A World Half Full is the other half of the more depressing Crapsack World (which was formerly known as World Half Empty). It is usually featured in a similar condition to the above, a place where the world is in an extremely broken state. In fact it is almost the same hellhole as it was when it was more depressing. However, it can be saved, sort of...
In this world, The Protagonist is only one man, he can't bring life instantly to an abandoned village, but he can find the materials needed to bring upon the seeds of growth that will bring life back to the once desolate town. However, such changes are not overnight miracles and in fact many of them will not be noticed in his or her lifetime. He is also quite tempted to exploit the wasteland and will have to resist such urges. More Anti Heroic characters may not even bother holding back.
Just as before, the forces of darkness run through relatively unmolested and it is ill advised for characters to confront them head on. Most of the time, the protagonist will skirt around the major sources of power and just go for the source of ills itself and it will rarely result inthe total destruction of the enemy, especially if the problem is Inherent in the System and the Big Bad is, for all his current importance, ultimately replaceable.
However, victory is often a minor one as it is only a small portion of a constantly decaying world that has been fixed. While you may change life for the better for your people and solve today's ills, everyone else could potentially suffer whether or not you are deliberately or accidentally causing it through false progress or is still suffering as usual, unaffected by the hero's successes. Nevertheless, it's still better than waiting for the end to come, as any Knight in Sour Armor will tell you.
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Fist of the North Star exemplifies this: just because the world is torn by nuclear fire doesn't mean it can't be rebuilt, and just because violence can be used to oppress the weak doesn't mean you can't use it to protect the weak and and make the world a better place either.
Ghost in the Shell is a world half full for most of the main characters. They frequently expose corruption and conspiracies, and stop terrorists from killing more innocents, but at the end of the day, their actions don't do anything to change the corrupt and uncaring system of Japanese society. Still, they feel pretty good about what little good they can do.
Gundam X was all about this, taking place After the End. We would expect a Mad Max or Hokuto No Ken world where the entire earth was an unsafe place where slavers took anyone they like, Raider left behind huge examples of their brutality and the government purging and reclaiming what is theirs. Instead humanity continue to move on. The world isn't some sort of badly irradiated earth despite its share of Colony Drop and humanity has begun its path towards civilization. Sure we got a few hiccups like the Frost Brothers and remnant of Earth and Space's army wanting to continue the war. But the setting notably light for a supposedly Crapsack World.
Gundam AGE starts off as this. In spite of the Earth Federation being rotten and incompetent in handling the problem of the Ax-Crazy UE murdering colonies mercilessly, Flit Asuno and Grodek were dedicated in saving the humanity from the UE's vile clutches and promoting peace and harmony. That is, until the Diva's crew realize that the UE are human soldiers for Veigan and Grodek shows that his true goal was revenge against the man who killed his family, not to saving humanity. Worst of all, Flit Asuno refuses to accept that the Veigan soldiers are human and prefers to continue viewing himself as a savior... for the corrupt Earth Federation. And he's more than willing to take Veigan lives to become this. The war's only going to get worse from there...
G Gundam, once Domon finds out just how the Gundam Fights have destroyed Earth and The Devil Gundam's true programing and Master Asia's intentions. He finds out that everyone he thought was a villain was really trying to restore Earth and protect it from the real bad guys.
Darker Than Black is a Darker and Edgierdeconstruction of superhumans, whose protagonist is a mass-murdering assassin who's basically just working for The Syndicate for lack of other options. The world is full of superpowered sociopaths, and the governmental agencies and criminal groups that employ them are locked in a pretty much constant underground struggle to control both the Contractors and the Imported Alien Phlebotinum from the Gate. Nevertheless, over the course of the show it becomes clear that Contractors can have feelings and morals, and that it's possible for things to improve; several mini-arcs end relatively happily, and in the end Hei manages to Take a Third Option when forced to choose between allowing a genocide of all Contractors and wiping Japan off the map, and the end of the first season shows that the brokenMasquerade will help prevent rogue Contractors from running wild. Still a Bittersweet Ending, and things haven't improved too much by the second season, but there's hope.
