So there I was, looking--once again--to see if Peter Dunne had written another book. (Of course, not. It was an opus. I think it's going to take awhile to ferment another) When I stumbled on an article by a professor somewhere out on the East Coast that dissected the backstory in Final Fantasy.
I like Final Fantasy. It's got a strong storyline, the characters don't get on my nerves and what woman doesn't like Sephiroth?
It took three days before I finally understood it. I got one sentence, but it was a good sentence. Interchanges between characters embed history in attitudes. Which shows you how much fun it was to read. That's an easy sentence.
In other words, Final Fantasy is an RGP, or role-playing game. It attracts people who need constant stimulation to stay focused--and that's not what the guy said, that's my own personal observances after being a game-wife and mother. If you've never played it, there are parts where the characters break away and talk, not for long, and never for more than a sentence or two, but enough to clue the player in. So the people who wrote Final Fantasy had to think of a way to fill in backstory without losing players.
I think the writers used a lot of movie techniques. Like UNK said, you can't film the inside of someones head, so you do subtext and dialog and hope for the best.
The true genius of Final Fantasy is the way the characters play on each other. To me, subtext is the words that aren't there. Like when the hero does something, moves a certain way and reacts--which "shows" us the internal dialog. No words, see? It's all invisible.
But in FF, the words are there. The way the characters react to each other--lays out the subtext.
Say, if you were to go up to someone you know and say, "It's been a long time." Depending on who you are, when you say it, and how, it reveals the personality and background of the other person. The way the other person reacts to you, reveals backstory and attitudes.
Say if I went to conference (which is in DC this year) and stood around talking to people who know me from RD. They know me as a certain kind of person because of the interaction they have with me. They see me from the outside, and without some kind of connection to put me in context--they have no clue what I'm really like.
But if Cowboy were to come up (because DC is close), his appearance, his attitudes toward me, and the way we talk to each other suddenly reveal backstory without me dropping into internal dialog, or going to subtext.
"No steel-toes? That's not like you," tells you A) I used to do something where I thought steel-toes were a necessity. B) I changed myself to fit into my current situation, but it's just that. A change. Or Cowboy wouldn't be talking about the difference.
It opens up a lot of possibilities.