Almost Lost

Short update today. As you might have heard, the TV show Lost is drawing to an end this weekend. It almost feels like a significant moment in history – the end of an era. As many others, I have been an avid follower of the show for quite some time and I am looking forward to the finale.

However, even though I think the show had a great start, my fascination of faded over the years. Lost is a show that strongly exhibits one particular characteristic of most modern works of fiction – the over-reliance on hidden information. The fascination in Lost stems from the many things that the writers hint at but hold back from explaining – the secrets and mysteries. There are two problems with that approach.

One is that the entire story is dominated by the final reveal. Many stories which use this technique often lose all attractiveness once the secret is revealed to the audience. It seems like increasingly more and more stories in games and movies hinge so much on this final reveal. We even established an entire etiquette of dealing with the reveal of hidden information when discussing the different works of fiction – the spoiler alert. It is evident that the enjoyment of a show hinges on the fact that certain information is revealed at a specific moment. I understand the appeal. However, I believe that a good story shouldn’t rely on cheap tricks like this. A good story should remain attractive even when the audience knows how it will end.

And the second thing is that specifically Lost exploits that effect of hidden information to a worrisome extent. The writes of the show make the mysteries up as they go. They hint at mysteries they have to solution to yet. The idea of the storytelling is not to make a certain point. The idea is to use every trick to hold the attention of the audience as long as possible. In the end it is simply a very manipulative and exploitative approach.

As far as the finale goes, I am bracing for a monumental disappointment. The few last episodes already took a turn in a direction I find most dull and uninspired. I guess it was inevitable. So I am afraid the show won’t age well for me after all.

If you are interested in the process of how the show is written, I recommend two panel discussions with the writes on the Creative Screenwriting Magazine Podcast (Part1 and Part 2). I found the panels interesting but they pretty much confirmed by concerns about the show.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

One response to “Almost Lost”

  1. sirleto

    voting prison break as number one series that just tries to capture viewers … nothing else. beyond episode 12/13 it just does not make any sense to view it anymore because you as a viewer just clearly understand how they are f***ing arround with you as a viewer. (typically: paying viewer, being it via TV or DVD etc.)

    i totally dislike this and being a great fan of “the timetravellers wife” novell, i watched journeyman and was mutch surprised how well things go there for the total of 13 episodes (and yes, somekind of revealing is going on there, too).


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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