Nov 03 2017

Jianghu Hustle 3 – Violence as Storytelling

Are you ready to learn everything you can about Kung Fu gaming. Well open your ears, stretch out those limbs, and get ready to have your ears pummled with some high flying kung fu fighting fun. It’s Eli Kurtz and Eric Farmer dropping knowledge all over the place.

Let us know what you think of the show, how to improve it, and where the pair should go in the future.

Show Notes


  • ELI: “Hello, welcome to Jianghu Hustle! I’m here with my co-host, Eric Farmer.
  • ERIC: And I’m here with my co-host, Eli Kurtz. Today, we’re talking about violence as communication through the lens of the movie Hero.( …)
    • 2002
    • Director:  Zhang Yimou
    • Writer: Feng Li, Bin Yang, Zhang Yimou
    • Cinematography: Christopher Doyle
    • Summary
  • RESEARCH: Hero
    • My Theory Which is Mine
      • In wuxia, a fight is constructed of story beats that communicate to
        • The audience
        • The characters
      • Wuxia stories inhabits the limits of its fictional space/setting
        • Hero is a good and bad example of this
        • Extremely explicit
    • We’ve been tricked. There’s no fighting in this movie!
      • Violence isn’t violence/violence is still violence
      • Competence (Sky vs. Soldiers) & (Nameless vs. Sky)
        • Fights with a sheathed weapon!
        • Escalation: 1, 2, 4
        • A conceit of wuxia (Scale): if a knight errant is a better fighter than another, the other will never beat them unless the situation changes dramatically.
        • Hope/Fear Cycle
          • Literal/Fictional positioning
        • This fight is a cheat!
          • Recontextualizing past events
          • In every timeline, Flying Snow kills Broken Sword
      • Emotional Conflict (Moon vs. Flying Snow)
        • Moon is outmatched. She demonstrates her emotional trauma of the betrayals she’s experienced: her unrequited love trampled, the death of that love by the hands of another
          • It clearly makes her sloppy and she’s not as talented as Flying Snow.
        • The Turn: the hair cut. The possibility of Moon winning is still impossible, but Flying Snow changes her goal from avoidance to confrontation.
          • Her anger and sadness at her own actions gets to be released onto Moon.
        • Experience regret beats innocent rage.
      • True Communication of Spirit (Broken Sword vs. The King)
        • The scale of the Jianghu
        • The fighting styles match, demonstrating a similarity in spirit.
          • When the swords meet, and the death blow is possible.
          • The literal barriers (the cloth falls) are also figurative
        • This exchange reads strangely to Western audiences.
          • Like Luke fighting Vader and realizing that the Empire is a good idea.
    • The End of the Jianghu
      • Tiānxià (天下) which literally means “Under heaven”
      • Revisionist Westerns: The End of the Gunslinger
    • Wrestling isn’t Wrestling
    • Themes & Signifiers
      • Colors, Candles, Music
    • Triangles
      • Broken Sword, Flying Snow, Moon – Literal Love Triangle
      • Flying Snow, Broken Sword, Nameless – Also Love Triangle, but a Conflict in vision
      • Nameless, Broken Sword, The King- Enemies Sharing a Vision
      • Broken Sword, Flying Snow, The King- Wisdom vs. Decorum
    • Recontextualizing
      • Letting the players have that authority
    • Complicated structure, simple plots
    • Apocalypse World
      • NPC-PC-NPC triangles
    • Swords Without Master
      • Phases
    • Microscope
      • Recontextualizing
      • Black/White tones
    • PK Sullivan:
      • The show does have me thinking about the parallels between wuxia and superheroes. Thoughts aren’t coherent yet but they’re there.
      • How do you push the conflicting obligations and beliefs of a xia to create drama in a game? Such as personal honor vs. following orders.
    • Todd Crapper: Are there any non-wuxia films like The Raid that would fit the genre?
      • Answer: let’s be clear: wuxia is more about story than action.
    • Todd Zircher
      • More of a statement that a question, but the only RPG that I know of that uses violence as communication is Amber Diceless.  In Amber, every character is a master of warfare by human standards.  Crossing swords is one way to read another character and get a measure of their power level.
    • JJ Lanza
      • How does martial style relate to the communication? For example, crane vs. snake? Or sword vs.spear? Is there a lingua franca?
    • Phil Vecchione
      • Can you discuss the kinds of story beats in a fight…how the fight goes back and forth. Beats that reveal information, beats that display characteristics, etc.
    • Per Folmer
      • I’d love to hear your opinion about the way they use weightlessness and what they mean to portray through that.
    • Avi Waksberg
      • What makes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon so good?


  1. Eli Kurtz

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying it, Sean! PK Sullivan is the guy who pointed out the jianghu-ness of the John Wick series to me. Now that I’ve got that in mind it’s clear as day! We’re planning an episode where we discuss it in detail.

  2. Sean Nicolson

    Really enjoying the show, guys. I’ve watched a lot of Wuxia movies, but I never appreciated the deeper level of what was going on. Just saw John Wick 2 the other night. I don’t think I would have got it if I hadn’t listened to Episode 2 of JH first.

    Sean Nicolson

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