What is Worldbuilding?
Worldbuilding is the art of creating an imaginary setting, usually to serve as the backdrop for a narrative or as a framing device for a story worth telling. Writers, artists, game designers, and more all must create worlds. These worlds may be visual, they may be game oriented, or they may be narrative. They can be mirror images of our own reality, a high school auditorium in 1967 for instance, or they can be as strange and wonderful as Baum’s Oz. A good world, however, is immersive. The audience is drawn into it. Places, structures, and people are all brought to vibrant life. A good world is a destination an audience will remember for the rest of their days.
Any science fiction fan will be able to name the planets of Lucas’ Galaxy Far, Far Away. Any fantasy reader could outline the history of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Any comic book lover could describe the residents of the Marvel or DC Universe.
Created worlds often have their own history, geography, inhabitants, culture, and language. These imagined elements intermingle with one another and become an essential part of any story. A good world is more than just a setting, it saturates the narrative. There would be no Harry Potter without Hogwarts. There would be no Peter Pan without Neverland. There would be no Lovecraftian Universe without the mythos. One needs to look no further than Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series to see that while a single story cannot exist without the world, the world is immense enough to contain a countless number of stories.
There are many reasons to create a world. Writers, comic book artists, and showrunners, all create worlds to tell stories. Game designers create worlds for players to explore. Artists create worlds to reflect upon. Often, people design worlds simply for the sheer joy of crafting something they love. Worldbuilding can be a deeply personal enterprise, or it can be open for all to partake and enjoy. It may be economically driven, or it come from somewhere within.
Creating or visiting an imaginary world may feel like an escape from the burdens of our own, but it is also a learning experience, a type of meditative journey, and an artform. While building a world may seem like a narcissistic endeavor in playing god, it is also an act of unadulterated creation intrinsically tied to the proud joys of seeing something born into existence. While worldbuilding may be viewed as a childish passion, it is also a passion shared widely across the human spectrum – why else would the best worlds be so popular, from ancient times until today?
There is something uniquely wonderful about worldbuilding and perhaps what makes it wonderful is as varied as the worlds themselves.