Rational Basis

A good test for plot design to keep elements from getting too ridiculous.

Why do we hate seemingly ridiculous parts of movies set in fictional universes? After all, they are fictional so why can’t writers just invent whatever they want? The truth is, audiences, especially gamers, have some sort of rational basis expectation. That means, worlds need to be consistent with any lore created, and big changes from our own reality should be foreshadowed or hinted to. In the absence of information, we expect things to generally follow the same laws and rules we observe in our real world. In other words, if you are re-writing the laws of physics in your game, make sure to either hint at that or explicitly highlight that this is a reality in your design universe. Dropping some out of nowhere left hook, like, “guess what physics don’t apply here,” is a great way to piss off your target audience.

Star Wars VIII was very divisive among fans. I think one of the primary reasons was the lack of a rational basis for much of what occured. I won’t rehash any specific criticisms here, but as a general rule of thumb, if you have to draw on obscure references and complex hidden explanations to justify primary story elements, you are failing as a story-teller. Changing the rules and tricking fans is not a twist, and these gimmicks only serve to divide your audience. Make sure to build the rules of your world in the lore and the story before leveraging them, otherwise you may leave people feeling cheated.

Life Goes On: Done to Death