Monster is a bleak world where lots of violence and death happens. The villain, Johan, is a heavy contender for the most evil bastard ever written into existence. But its shown that he and his supporters are the exception. Most of the people in the series are decent to really good people who just want to help others succeed or atone for past misdeeds. And those who go through horrific trauma can put the pieces back together and enjoy life. It's never to late to start anew. Accentuated by Nina who after the terrible things she goes through and coming so close to suicide goes on to living a normal and happy life afterwards.
In Bleach, Soul Society is becoming this, thanks to Ichigo. In chapter 461, we've learned that the influence of Ichigo Kurosaki has changed General Yamamoto so thoroughly that the previously Lawful Neutral commander of the Gotei 13 gave a direct order to all Gotei Captains to restore Ichigo's powers. Captain Hitsugaya comments that before Ichigo came along, the General never would have given any such order.
In Naruto, the world was a Crapsack World before Hashirama and Uchiha Madara formed an alliance and founded the system that somewhat limited the bloodshed. The world's still far from perfect, but good people can and do make a difference. Ironically, the main villains of the series are people who believe the world is still a Crapsack one and they are willing to do anything to make their ideal world a reality.
Tower of God: If you get really, really lucky, you might earn this for yourself and those close enough to you for you to protect. If not, say hello to a Crapsack World.
Snow White And Seven Dwarfs takes place in a post-apocalyptic Japan run by a dictatorship government, leaving most of its people in despair and without hope for a better future. That said, you can bet the heroes—either people who haven't given up or who regain faith—work like hell to earn their 'happily ever after.' While Tokyo is still in shambles by the end, the worst is over and it's rebuilding from there on.
Superman:You came after all. What changed your mind?
Doctor Fate:It was because you went back. You reminded me that it's not just the forces of evil that never give up.
Both universes (especially the DC universe) are subversions though: the people are totally happy and just as well-off (if not even more so, considering their excellent role models/guardians and superior technology and possibilities) as people are in Real Life, because they've been dealing with that sort of thing on an everyday basis for decades, and don't consider the danger and destruction to be anything out of the ordinary, nor does this Seen It All mentality make them cynical or depressed.
Arguably, from the point of view of mutants if nothing else, the future the X-Man Bishop came from would be a World Half Full contrasted against the Crapsack World future of Days of Future Past. Both look like post-apocalyptic urban hellscapes whenever we see them, but Bishop's future features a mutant police force trying to put the world back together while Days of Future Past has mutants hunted almost to extinction.
The eponymous hero of Moonshadow sees his mother die violently, is committed to a madhouse, fights a war and ends up in a concentration camp (among other things) in a world full of meaningless deaths, tragic ironies and no clear answers. Or to quote the title of a work of philosophy everyone in this world has read, We Are All Ants In A Meaningless Cosmos. Regardless, Moonshadow adopts a more hopeful philosophy, though, as exemplified by the other work of philosophy everyone has read, and finds peace anyway. It Makes Sense in Context.
The eponymous character's job is to clean up the Earth so people can live there again. It gets delayed a bit.
The Humans aboard the Axiom are a better example, even if it's done for comedy. Wall-E is just following his Directive, The Captain making the decision to return to Earth is this trope. The film ends without directly answering whether the Earth can actually sustain life, although the credits show the restoration was successful.
While Joss Whedon likes to use True Art Is Angsty, one can say one can view the world as either half empty or half full in his works. For example, in Titan A.E., Earth is gone and we have only begun to rebuild our lives after spending so many years in an inhospitable system mocked and slowly dwindling. Earth was eventually recreated and a new life begins. It will be a while before humanity becomes a superpower, but it is a start.
9 might be this Up to Eleven. Everyone in the planet is dead, except for some little robots and a giant war machine that killed all the people. And in the end, life is back - in the form of bacteria, meaning that evolution might evolve intelligence again in a couple billion years.
Film — Live-Action
Some of the background material to Avatar implies that the horrific environmental destruction inflicted on Earth might just be capable of repair by imported Pandoran lifeforms, and by learning environmental respect from the Na'vi.
