In every great story, we are presented with questions, with some sort of mystery. In many stories, we get those questions answered and those mysteries solved by the end and it’s all wrapped up in a nice little bow. We get a satisfying conclusion because we know all there is to know and then we don’t have to think about it any longer. But then there are those other stories that don’t tell you all there is to it. They’ll pose many questions to you, but you’ll only get some of them answered with others left up to your imagination. And yet still others don’t want to answer anything at all.
If you’ve ever gotten into the mystery genre, you’ll know how much a good mystery can suck you in. Who killed this person? Why and how? Will the investigators figure it out and catch the killer? Now, I personally am that that big a fan of mysteries, but I understand why other people are. Maybe it’s because it’s a brain tickler and you want to figure things out along with the investigators, or maybe you want to see how they’ll figure it out, or some other reason. Usually, though, once the mystery is solved, you feel like you can put it down forever without having to think about it again. The mystery is solved, so you no longer have to invest time into it.
That’s what sets apart those sorts of stories from the ones that don’t reveal everything. Those stories that never answer all your questions, and even have other questions hidden deeper below, teasing you to look deeper for yourself, to ask more questions to see if you can find the answer on your own, rather than giving you a definitive answer. Those stories that force you to think about things are more likely to stay with you longer, because once you start thinking about it, you won’t be able to stop until you get those answers, but if you’re never given those answers, you’ll never stop thinking about it.
A popular example of this would be the Five Nights at Freddy’s series. This is a series of horror games that have extremely simple – and in some peoples’ opinions, repetitive – game play. On the surface it’s nothing but a game setting you up for jumpscares, so why is it so popular? It’s because of the story that goes with it, and more importantly the mystery. These games have had nonstop theorizing, with the theories changing and evolving after each game has come out. No one can agree on a definitive answer to these mysteries, because everything is so cryptic. But no one can stop thinking about it either.
Another example of this is the television show from the mind of David Lynch and Mark Frost, Twin Peaks. What drew people into this show was the mystery behind who killed Laura Palmer. David Lynch never wanted this mystery to be solved, because he believed that without that mystery, there would be no point to the show. It was solved, though, and even after it was solved, it continued on. Lynch wasn’t involved with most of it for a long time after that and the show did start to go downhill, but then it introduced a new mystery. This new mystery built upon old mysteries, and eventually when Lynch returned to the show, he made the best of it all and brought us something spectacular. The show ended on a cliffhanger, with many, many unanswered questions.
We may have gone into Twin Peaks with the question of who killed Laura Palmer on our minds, only to find out but have the show continue. That question of who killed her was the drawing force of the mystery, but so many other things kept coming up, giving us more and more things to wonder about. Just because we know who killed Laura Palmer doesn’t mean we’re going to go away and forget about this. We still have much to think about with this. We still have unanswered questions.
The box in the beginning of this post is from the end of the final installment of the Five Nights at Freddy’s series. The locks on the box seem to be interactable, as they’ll move when you hover your mouse over them. Many people thought that perhaps there was some sort of easter egg or secret code that you’d have to find to be able to unlock the box. The creator of the game stated he was going to have DLC or some sort of content for this game come Halloween of this year, and many people thought maybe he would open the box with that. But he stated that he wasn’t going to.
“What’s in the box? It’s the pieces put together. But the bigger question is- would the community accept it that way? The fact that the pieces have remained elusive this time strikes me as incredible, and special, a fitting conclusion in some ways, and because of that, I’ve decided that maybe some things are best left forgotten, forever.”
What’s in the box is the answer to every unsolved mystery. But what would be the point of solving them? Are you just going to forget about it after you’ve found out? Or are you going to respect the mystery and realize that some things are best left unsolved?
In real life, we don’t get all the answers. We don’t know every detail of something, and we never will. And that’s not a bad thing. Some truths are meant to stay hidden. But they’re also the things that stay with us and keep us thinking about them.
We may never learn the truth, but we’re not going to forget so easily.