Post Plot Depression
Reminder: GSN = Game/Series/Novel
You may not have encountered the term before, but I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about. You’ve just finished a good story. You sit back and revel in the afterglow of the experience, and then it hits you: You are never going to feel this way about this story again; you will never have another chance to truly bond with these characters. The universe that you have slowly built a picture of in your mind now ceases to grow.
You can read/watch whatever it was again, but your first time has been taken from you and it can never be recovered. Depending on the nature of the plot and any twists therein, the chances of you truly forgetting enough to enjoy the plot again are negligible. Because, let’s be honest, only the most memorable plots evoke this feeling.
And it doesn’t stop there. Post-Plot Depression (PPD) goes hand-in-hand with the Emotional Investment Refractory Period (EIRP). This one isn’t as straight forward, but bear with me. EIRP is that time during which you don’t really want to move onto anything else. You think things like “How could anything possibly compare to what I have just experienced?” Whatever you had planned to move on to just doesn’t seem as appealing any more. EIRP length varies widely depending on the person and the GSN they have just completed. It may last minutes for some, or hours, or even days in the most severe cases.
Since I’m feeling particularly scientific today, I would like to propose that a dose-response relationship exists between the quality of a GSN and the length of EIRP. That is to say: The better quality the GSN completed, the longer the length of the EIRP. The length of the GSN also has an effect; given two GSNs of the same quality, the longer GSN will result in a longer EIRP. It may seem like a fairly obvious idea, but I think it’s worth pointing out nonetheless.
I suppose the logical direction in which to continue this discussion would be looking at what can be done to minimise the EIRP, or perhaps avoid PPD altogether. And to those of you looking for those sorts of answers I have to ask: Why? PPD and EIRP aren’t pleasant to experience, certainly, but are they not indicators that you have just experienced something amazing? Would you really tell your past self to avoid the GSN that evoked your PPD response? I’m sure that most, if not all of you would answer that last question in the negative.
PPD is a natural response, as is the EIRP. In fact, the EIRP could be likened to the palette cleansers used at wine tastings. Perhaps after becoming emotionally invested in a story the EIRP functions to cleanse your mental palette so that you can properly enjoy the next GSN you choose to experience. Previously, I have tried to push past the EIRP and start a new GSN anyway. It can definitely be done, but even as I start the new GSN I find myself thinking back to the last one, which I believe has an overall negative impact on my new experience (a small one, but it’s there).
So what can you do? PPD is something I only really suffer from after finishing a long, story-heavy GSN, so what I’ve been doing lately is switching to lighter, more comedic GSNs that don’t really require any emotional investment to enjoy. This means that, while I still lament the conclusion of the other GSN, I don’t stop to dwell on the emptiness I feel (well, not as much anyway), and I can also move on to the next GSN feeling refreshed and able to fully enjoy the experience. Maybe that won’t work for some of you, but it works for me.
In any case the experiences of PPD and EIRP vary between individuals. Perhaps some of you will have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, and I have no idea whether you are lucky or not. Are such people immune to PPD, or do they simply not enjoy their GSNs as much as others? Certainly, the ability to connect and empathise with fictional characters is a necessary one in order for PPD to affect you, so would those without such an ability be missing out? My answer is yes. PPD is a negative phenomenon, but it cannot occur without an overwhelmingly positive experience. It is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all, as they say.
Can you relate to what i’m talking about? Let me know in the comments below! What caused your worst case of PPD?