This also implies that stopping or reducing the delivery of unobtanium might be for the better, since the RDA not only sabotages attempts to artificial create it but also uses it to create wasteful mega-projects which will ultimately drive Earth's economy into the ground. For example they plan to use it for a mega-monorail to get cheap workers into rich countries to do jobs and send them back into their slums at the end of the day, essentially destroying millions of jobs in these countries and dooming their economies.
Life Is Beautiful. A cheerful and whimsical film set in the backdrop of the Holocaust.
The Postman: The world as we know it was destroyed in an apocalypse. The United States no longer exists. Yet Kevin Costner, in an accidental act of heroism, reignites the U.S. Postal Service, bringing hope to the hopeless and hap to the hapless.
Slumdog Millionaire: Sometimes, in spite of all the impossible obstacles, you get a Happily Ever After.
The Dark Knight Saga. Gotham is a horrible city to live in with violent criminals, corruption everywhere, and it's on the verge of economic collapse. But throughout the entire trilogy, it's shown that one man can truly make a difference and the average person will strive to do the right thing at the end of the day.
Unforgiven: The Wild West in general is a Crapsack World where killing is an everyday occurrence. Surprinsingly enough, this movie seems to be just another example... until we realize that T Claudia has been dead for years and she still has influence over Munny... it could be said that this is her tale... how she still manages to be the only light in The Western darkness.
Elysium: Max's Heroic Sacrifice grants everyone on Earth citizenry of Elysium, and Med-Pods are flown out to Earth, providing everyone proper and adequate enough health care service.
Lois McMaster Bujold's The Sharing Knife: There are life-sucking demons that surface with some frequency and can only be killed with human sacrifice; the Lakewalkers, who fight the demons, don't respect the farmers and the farmers don't trust the Lakewalkers. The heroes of the story don't believe they can eliminate the demons or even make the fight against them substantially easier, but they work to foster greater understanding between the farmer and Lakewalker populations so their society isn't undone by avoidable ignorance and mistrust.
Nancy Farmer's House of the Scorpion: The United States and Mexico are both Crapsack World societies, but Matt, now in charge of the nation of Opium, may be able to right many of the problems that have befallen them.
Joseph Heller's Catch-22. Over the course of the series, the entire supporting cast dies meaningless deaths, scheming bureaucrats sacrifice lives like pawns in chess while incompetent commanders vie to out do one another in how many casualties they can rack up, and the only person who has the balls to do anything about it is a self-confessed madman. But at the end, the protagonist has the following revelation: his superiors are literally too incompetent to stop him from deserting, meaning that he could have left anytime he wanted to; the only thing stopping him was his own inaction. He does so, and the story is given at least some semblance of a Happy Ending.
A Scanner Darkly. The hero's brain is fried from Substance D but that allows him to infiltrate the drug manifacturing facility the rehab clinic he was taken to and gather the evidence needed to destroy the syndicate making the drug.
Andrew Vachss's Burke books. Beneath the veneer of civility citizens see is a veritable cesspit of crime, the system is at best apathetic and at worst actively malicious and Burke can't stamp out all crime or save everyone - in fact, each book's villain invariably has quite a few notches on his belt by the time Burke gets to him - but every scumbag he manages to put down means a few more innocents who won't have to be victims.
Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds. Things are actually worse at the end of the book than at the beginning, but the characters now know not only how to fix things, but also how to make the whole world better than before. It's a very long road, but they've taken the first steps.
For those who place the ultra-dark, ultra-depressing The Road on the idealistic end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, the characters of the novel move the world to this category. The victories they win are small and moral in nature, and tend to be along the lines of "not eating people." But the strength of spirit in the two protagonists is enough to keep a spark of genuine humanity alive.
The world of Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities is a dark and miserable one, and the protagonists (Nailer and Mahlia respectively) can't do much about that. But as of the end of his book, Nailer has managed to rid the world of his father and has a grateful Nita's promise that she will fix the Wretched Hive he lives in. Similarly, Mahlia can't stop all of the warlords from tearing the Drowned Cities apart—or even save her best friend Mouse. Yet through her efforts, the United Patriotic Front is destroyed and she leads a small band of soldier boys out of the cities and towards a hopefully brighter future.
