Don’t Fill the Gaps

Last weekend I had a few hours to kill with my daughter. She’s probably too young, but nostalgia got the better of me, so I threw Never Ending Story into the ps3. It had been years since I watched it, and I enjoyed sitting there with a surprisingly quiet and enrapt 18-month old.


Later that day, she kept saying “Horsie – Oh NO!” so hopefully I haven’t scarred her for life.

While watching, especially the ending, I was reminded of some of the Assassin’s Creed storyline. If you haven’t played it, I’ll just leave it at that. Go play a few of the AC games. Anyway-

This got me googling, and I ran into this primo piece, which you should read! The crux:

The great temptation, the fatal temptation, of adult fans of fantastic fiction is the temptation of Law. We want the contents of our imagination taxonomied and classified, ordered and indexed, subject to rules and regulations. Gaps exist to be filled. Mysteries exist to be solved. Legends are just timelines that haven’t been formalized yet. Fantastic fiction becomes a code to crack.


Building Massive Worlds

With this, I was immediately struck by my recent endeavors on creating yet another new world and the story to make up the game. Yes – it’s very hard and time consuming. With games you’ve got narrative, characters, world, and you want it to relate to the gameplay as well, right?

And I had this nagging feeling the entire time Bungie described their new world: this is all too much. Cart before the horse, creating empty slots to be filled just because you “need another slot”. It’s all very disconcerting.

We need to be writing with the gaps in mind, and not afraid to have some holes. LOST got away with it, and only failed in the viewership’s eyes because they slowly filled everyone’s gaps. Once you set up a question in the player’s mind, they will fill it with some sort of answer. If the questions are wild enough, you’ll have millions of different answers, which your players will spend hours and hours arguing over. If you fill your story gaps with game content, you are removing the meta-story content from your world. And those hours spent discussing and arguing – players long for that experience. Leave the gaps, let players use their imaginations.

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