Waypoint Weeklies: Beginnings, Hooks, and Openers

The Narrative Hook is one of the first techniques I was taught about when I first started formally learning about writing. While my learning was mostly restricted to written literature, every medium places a certain level of importance on a strong beginning to catch the attention of readers, viewers, and of course, players. Once you have someone hooked onto the potential plot for your work, you can reel them in. However, what hooks some folks doesn’t always hook others, and a good hook doesn’t guarantee that the rest of the piece will live up to expectations.

So, in honor of the offical beginning of Waypoint Weeklies, I’d like to ask y’all: What was your favorite beginning to a piece of media? It can be a novel, a game, a TV show, a movie, whatever! Was there ever something in your life that had such a powerful start that it’s still stuck with you all this time?

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Starting today, we are going to be piloting a new series of threads: Waypoint Weeklies!

Waypoint Weeklies is a series of threads where we’ll be presenting a question or prompt for everyone to discuss.

Why are we doing this? We have recently been thinking about the Open Threads: a series of threads Waypoint staff posted daily when the forums were first created. These threads were great for providing an interesting new discussion each day, and were a good way for new users or those who don’t visit every day to be a part of the community. This series has since stopped. We miss them and the consistent, approachable discussion and community they provided. While we cannot do a daily thread, our hope is to bring back some of the spirit of the Open Threads by hosting a weekly discussion thread in similar vein.

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I love the opening to Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. It’s a really poetic bit of writing delivered well by Yuri Lowenthal (I have complicated feelings about him coming back for the remaster) and it winds up tying back into the story for reasons I will not spoil here.

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Possibly my favourite start to any TV show is the beginning of the first episode of The Knick. The Knick is an incredible show on its own but the first few minutes are S-tier. I am a sucker for menacing synths in general but setting them over a turn of the 20th century surgeon injecting cocaine into his foot while commuting to an caesarion? Is it my birthday?

I have two here: one game, one tv

On the game side (and I suspect a number of people may share this sentiment), I’m picking Prey. I remember going into that game knowing very little about it, other than hearing some loose descriptions of a horror-esque Bioshock-like game in a space setting. I remember going through the few minutes of the opening and thinking it fairly straightforward, but eventually reaching a point where I started to suspect something was up. As I pressed on, I remember getting increasingly suspicious while saying to myself “wait…wait…wait…hold up…is this…?” as things began to unravel around our protagonist. Eventually it all culminated in The Big Reveal™, which I won’t spoil here :wink:, but which left me completely in awe. I’ll just add that this was a few years ago at this point, and I haven’t replayed/re-watched that opening since (maybe out of slight fear that it won’t live up to how I remember it?), but it’s definitely stuck with me as one of the most powerful game openings I’ve played.

My other pick is the first episode of the first season of Fear the Walking Dead. I don’t watch a ton of “prestige television”, but that show has an opening that I to this day still think about. For the most part it plays out like your standard Walking Dead episode, but it’s that ending shot right before the intro credits that really sticks with me almost 6 years later. Just watching this person go through what’s undoubtedly the most terrifying experience of their life, all inside the walls of an abandoned church, then gets immediately juxtaposed with the view of the completely oblivious city (essentially world) outside, was just so powerful to me–the thought that “normal life” is so fragile and the world can be turned upside down in an instant. CW coronavirus: Fast forward a few years, and I can’t help but compare that show’s opening to this pandemic, where, one moment, we’re all going about our daily lives, and then suddenly one thing, one organism, enters the picture, and now our entire world is changed forever.

It’s funny you point this out because I didn’t end up finishing Prey or sticking with Fear the Walking Dead :sweat_smile:

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One of my favorite game openings of recent memory has to be Yakuza 3. It starts with Kiryu running his orphanage on Okinawa with Haruka and a group of lovable kids, then flashes back to shortly after the end of Yakuza 2 and you get to spend time in Kamurocho with Haruka (walking around, playing games, just hanging out with here - it’s great), then back to Okinawa. Things obviously move more and more to the usually crime thriller stuff of a Yakuza game but that opening few hours is tons of running around taking care of things for locals or doing stuff for (or with) the kids from the orphanage. It does a great job of showing you want it is Kiryu really wants now. He wants to live this peaceful life and help take care of people. He doesn’t want to go fistfight people on top of Millennium Tower anymore, he just wants to be left alone. That strong start is one of the reasons why 3 ended up being one of my favorites in the whole series.

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Seconding Prey. The moment you wake up for a second time and everything that comes with it is so… ‘oh, so there’s going to be some Stuff to figure out, huh’ and it’s an amazing hook.

Fallout: New Vegas is another strong opening, for me. I think most people who’ve played it remember the ‘But, truth is… the game was rigged from the start’ line, and I think that first town is a pretty solid tutorial area that still lets you leave unlike Fallout 3, so it’s not a pain to replay. I think that’s something games struggle with - one of the top mods for Skyrim is basically just ‘skip the bloody carriage scene’ for a reason - but New Vegas avoids it. Which is great, because I have played it several times.

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John Wick has my favorite opening in any movie. It’s so simple and well written/acted that you could watch it in a foreign language, without subtitles, and understand exactly what’s happening. You feel for John Wick, and you want him to get revenge.