Swedish writer Simona Ahrnstedt shows us that 1880s Sweden was this in her debut novel Överenskommelser. There were still many injustices to fight against, and yeah, the protagonists have to deal with three different villains. But still, things will eventually get better...
The Lassa Ward appears to portray Sierra Leone as this trope. Yes, the country is ravaged by a decade-long civil war that resulted in it having the lowest life expectancy of any place on the planet, yes, the majority of Sierra Leoneans live in poverty and have no access to the education that would get them out of it, yes, Ross's mentor Dr. Conteh gets a bridge dropped on him at the end, and yes, medical science knows no more about Lassa fever at the end of the book than when it started, but Ross gets to see that there are kind people everywhere, and that he personally saves at least two lives, and, in real life, Liberia, which started the conflict in the first place, appears to finally be stable again, more than a decade later.
Live Action TV
Firefly/Serenity: The series starts with the protagonist powerless to prevent the destruction of his home world by a Lawful Stupid interplanetary bureaucracy and the final defeat of the Independents at Serenity Valley. His faith in humanity and God shattered, he abandons his cause and flees to the edge of colonized space, where begins life anew as an outlaw space pirate/mercenary. Over the course of the series, The heroes face many hardships, and even their few victories cost them dearly, but ultimately, they are able to find it in themselves to carry on. And when the dust clears, they're still flying. They may not be able to save the galaxy, but they can at least save themselves. And that's a start. By the end of the movie, they've actually unveiled and broken a government human-experiment conspiracy, unlocked River Tam's hidden Badass, inadvertently brought about the decimation of the Reavers, and given the tyrannical government two black eyes and a bloody nose. Dozens of their friends and two of their crew have died, and they're now on the run for their lives from the government's vengeance, but that wasn't much different from what they had before so it's all good. It is indicated that any government vengence may very well be passive at worst. From the Alliance point of view, the crew of Serenity has done all the damage they possibly could. Indeed, their (implied) victory over the Reavers' fleet could even let them spin this into a huge victory and come out in an even better position than before. It looks like they even helped repair Mal's ship, though that might have just been the Operative using his unquestionable authority to pull strings. That's not to say they probably aren't still wanted criminals, with a number of enemies even amongst the outlaws, but they're still flying. Which is enough.
The Buffyverse, especially Angel, tend to bounce back and forth on whether they live in a half full or half empty world. Angel himself expresses an existential take on the whole matter; striving for a living in-the-moment application of Good Feels Good despite the bleakness of the big picture.
The Whoniverse, composed of the series Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, could probably be best described as this. On one hand you have the Torchwood crew, who at best are able to fight aliens and threats, but find themselves weak when having to fight injustices committed by their own governments. On the other hand, you've got characters like the Doctor who swoop in and save the day- but can't (or don't) remain to help deal with the fall-out. In the end, the show is about people, as a whole, deciding to do what's right- whether that's fighting for Ood rights, overcoming corrupt governments, making peace between two races, or something else entirely. While the Doctor can save the day, it's up to the 'normal' people to keep it safe.
A lot of Leonard Cohen, especially "Anthem." "Democracy" and "Dance Me to the End of Love" are also up there.
"Land Of Confusion" by Genesis is all about this trope:
"This is the world we live in, and these are the hands we're given, use them and let's start trying to make it a place worth living in."
Deadlands. The setting is an Alternate HistoryWild West. After the Europeans settled the whole country, a group of Native Americans decided to get revenge, by releasing some Sealed Evil in a Can. Needless to say, the evil is rather indiscriminate. Horrifying monsters lurk in the shadows spreading fear, and a new source of energy, Ghost Rock, has literally fueled a new technological dawn. Of course, it also has the side effect of driving those that work with it absolutely insane as demons haunt their mind. Still, the heroes can, if they so choose (specifically if they are heroes and not merely protagonists), fight back and make the world just a little bit of a better place and less welcome for the antagonists.
