Writing without the Reader: Reasoning Why Sleeping Dogs’ Plot Sucks Like a Black Hole

http-masonicgamer.comwp-contentuploads201208Sleeping-Dogs

As you may gather from reading the post title, I’ve been playing Sleeping Dogs recently. Considering that Square Enix puts the digital version on sale all the time, there’s a good chance you’ve played it, too. Somewhere, they probably have it on sale right now. I hear that if you bump into a Square Enix employee on the street, they will literally beg you to take their game. It’s really easy to get at a discount, is what I’m saying.

It’s well worth the price, too. The game is good. You won’t see much new here, but the game pulls its mechanics from some of the best out there. I enjoyed almost every bit of the game throughout. But there’s one area in Sleeping Dogs that’s just rotten. The plot. The plot of this game is so weak the rest of the game still steals its lunch money. The plot of this game is so stupid it had to repeat the third grade twice. The plot of this game is so foul… eh, you get the picture by now.

So what’s the big deal about this game having a bad plot? After all, video games have excuse plots all the time. Well, excuse plots are one thing, but Sleeping Dogs’ plot isn’t even coherent. But Sleeping Dogs’ plot is bad for a completely different reason than most sucky plots. When I was playing the game, the plot really felt like the designers had a complete script, but were picking and choosing what moments to include based on what they could make a mission out of, and just discarding the rest. There’s a thing an author can do with a work that I call ‘Writing without the Reader,’ literary academics probably have some smarter-sounding term for it, and the average person would probably call something like ‘Crap Happening Off-screen, Now Stop Making Up Useless Names You Dumb Blogger.’ But yeah, it’s essentially major events happening off-screen. You don’t always need the viewer present for every single important happening in your story. Some events you can have going on completely in the white space between chapters, and leave the reader to catch up on it by working through the results. It’s a tricky thing to get right, and not a skill I have yet, but better writer’s than I have used it effectively to streamline their works.

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