Game Design: Story IV

By 03/01/2018Game Design

Now listening to: I’m over it

Worlds are fragile. Let me repeat that. Worlds are fragile.

Why are worlds fragile? Because much like a dial-up modem connects to the internet, a reader connects to your story through a coded handshake. There’s a lot of information in that handshake, like the underpinning assumptions about your world. Mess up the handshake during the story and the connection will drop. Everything in your story can change, except for the assumptions about it. Here are some examples of careless handling of a beloved world’s tapestry!

In The Last Jedi, with hyperspace kamikaze strikes possible, the entire body of work of “Star Wars” is completely pointless. The fact that Leia can pull a space “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” with no prior Force powers made manifest negates most Jedi’s character building during training. To cap it all, Force ghosts can now strike from beyond anywhere with lightning, so we’re definitely getting into “Jedi can do what the plot needs them to do” territory.

 

I find that the most beloved worlds in media follow a rule: it’s just like the real world, with a twist.

Where is the twist in “Dragon Ball”? Well, it’s the wish-granting Dragon Balls. Goku could be human. The Red Ribbon Army could be plain old Nazis. The Kamehameha wave could just be an exceptionally powerful physical attack. But without the Dragon Balls, there’s no uniqueness to the setting, no outstanding detail to explore how characters shape themselves around it. That’s why “Dragon Ball” was at its best when the quest for the spheres was center stage.

We human beings are a spatial bunch, and a map goes a long way in building a world’s verisimilitude. There’s something about reading a map that helps us imagine a setting. So the foundation of what I’m trying to build starts with the generation of a map.

You need to explain the weirdest thing in your universe in simple terms. If it’s hacking in the 90s, Hollywood would useĀ a computer screen to flash a bunch of different files in rapid succession while the hacker tippity-tapped like a maniac on a keyboard. It’s not that no one in Hollywood knows how hacking works, but that no one in the audience would’ve believed something as mind-boggling as hacking was mostly running simple commands and waiting a whole bunch while eating Cheetos.

 

#77 Weirdest Thing

#78 Story

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