Bothversions of the World of Darkness tend to be just a Crapsack World. Hunter: The Vigil, however, casts a ray of light, by allowing players to play perfectly normal humans fighting back against the monsters of the night. Likewise, any game where the DM allows the heroes to make positive changes to the world also qualifies.
Promethean: The Created: You are a monster. Your existence is pain. And if you're playing the game as it's meant to be played, you will grow past all of that, past the slings and arrows of misfortune, To Become Human and know the fruits of the soul.
Promethean took after Wraith The Oblivion: as a wraith, you're faced with enemies within and without, the perpetual danger - and temptation - of falling to the dark side, or simply ceasing to exist altogether... but there is a way out. If you can hold on, if you can resolve everything anchoring you to the world, if you can come to terms with your inner darkness, then maybe you can Transcend.
Ravenloft, often thought of as theCrapsack World of the game line, turned out to be a World Half Full. Yes, it's a hellish place, but because it's explicitly stated to be Gothic Horror, it is never "Evil triumphs." The game line ever since its 2nd Edition forms explicitly states evil is being punished and justice may be delayed, but it is not denied. Player characters are often the Spanner in the Works which can bring about that justice and make some small part of the world better. The 3rd Edition White Wolf version even digressed for a few pages about how in early Gothic Horror literature, evil may seem overwhelming, but there was always God or some cosmic force which saw it foiled and punished. Innocents would suffer, but the guilty were damned and would know it.
Dark Sun is a Death World where the halflings will eat you, magic drains the world of its life, and having enough water to drink is a sign of power. Neutral characters are kind of the norm, but good characters frequently have the chance to affect some small change for the better. Players familiar with the Fallout series would understand.
Forgotten Realms in its earliest incarnations fit this trope. The world had been ruled and toyed with by one species of Eldritch Abomination after another, and there were whole empires of twisted races as well as cruel empires. However, there were places like Cormyr and the Dales which were the proverbial candles in the dark, the good gods schemed as hard as the evil ones, and most adventures featured chances to save something of value. 4th Edition made it a lot darker, possibly pushing it straight into Crapsack World.
Dragonlance has whole races of evil and orders of evil knights. The Big Good has to die to stop the Big Bad and the gods remove their support from mortals for a while. It's still a High Fantasy world where some hero has always stepped up in the Darkest Hour. Latter adaptations written by other writers tended to miss this element.
Planescape has seven independent hells, each infinite, and seven heavens all of which are rather terrifying in their own way. Good is downright terrifying when it isn't pants-on-head stupid. The central City of Adventure is a dystopian blend of Charles Dickens and Dungeon Punk. Completely incompatible ideological groups have taken over vast aspects of public life and so are always a hair's breadth from civil war. Most of the planes are Death Worlds whose (mortal) inhabitants have come up with ways to survive the various demons and Eldritch Abominations. Yet in just the published adventures, players can cripple the demons and devils forever, prevent the return of a massive Big Bad (the trope-naming Orcus), and help free Sigil from its unending strife all before 12th level.
The old granddad of the settings, Greyhawk, is another fine example. It's so full of evil forces that they tend to war amongst themselves and suffer Gambit Pileup, but the heroes' efforts can heal some of these woes and make a difference - at least to the extent of overthrowing a few tyrants and preventing a few demons from running amok.
White Wolf's Scarred Lands setting. The entire world has been torn apart by a Divine Conflict between the Titans and their offspring, the Gods. Although the Gods won, much of the world remains devestated, and still overrun by the Titans' creations. Many of the new nations struggle constantly just to survive, Ghelspad is tormented by the seemingly unstoppable advance of the tyrannical Calastia nation, the Titans' remains corrupt the land, the dark gods scheme and there are many horrors who owe allegiance to neither the Titans or the Gods just waiting to be unleashed. And yet, the good gods are just as active as the evil ones, and for every source of evil in the setting there are individuals and organizations ready to fight it. It's clear that even in places where evil is powerful, it is never unopposed. It's suggested that in the long run, the land can be healed, the titanspawn can be beaten and the divine races can prosper. Additionally, a trilogy of novels written for the setting ends with the resurrection of an important good-aligned demigod.
