for highlighting something relevant to their interest won’t just write you and your story off off for doing it wrong.

*:And it turns out that Beach Boys did do a weird kinda new wavey cover in the 80s; see? I didn’t do the research!

 

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4 responses to “The Devil is in the (Errors Within Your) Details, or Mike Barr Didn’t Know How Football Scoring Works

  1. As Lionel Shriver pointed out in her wonderful speech, at its worst cultural appropriation is just crappy writing.

    This is some particularly crappy writing, though. It shouldn’t be an instance of an unknown-unknown. Did he really think field goals AND touchdowns were worth 5 points? Sure he would have at the very least been unsure of the exact numbers. And that’s an easy, easy thing to check. Even a football illiterate could figure it out from Wikipedia, surely, and no matter how deeply embedded in the avant-garde art scene you are, you know dozens of people who could point out the error and exactly how to fix it in five seconds flat.

    • They didn’t have wikipedia back in 1985, but surely he could’ve watched a game or two or one of the editors should’ve caught it.

      Now I’m all “I need to get to the issue where the letters to the editor call him on it!”

  2. Cultural appropriation and not checking your facts are two entirely different subjects. This is particularly true in a genre where so much is made up. How can I believe you can create a plausible fantasy if you can’t even create a plausible reality?

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