WEEK 26 - #VoidDeckWriter: World-Building for Strategy
Week 26 - it took me a while to put out a review I was able to stand behind (for Stardew Valley), but it also got me thinking about world-building and how it can help with strategic planning.
Week 26 - We’re at the halfway point! I’ve posted a World-Building review on one of my favourite games, Stardew Valley, on my Instagram last month. And while it took me a while to put out a review I was able to stand behind, it also got me thinking about world-building and how it can help with strategic planning.
WHAT IS WORLD-BUILDING?
How world-building happens and important aspects of world-building differs from person to person. On a fundamental level, world-building is creating the setting (environment and culture) for your story to happen within.
Depending on the length and complexity of the story you wish to create, there will be different factors you want to consider when you are thinking about your story’s setting. For myself, I realise most world-building can be broken down into three basic modules:
CORE: What Drives and Motivates your World - “What started this whole caboodle? Where does everything I want to do overlap?”
IMMERSION: What is this World - “How are your characters experiencing this world? Day-to-day?”
SUSTAINABILITY: How will this World Continue - “Will this world continue to exist with the similar core and immersion without your characters or story? What will the shifts be?”
Here’s an example using one of my favourite games to dig for lore - Five Night’s at Freddy’s:
CORE: Haunted animatronics created for a plethora of reasons (mostly to hunt children)
IMMERSION: Alertness in the dark, especially in empty, public spaces that pose meaning to children (e.g. Pizza-and-Games Restaurants, Arcades etc…)
SUSTAINABILITY: World sustainability here is tied to the story - games and books continue due to more unanswered questions in the story. The world ends up living on as a legacy - an urban legend passed over among children after each major development or stage is completed.
Of course, the immersion of FNAF’s world is a lot more than this - not to mention how most of FNAF’s lore happens around the books and games - but you can get a gist on how I view world-building as a process.
WHAT IS STRATEGY? FUNDAMENTALLY?
It’s a slimy word that should not be used, especially when you’re a creative working for a higher purpose.
LOL, I kid.
After explaining what ‘strategy’ is, though, I’m sure some of you might realise that you use strategy a lot more than you think you do. Or at least, you are more of a strategist than you believe yourself to be.
Like world-building, the definition of strategy can differ between individuals.
However, fundamentally speaking, strategies all culminate to a similar factor - it’s a plan / approach to apply to get to a long-term goal or overall aim.
So on a very raw level, having ‘no strategy’ in itself is also a strategy. A ‘wait-and-see’ approach is also a strategy. And while there’s no hard and fast rule on what strategy is the ‘best’ strategy, it aims to do one major thing: alignment between your actions and your goal.
So what does this have to do with you being a creator?
Firstly, strategy affects how you want to go about telling your story. Whether it’s the medium you’ve chosen to tell your story, or the kind of perspective you’ve chosen to tell the story from, it’s your approach to tell the best story you want to your most ideal reader. Perhaps you might not have it at the front of your mind, but it informs your action plan as you create later on. Being conscious of your approach will also allow you to better monitor both your story progress and your progress as a creator.
Secondly, strategy affects how you play your role in the creative industry. As individuals, we do not exist in a void. In an industry of creatives, it’s important that we create and are at peace with our own identities. Again, if we are conscious about our approach and are able to align who we are with the stories we want to tell, and the audiences we want to reach, it makes our engagement a lot less daunting.
And finally, strategy affects how you want to present your stories to the world - mostly on the Marketing and promotional front, but also in your engagement. Again, good strategy for this would mean that you have a better chance to get aligned with who you are, what you produce, and who you want to reach, and all of that comes first before any or all influence from external circumstances.
So strategy is not about manipulation, it’s about how to achieve your goals while staying as true to yourself as possible.
It’s a necessity in the process.
What is World-Building or Strategy to you? Do you notice stories, worlds, or characters first? Share them in the comments - I’d like to know as well =)
SIMILARITIES BETWEEN WORLD-BUILDING AND STRATEGY
The short answer is this - Both of them are about alignment despite the circumstances.