Warhammer is very much like this, if you ignore the fact that it's already doomed. The world is threatened constantly by all kinds of dark forces - Daemons, the Warriors of Chaos gathering in the north, the machinations of Vampires and Necromancers, Dark Elf slavers, the Skaven burrowing beneath the earth and corrupt cultists within civilized society. But it's also a world full of heroes, with hope for better days, and they sure as hell aren't going to go down without a fight. The history of the Warhammer World is riddled with great heroes turning back the tide: Lord Kroak fought off the daemons for a thousand years at the dawn of history. Caledor's great vortex drained away the world's raw magic and saved it from destruction. Sigmar founded an Empire, and Karl Franz leads it into a new age of progress and prosperity. Tyrion and Teclis turned back the Dark Elves on Finuval Plain and taught the ways of magic to men to aid in their defence against the ruinous powers.
Warhammer 40,000, likewise, has its share of glorious heroes and people who have made a difference. To be a man in such times may indeed be to live in the cruellest and most bloody regime imaginable, but in the grim darkness of the far future the wars can still be won.
Perhaps the largest contrast between Warhammer 40,000 and its fantasy counterpart is that despite being arguably a far worse place to live in as a whole, it's hinted that the 40k universe still has a chance at reaching a non-terrible ending. Somehow.
AT-43 is far more optimistic than WH40k, every faction has some positive motives with them. The U.N.A. are a democratic government fighting for humanity's survival. The Red Blok are fighting for their independence. The Therians want to conquer the universe in order to preserve it from its inevitable destruction and were responsible for the creation of the humans on Ava. The Karmans are fighting for the balance of the universe.
Fallout 2: Each town has their own ending upon the hero defeating the Enclave. The best route of options to save the Wasteland will involve Modoc being able to feed the people surrounding them with the Slags, The Den becoming a tough-but-honest bar, turning New Reno to a center of education, Redding becoming a mining town with its own say in their affairs, and NCR and Vault 15 beginning their path to rebuild civilization. This is of course the most morally correct answer, and naturally screwing up is always possible in Fallout no matter what situation you are in.
Fallout 3, however, is a pure Crapsack World. You are raised in a Vault that has a despotic authority over its people, a hotel tower housing a snooty man who views the survivors of the Wasteland as entertainment, Ghouls who will use you left and right for their own aims, towns that condone slavery, and our favorite untrusted government remnant come back to purge the Wasteland. Yet in spite of that, you have a father who has an ambitious dream to bring water to the Wasteland ( it's a pity he gets killed for his dream), a radio station that preaches the hopes of the good fight and the freedom fighters who risk their safety to allow an outsider to free slaves, and for the first time in 200 years, a piece of sanctuary (Oasis) that won't get purged by the Enclave and hopefully not by you (compare that to Vault 13 in Fallout 2, where the last of the intelligent Deathclaws were killed off along with others).
Arguably, the good ending of Fallout 3 fits pretty well with A World Half Full. Despite the player character's father getting killed, the Capital Wasteland finally has clean water dispersed to the masses, making life easier for everyone involved. The bad ending averts this and the world becomes even more crapsack as a result. If you choose to poison the same water supply by the request of President Eden, you doom everybody, including yourself.
Also, there's Moira Brown, the cheery and at times naive scientist who outright states that the best way for humanity to survive is move on from the past and try to pick up the shattered pieces back together. She also says that the world will never be the same as before, but that doesn't mean we can't make the world a better place.
Fallout: New Vegas depicts a world in the Southwest which is steadily recovering and may not be that bad to live in. You'll find working electricity and plumbing, food and fresh water that won't give you a dose of rads with every bite, and even green trees and plants appear.
The Lonesome Road DLC has this at its end. Ulysses wants to rain destruction on everything because he thinks the Bear (NCR) is diseased, the Bull (Caesar's Legion) will feed on itself, and Vegas has too many ghosts of the past to ever let go. You can however convince him that the world can be saved and civilisation built anew - after all, you did it before.
