So, yeah… this is pretty much the speech that I’ve been readying myself to make since the last Monday, when due to some innocent surfing in TVtropes I found out that Bionicle was ending. I still remained incredulous, but unfortunately it was easily confirmed.
So, for anyone who has had the misfortune of hearing me or following me on Twitter the last few days, why the great pain over this?
It is usual for someone to say this before they explain that the story they’re about to tell is huge. And this story is kinda huge. But I said that because it is complicated. And I only fully realized it last Monday.
I’ve heard that Harry Potter is the book series of my generation. That might be true for many. In a world where the number of readers for pleasure ain’t much in their early ages, Harry Potter managed to both capture a lot of them and grow with them. Stephen King on reviewing Deathly Hallows, drew connections between Rowling and RL Stine, the writer of Goosebumps. His thoughts(with which I agree a lot) are that Harry Potter started a lot like Goosebumps; a fairly self-contained story and with sort of the same level of writing. The difference is that HP evolved. And that evolution was both because it needed to, and because it had to. The two thigns are very different. The first was because if it didn’t do so, it would lose its first readers as they grew up, and its only market would be a small niche when the final seven books would be written. it was a purely economical reason.
The reason why it had to though, is both simpler and complicated. The fact was, the settings and characters were set, and it was easy to just play around with them time after time. But like RL Stine perhaps knows, that is only truly easy when you change the things without truly changing them; the only way to keep the characters with the same kind of writing and with the same depth is if we approach them pretty much from a blank state each book. And for that, you better do like he does. Just change the names and keep the personality’s pretty much the same(let us be honest, how many Goosebumps books have got a male main character and a bitchy sister/classmate/enemy besides the main supernatural opponent?).
So, to keep the same characters, HP had to grow. The character shad tog row, the setting and lore had to slowly increase and the writing itself had to improve and mature. And it did, mostly(I still personally feel Rowling was a bit over her head when trying to describe an isolation situation as in the last book). But… Harry Potter has got nothing on Bionicle.
I once had a quite tiring discussion on the PortugueseLUG forums regarding the storyline of Star Wars when compared with the Bionicle storyline. Looking back, I really only needed to make one argument: “The scale of growth of the Bionicle storyline is pretty much the highest one that ever existed.” Which is terribly true. At its apex, the Bionicle LEGO line shoved on a year twenty one sets for certain. Twenty-One in case you missed, and that’s me doing a small mental estimation while trying to avoid exaggeration. This meant twenty one new characters.
What usually happened is that you had the six Toa each with their own personality, the six enemies which many times ended up being just copies of the same principle but each with defining touches, six small sets which usually were also pretty much fleshed out characters, and three or so big sets which were almost certainly main characters in that year’s history. So, it was a story which grew quickly. And yet, here is the great surprise and that perhaps not many people know about me, I only entered it in 2003. This is why I said that this history would be complicated. I cannot talk about Bionicle without talking about me, and everyone knows how talking about one self leads to major confusions.
As such, picture this. César Alves, twelve years old. A kid on the sixth grade. The typical nerd kid with his eyes in books all the time, thick glasses and a hair that simply grew up to a certain size and then was cut to a defined height. This was me, in February of that year, walking home from school(on the next year I would change school to one that accompanied me from the 7th to 12th year, and that would give me chances at life over and over) after passing on a bookstore on my way home, where I would hide in a corner and read the latest Disney comic book before the clerk made a ‘*cough*cough*’ sound behind me. My life was simple and monotonous.
Except I had a small addiction. Flash games. But in those days we didn’t had nifty sites like Kongregate and such, and the best option for flash games were sites like miniclip.com which looking back on seem about as antiquated as aqueducts for public sanitation. Flash games were simple and most of them were copies of Super Mario Bros, bad made copies at it. So one of my great ways of finding new games to play, guess which was? That’s right, the Disney comics from before. To my luck, some kindred soul in the Portuguese publishing department had the idea to add a one page news article on each monthly comic focusing on a website and usually that website had(you guessed it) flash games. On that fated day of February, the website was LEGO.com
And of course I was hooked. Compared to most websites around that time, the LEGO website was full of marvelous wonderful flash games. Games with a quality times fun ratio that are rarely seen even nowadays in our much more infinite internet. And then I found this particular game. The Mata Nui Online Game, or MNOG as it is dreamily called by those who played it, was pretty much the first time I really had fun with a poitn and click adventure game. Its setting was interesting, its characters even more, and its cutscenes were amazing. I played it to the end never giving up, always learning more, and tying myself in the net of Bionicle all the while. And lets face it, this game is amazing. Let me as such just show you the first cutscene* you ever see not counting the prologue(and if you don’t go to Ta-Koro first):
And it only got better after that. For a small flash game in 2003, this was awesome behind my wildest dreams.
With all of this hooking me in, it wasn’t long before I started reading all the comics I could find in the side, and immersing myself in the story. On one fated day, I was checking out the message boards(perhaps my first experience with message boards that I remember), and there one small user mentioned something. He mentioned BZPower.com . That was pretty much the moment when it all truly started.
BZPower was my first forum on the internet, and looking back, it was this and Bionicle that most defined my future. These were the launching pads that turned me into a geek, and I wouldn’t be here today without them. The first and biggest change was the creation of my nick. On that day, César Alves was not meant for the internet. Drexer was born, and with time both of them would combine into who I am today; this was also when I adopted the Green Kanohi Akaku for my identification. It should be noted though, that this was already in the beginning of 2004 and that all that was previously told was a very long transition.
This was the path of Bionicle that I followed. Shortly before joining I had read the first big shock of the Bionicle storyline(you can find it at the end of this post), and I was now mixed in a huge community, my first truly big web forum with possibilities at each corner. I dived into the stories of the Expanded Universe, I found the Short Stories and Epics forum and became truly a resident of them. I started to write. Perhaps this was Bionicle’s biggest strength onto me. I wrote, a lot. Bionicle had, just for being a story, created all this pathways that shaped myself into who I am now. For some people it was Harry Potter or an horrible soap opera which accompanied them across their pre-teen and teenage years(and any Portuguese readers know exactly which ill fated abomination of nature I’m talking about here), for me it was a huge story which grew across each year. A story which had its own universe more than almost anything before. A huge testament to fiction and perhaps a truly big representation of a geek shrine. A mix of an hobby, with cleverness and complexity of the kind that’s hard to find easily.
This will hardly be my last tirade about Bionicle, as many can see from all those loose threads I left up there(in fact, I feel like I spoke a lot without saying nothing.). The addition of ‘Countdown to the’ in the tile of this post is that I’ll only truly say goodbye to the Bionicle Universe after its last comic has been launched, and even then there will be still much to enjoy, examine and discuss. It’s to hope that in some days I shall post some more endless tirades. Until then:
“You are not the first Toa” – Turaga Vakama
*I didn’t post the final and awesome cutscene of the game because anyone that hasn’t played this game needs to play it fully and enjoy it in the finale in its most pure form. Go download it NOW!