I’ve talked about Worldbuilding, the Chapter, and the Moment, the last of which I’ve got more to say about, but I want to talk about the other end of the bridge a bit first, for context. The Moment is really important, it’s what gets built every day and what you play and remember, so building a complete moment, that center point of the bridge, requires building from both ends.
If Worldbuilding is the big idea about the setting and the fantasy, the experience, the extreme other end is the medium itself. The other end of the bridge takes a big fantasy and breaks it down into smaller and smaller chunks, this end of the bridge looks at a big task and breaks it down into smaller and smaller chunks. The biggest chunk here is what I call the Medium.
Like Worldbuilding, the Medium is a big, equally important concept that says a lot of important things about the experience. The Medium is quite simple– how is the experience going to make its way to the audience? In what way am I going to deliver the content I’m going to make? What are the strengths and weaknesses of that choice?
Different media are good at different things. Video games are great at delivering a personalized, interacive experience, but they necessarily sacrifice some elegance of storytelling, pacing, and cinematography in order to allow control and choice on the part of the audience. Without incredible advances in technology (and possibly not even then), you won’t be able to say the exact words you’re thinking to an NPC in an RPG, or be able to lean around a corner to blind-fire a gun in the exact way you’re envisioning. A game has to put a veneer over that limitation and convince you that no, it’s okay that you can’t quite do that because either the line you’re going to see delivered is better than the one you thought of, or the tactic you wanted to use isn’t as effective as the one you can use, already built into the game.
Similarly, a movie is great at delivering drama and a crafted cinema experience, but isn’t very good at answering “what if”, and isn’t going to change much on the second, third, fourth, or fifth watching. A novel lets you get into the characters’ thoughts a bit more, but you rely on the imagination of the reader to fill in the visual gaps left by pure text.
Even subsets of a medium can have important distinctions. A fast-paced action game has to be a bit lighter on the deep, forward-thinking strategy, because juggling moment-to-moment demands and difficult strategy simultaneously can quickly become stressful and not fun. A fully-voiced, story-heavy game is less likely to have total freedom to roam and do outlandish things (or heavily compartmentalize those two things). A masterful experience knows the limitations and strengths of its medium and plays to them, rather than trying to shoehorn in features that simply don’t work as well– particularly if there isn’t a solid plan for making those features fit within the game. Consider Skyrim vs Call of Duty. Call of Duty delivers voiced lines on the fly, with no interactive options for the player, because there’s generally first-person action happening the whole time. Skyrim is also first-person with a lot of action, but dialogue with NPCs pauses the entire game world for you to speak with them, allowing you time to listen and make choices. If the game didn’t pause and accommodate that feature, the experience would quickly become unplayably chaotic as you desperately try to make important dialogue choices with some buttons while shooting arrows into a dragon and eluding pursuing guards with others (to say nothing of contextual buttons, which are necessary for complex games).
I spend a lot of time thinking about what works well in the medium, or even with the specific mechanics I’m working with. Any story I tell or feature I include needs to fit within the medium, and some things just don’t flow well over certain media compared to others. It’s important to me to know what I can do well, and really push those things as standout features of my experience.