Advance Wars: Days of Ruin/Dark Conflict goes this way with the After the End setting. The world is obliterated, and many of the survivors are still fighting each other- but characters like Captain O'Brian/Brenner, and soon the protagonist Ed/Will hold strong faith in human goodness, and are fighting tooth and nail to save humanity. The 'S' rank victory animation has a touch of this theme, with white doves flying over the devastated battlefield. Interesting note In Japan, doves mean death, as they're the messenger of Hachiman, God of War.
In Epic Mickey, after Mickey Mouse accidentally creates him, the Phantom Blot turns the Cartoon Wasteland into a twisted, Disney Theme Park themed Crapsack World. Part of the game's main plot is that Mickey must stop the Blot and restore the world to its former self.
In the Wild Arms series a common theme is how the environment will only last a couple more years, so obviously the main characters save it. Of course, if the manual is correct, and all the games take place on the same planet, there's an invasion/war/disaster scheduled for a century or two after they do save it, and it's going to set everything back to ruined square one... but a new bunch of heroes always end up fixing things a couple thousand years later. It isn't very fun for the people in the intervening years, but things do get fixed eventually each time.
In World of Warcraft, the world is a broken mess. Demons and undead are rampant and even the local wildlife requires trained warriors and magicians to kill. Irradiated monsters, oozes, corrupt nobles, more demons, rampant racism, magical addiction, eldritch abominations... But. You can make the world better. The monsters are generally killed off and the really nasty characters are decreasing more rapidly than they appear. Things get worse at the beginning of a new expansion, but generally end up slightly better than they were before whatever catastrophe started the expansion in the first place.
The Burning Crusade introduces outland which is a mess physically. It's the remains of a planet torn apart and the remaining pieces just stuck together at random. Things get better through player actions, though they can't fix the planet. Cataclysm will start with Azeroth undergoing the cataclysm in the title, thus getting worse before things get better.
Its already happening, to a degree. Yes, much of Azeroth was absolutely devastated in The Shattering. However, Desolace is now once again full of plant life, the Plaguelands are slowly recovering from plague toxins due to the Cenarion Circle, Earthen Ring and Argent Crusade, and Duskwood is finally on the road to recovery due to the death of Morbent Fel and the Gilneans bringing the madness cure to the Nightbane worgen, among other recovery efforts
Deus Ex, depending on your personal beliefs, any of the endings can fall under this.
The endings of Deus Ex: Invisible War, the Helios endings has the minds of humanity united in one electronic link providing a perfect democracy. Or Illuminati wins and their vision of a perfect world really does work. In the Omar ending, everyone is wiped out but the Omar survive and are able to rebuild humanity their way.As for the Templars all biomodificatons are purged, and they rule the world in a new Theocracy.
The Milky Way in Mass Effect is a dangerous and brutal place to live. Filled with monstrous aliens, pirate fleets, amoral mercenaries and cruel slavers, with the largest civilized government hamstrung by red tape and millennia of tradition and unwillingness to budge, an entire species has been driven from their homeworld and is locked in a 300 year long Hopeless Warwith their mechanicalcreations, and every 50,000-odd years, all technologically advanced sapient life is purged and consumed by Eldritch Abominations. Yet in spite of this, one person can make an incredible difference, galactic peace can be attained, pirates can be brought to justice, slaves can be freed, the forementioned Hopeless War between the exiled species and their creations can be negotiated to a possible reconciliation, and you canpunch out Cthulhu. Stopping the Reapers takes immense sacrifice, but provided you didn't fail to sufficiently unite the galaxy, the overall picture is hopeful: Galactic civilization survived and is already rebuilding, potentially with the aid of the Reapers or the evolution from Synthesis.note This is with the Extended Cut changes. The controversy over the original endings was due in part to their much bleaker tone. Even in the Refusal ending, the cycle of destruction is eventually stopped, in part thanks to what Shepard and their allies did in their cycle and the crucial information they made sure to leave behind.