The complex answer asks this instead - Alignment to what?
Building a world you or the organisation you’re in wants to move forward with means coming up with the rationale, timelines, and storylines needed to keep everyone involved afloat until you reach your goals, however long they may take and whatever obstacle you may reach. Motivation and willpower are also very fickle creatures, especially when you have no stake or interest in whichever direction you have set for yourself, or your organisation has set for you. Therefore, using world-building / strategic storytelling or explanation can aid with aligning yourself to desired purposes, or at least, understanding the reason behind certain directions. This is especially useful when there comes a time where you start asking yourself - “Why am I doing this?”, because you found yourself in a cycle of do-do-do-do-do, without knowing why and how your “do” contributes to the bigger picture, the “why”.
Because both world-building and strategy are interested in the sustainability / long-term maintenance of the organisation / your story, both these aspects are important to be aware of, especially when you get lost moving in the direction of wherever the story / organisation wants.
However, do take note of the next point...
CULTURE EATS STRATEGY FOR BREAKFAST
All of that said, I would like to add a note that is, in my opinion, one of the most important aspects of strategy and world-building to take note. To quote Peter Drucker, “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast.”
Literally speaking - it doesn’t matter how strong the strategic plan to do whatever you set out to do is, if you or your organisation doesn’t have the culture to support that, you will still fall short.
To put it in simpler terms, if the student is not ready, they won’t learn anything from the best teachers, regardless of how much they need the lessons. And as much as we want to shake our head at humanity, it is true - people who are more aware and motivated to reach an organisational or their own goals will be more inclined to follow their own plans.
“BUT CULTURE IS SO HARD TO CHANGE!”
This then brings me to my final point...
HOW THEN, DOES WORLD-BUILDING AID YOU WITH STRATEGY AND VICE VERSA?
Firstly, world-building involves taking honest perspectives into account. Particularly in identifying your Core and the true state of your world’s Immersion. World-Building also involves breaking down the many ideas that come from countless brainstorms, writing, and rewriting, and turning them into main ideas that form a strong foundation for your story / organisation. This is called finding the Core of your world - what drives your world, the reason for your existence.
On the other hand, strategy brings in the awareness of the world around your world (meta. hehe.) and informs your approach to building your story / organisation, or the direction you want them to take. For example, you may want to present your story in the form of a visual novel game instead of a fictional podcast because you want a high level of interactivity, after realising that many people in your ideal audience circle love immersion and participation. Strategy takes your goal and aids you in getting there by aligning your actions / immersion aspects to your Core.
Next, built worlds in stories are often not done in a single shot or through pages and pages of detailed description. Instead, they are gradually revealed as the story goes along, through anchor points like major story milestones, or a setting that the protagonist just keeps going back to. In such a long journey, having these anchor points help creators and consumers find their way after going off track, or if they get lost. In strategy, they’re called “milestones”. And they’re used to check progress or form blocks of time where reviews take place.
That said, do take note that in many organisations, strategy has the risk of being highly Key Performance Indicator (KPI) influenced, but not necessarily organisationally driven. For example, a company that has been reusing annual KPIs may find itself regressing because while they have decided to change their direction and realign their staff, the KPIs, which have been tied to funding, accounting, and staff incentives, have not. Hence, the importance of using techniques like world-building (Core-Immersion-Sustainability) to better communicate your direction and to better map your way back to realignment and greater motivation.
Changing culture and sustainable change, because it’s very much to do with gradual change, is about playing the long game. And for that, communication is key. What better way to communicate across levels than with a story built in a world audiences can relate to?
That’s how legends and traditions got passed down through the last generations, wasn’t it?
And that’s it from me - see all of you next week!
What are the Cores of your worlds? Worlds that you have built for yourself and you immerse yourself in as you set your life directions? Let me know in the comments!