I think perhaps the worst opening that I can think of is Your Name. It’s an amazing movie (I mean, I straight up had to pause the movie because I was crying so much), and that opening (spoilers and TW, SA) of Mitsuha (Taki) grabbing her boobs (and every time that’s repeated), does an extreme disservice to the themes and feelings that movie invokes. It’s a movie I know my mom would love, and I’m reluctant to share it with her because of that.

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A couple of great openings:

  1. Bioshock: Look, I get that retrospective critical review has not been kind to this game, but that opening is an all-timer. The plane crash, the flames dancing on the water, and the lighthouse. It beckons you to come near, and as you enter the bathysphere within, a jaw-dropping new world opens up in front of you. I still think about this intro often.
  2. Observation: A relatively recent game, but its intro does the Good Sci Fi Shit. Unexplained text from an unknown source giving you directions, and an incredible reveal of where in the universe you actually are, more people need to play the first hour of this game.
  3. Forza Horizon 4: This is also in the game’s demo, so I’d recommend just playing this. The game’s major conceit is revolving seasons affecting the game world and this opener puts that front and center. You smash cut through the seasons in real time in what is an awesome technical feat, and sets the tone for the rest of this outstanding racer.
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Almost forgot about Prey, holy shit that game has a weird, striking beginning. Specifically, the title sequence is so unlike the rest of the game, it’s almost cartoonish. Morgan even (easter egg spoilers) taps their feet to the rhythm of the theme which is the silliest touch.

Anyways, what I actually came to say:

Below - There’s an argument that the beginning is bad, considering the immediate start of the game is a seven minute cutscene where you watch a boat sail through the ocean to an island. It’s probably too long, but I found it a great tone setter: this is a slow game, you will meander and ponder and look at beautiful things. But after that is just one of the best “invisible tutorials” I’ve played in a game. It concisely introduces you to the things you’ll need to know for your journey so seamlessly it feels like it’s barely there. And some of the revelations - like the first time you realize (minor early mechanical spoiler) “Fuck, I have to go all the way back down to retrieve my lamp?” - are both a very exciting discoveries, and a dreadful omens as you imagine worse scenarios. It’s hard to sell this game, but I think the first hour or two is just masterful stuff.

Also, look how tall this cave entrance is! That’s just fucking cool. More tall entrances please.

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I will give this some more thought but the first that immediately jumps out to me is the opening cinematic for Final Fantasy X which blew my tiny mind as a ten year old and is still pretty cool, imo!

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Two more just popped into my head!

  1. Spider-Man: Look, by the time 2018 rolled around the line between gameplay and cinematics had fully blurred. Games just look good now, y’know? Still, the moment that Pete jumps out the window and you’re seamlessly web slinging around a gorgeous Manhattan remains a “holy shit” moment.
  2. Mass Effect: Imma just leave this here:
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i constantly think about the opening of Sans Soleil

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My go to is the opening FMV for Final Fantasy VII, which might be the most amazing and exciting opening to anything ever. That moment when the music crescendos right as the camera pulls back to show off the full city of Midgar, always has my hair stand on end:

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So I’ve only watched the first episode thus far, but HBO’s Watchmen sure has a hell of an opening. I had read a little about the show but basically forgotten any details, so realizing the show opens in 1920’s Tulsa was really fucking rough. That whole first episode is just a miasma of unease and anxiety. Really pulls off just never feeling comfortable.

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I just finished the tpb of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen: Who Killed Jimmy Olsen by Fraction and Lieber. It’s a look back at the goofy/zany side of DC, where many of those “superman is a dick” memes come from.
Anyway, in the first story, One Wild Night in Gorilla City, Jimmy’s wife asks him to take care of a stray cat,which after being discovered in the bathroom proceeds to explosively vomit blood for an entire page (the cat is also blue). One hell of a hook.

I’ll blur the pages, maybe not everyone wants to see a blue cat vomiting blood.

Snow Crash despite it’s flaws I still think is a fun read and the opening chapter about delivering pizza in the future hooked me.

Also while looking up the first chapter again to make sure it’s how I remembered it I found out the entire book is now on Archive.org.

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I’ve been a Kingdom Hearts fan since day 1, and even though it seems to not be everyone’s favorite segment, I absolutely love the Roxas stuff at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II. For me as a kid, only having played the first game at that point, I was enamored by the mystery of who Roxas is, why he had a keyblade, and why there was so much weird stuff going on around him. It totally threw my expectations out the window as a kid, and had me hooked with how this was going to tie in with the story of Sora, Riku, and Kairi. Not to mention, the ending of Roxas’ summer vacation is beautiful, and has, in my opinion, the best late title card of all time.

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Oh that’s a good one, I had such strong feelings watching the recreation of that opening in FFVII: Remake last year.

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Coming back to second this, because this game absolutely nails it. I’m watching it again now and just, damn, the very opening is a bit silly with the screens and “festival that never ends” stuff, but there is little that beats rocketing through autumnal countryside with d&b beats blasting in the background

Similarly impressive technical feat in a much worse overall game, The Crew 2 has a very cool trick in it’s opening race, where the world folds in on itself for a bit while switching vehicles. The game is otherwise not great, and the effect never returns

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