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When Nothing is Something

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All right, tell me, tell me about the stories. What kind of stories?

Oh, no. No stories.

No stories? So, what is it?

What'd you do today?

I got up and came to work.

There's a show. That's a show.

How is that a show?

Well, uh, maybe something happens on the way to work.

No, no, no. Nothing happens.

Well, something happens.

Well, why am I watching it?

Because it's on TV!

I recently had one of the most memorable and engaging experiences in all my years of playing games with a janky little indie game called Empyrion – Galactic Survival – you can read a detailed account of my experience here but I'll give the tl;dr version for the sake of this post.

I got myself and my spaceship stranded on a high-gravity planet without any way to escape. I asked through chat if anybody was able to come rescue me and somebody was willing but I had to wait around for 15 minutes – basically doing nothing – until they could.

So I did.

And it was fun.

Some of the best gameplay I've ever experienced involved very little gameplay at all – kind of counterintuitive, right?

But I suppose if we think in terms of 'ebb and flow' it makes sense – I'm sure there are other posts on this sub that do a more thorough job of exploring 'downtime' and how it's integral to the flow of gameplay and narrative.

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Another example that springs to mind is the Arma series – in general Arma's gameplay is highly dependent on the specific scenario and/or add-ons, and these are all fairly specific to a server or community.

There's a joke that Arma is actually a walking simulator disguised as a military simulator, and it's a good joke because there is some legitimate truth to it – many groups or 'units' as they refer to themselves in Arma like to roleplay or make scenarios as 'realistic' as possible, and 95% of your time in the military is not spent shooting at anybody, but that threat is still ever-present.

And that 'nothingness' is actually really important because it's punctuated by instances of intense action, and those are made all the more significant when juxtaposed with 'nothing' – it stands opposed to Battlefield for example which just never lets up – it's just constant explosions and in-your-face action without any space for a breath – and that's fine – but there's also something missing when a game can't, or won't, use 'nothing' as 'something'.

Not really sure where I'm going with this but that's as good a place as any to end it.

Any thoughts? I've only described multiplayer games but this aspect is probably even more important and obvious in singleplayer worlds.e

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