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The End of Night Book Comments

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

I have many goals for 2023 and one of mine is to read more books, particularly the ones I've had on my shelves for years that I haven't read yet. The first book I chose was The End of Night by Paul Bogard.


Book Summary

A deeply panoramic tour of the night, from its brightest spots to the darkest skies we have left.


A starry night is one of nature's most magical wonders. Yet in our artificially lit world, three-quarters of Americans' eyes never switch to night vision and most of us no longer experience true darkness. In The End of Night, Paul Bogard restores our awareness of the spectacularly primal, wildly dark night sky and how it has influenced the human experience across everything from science to art.


From Las Vegas' Luxor Beam -- the brightest single spot on this planet -- to nights so starlit the sky looks like snow, Bogard blends personal narrative, natural history, science, and history to shed light on the importance of darkness -- what we've lost, what we still have, and what we might regain -- and the simple ways we can reduce the brightness of our nights tonight.


Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book. Normally I read fantasy and science fiction books so a creative nonfiction book was a switch-up. The book was split into 9 chapters, starting with chapter 9 and counting down, which I thought was a nice testament to the darkness scale he talks about in the first chapter. The Bortle Scale, used for ranking light pollution between numbers 1 and 9 inclusive (1 being the darkest night and 9 being the brightest), tied in well with how Bogard organized the chapters. In chapter 9, he goes to the brightest spot on earth, Las Vegas and slowly dives into darker locations and even concepts in later chapters, including topics such as death and health issues caused by lighting the night.


As a creative nonfiction book, he had extensive research and conversations with leading light pollution activists tied in with his own stories and experiences of the night. While it got repetitive with him constantly mentioning his childhood home on a lake in Michigan, it helped direct me to think about the night sky that I grew up with as well and why I value the night and darkness.


A section of the book I particularly thought was interesting was in chapter 2 when he visits Paris, the City of Light. He describes that it didn't earn that nickname because it was the first lit city or the brightest but because of its intentional lighting design that enhances the night and yields a romanticism that many cities are missing with the bright and glaring cobra head lighting. He contrasts the lighting design of Paris with the almost lack thereof in London, describing the stark difference well enough for me to picture despite having never been to either city.


I won't summarize the entire book but will definitely recommend anyone to read it. The main takeaways for me from the book are as follows:

- Intentional and planned lighting is key, more light does not equate to greater safety

- Romanticize melancholy and know darkness

- People need first-hand experiences to see value in anything


How This Relates to Game Development

I'll be interested to see how the other books expand my design thinking, but this book was pretty obvious to me.


One chapter of the book focuses on the notion that light equates to safety, and therefore, the more light you have at night, the safer it is. However, through Bogard's research, he discovers that this is a false claim and that more light can actually be less safe. Instead, intentional lighting can increase safety.


Most municipals and homeowners don't put much thought behind the lights they add outside, but with the notion that more is better, they add the lights randomly, and more often than not, they add very bright and glaring lights. The lights then add a great contrast between the pools of light and the pools of darkness. With the light glaring in your eyes, it makes it harder to see what's lurking in the shadows beyond your small beacon of hope. Additionally, a lot of lighting that stays on all night while people are sleeping often makes it easier for burglars to enter because they can see what they are doing clearly (motion-activated lighting is recommended instead).


While all games use lighting in some capacity to highlight different areas of the levels and to help guide the player, this book made me especially consider horror games.


Using streetlights in intervals with the pool of light and perceived safety, contrasted with the encroaching darkness can add a lot of tension to even just a basic, straight path level. I know I've seen this used in countless games, playing with people's psychology and fear of the dark.


Something that I highly appreciated in a game I recently played was the use of motion-activated lighting. During one part of The Quarry by Supermassive Games, **spoilers incoming** you and another character make your way to a scrapyard in hopes of finding a missing car part to escape summer camp from hell. As you make your way through the maze-like paths, huge overhead lights flash on when you enter their motion detection range and slowly flash off. I knew at this moment, you were going to soon encounter a werewolf (the game's main enemy) here.


Personally, I think some of the best storytelling is predictable because you can clearly see the lead-up and how things got to that instead of a random event coming out of left field. This is why, when your characters finally find the correct car with the needed piece intact on a magnetic lift and you see the motion-activated lights start flashing on following the path that you just took, the werewolf encounter in this section was especially terrifying for me. It was the buildup and the warning that these lights provided, where you knew what was going to happen and it did, with nothing you could do to stop it. It wasn't the first encounter with the werewolves. It wasn't the first time you actually saw the werewolves. And it wasn't the hardest or longest fight or even the last for anything. But it was definitely the most memorable part of the game for me all because of an interesting lighting choice and a predictability to the level.


The full level can be seen in this youtube video:


Comments


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Claire Yeash

Level Designer

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