Looking at Paragon versus Renegade effects on the galaxy, when Shepard goes Renegade, it's darker and more of a Crapsack Galaxy, but the Paragon route is immensely idealistic. A Paragon Shepard is constantly appealing to peoples' better natures, urging them to forget their bad blood, giving second and third chances, extensively helping people in exchange for promises and trusting that they will do as they've promised... and almost every time, it works. There are maybe four or five points in the whole crowded, sprawling trilogy where a hard-working Paragon Shepard's trust and faith are betrayed. Everyone else, to paraphrase King Jonathan - "If you keep faith with me, I will keep faith with you."
Arguably, the Light Side path of Knights of the Old Republic II is this. Either that, or the Exile is merely an Unwitting Pawn. It can be both for a Light Side Exile. Despite how, in the main plot, Kreia is pretty much manipulating everyone all the time, the Exile's actions throughout the Galaxy can drastically improve life for both invididuals and for entire planets (though, this being an Obsidian Game, a lot of the 'good' decisions can end up having sizable downsides as well).
God of War III is this at the end. The world has gone straight to hell due to Kratos killing damn-near every Olympian there is. However, Kratos, in one of his rare acts of selflessness, decides in the end to restore Hope back to the world by sacrificing himself rather than simply handing the power back to Athena. It's still more like "A World Millionth Full", though, when you consider just how many people and creatures he killed For the Evulz.
Baroque is set in an After the End world where humanity has been reduced to a handful of mutated freaks whose forms are based on their own individual psychoses. At the end, you don't fix the world. But you do make it so that the world has a chance.
Devil Survivor also qualifies. God is actually good and will accept whatever future you build, even if you mess up big time! That's right. God basically trusts you to govern the entire planet, in spite of all the horrible things human beings are capable of. Then it's revealed in Overclocked that he is responsible for the Cain and Abel happening because he wanted a Martyr and Murderer while also wanting Cain to atone to him when he manipulated him into killing the brother he loved. He's perfectly willing to have his Angels threaten to murder innocents in order to get them to attack the Overlord as well, or just giving up cause humanity won't do what he wants and leave for good.
The world of the Ace Attorney series, though the world's crappiness is much less severe (and therefore much less readily apparent) than many other examples of this trope. Crime is apparently so common that the justice system's been perverted into a series of all-but-kangaroo courts, the vast majority of prosecutors will do anything to get their conviction, and nobody seems to give a good damn about due process or suspect's rights anymore— nobody, that is, except for the main character and his few but loyal allies, who will willingly walk through fire for the innocent, for justice, and for each other.
Sera in Gears of War becomes this after Adam Fenix's Heroic Sacrifice. The Locust and Lambent are wiped out and the Imulsion is destroyed, but Humanity finally has its future.
The StarCraft universe, after being a Crapsack World in the original opus, is slowly heading toward this in StarCraft II. By the end of Brood War, Terrans were now mostly under the Dictatorship of Arcturus Mengsk, the Protoss were on the verge of extinction with most of their heroes killed off and separated, the only decent Terran hero at this point, Jim Raynor, has been reduced to a powerless rebel leader, and the Zerg are stronger than ever, led by Sarah Kerrigan, who has at that point been Brainwashed and Crazy into becoming the vilest character in the whole franchise. And Duran is plotting to create Zerg/Protoss Hybrids (as well as, as later revealed, revive an Evil God and wipe out the Universe), which he succeeded by manipulating everybody. However, in StarCraft II, Raynor is able to bring Kerrigan back to her original personality, and she goes to redeem herselfas well as the whole Zerg species, Mensgk is killed and his son actually seems a rather decent person, and Duran / Narud is killed.
Die Anstalt is crapsacky with the poor stuffed animals driven insane by their owners' abuse, but it takes on a more optimistic view if you can cure them. Also, Humans Are Flawed because they're products of a consumerist culture (rather than flat-out monsters).
Futurama: It's legal to eat human meat, but protecting the environment is a crime, Richard Nixon is once again president and this time of the entire world, suicide booths are commonplace, the world's military is controlled by an incompetent, amoral, womanizing buffoon, there is no ozone layer, and crack is readily available in vending machines. However, several episodes show that humans can band together and make significant and positive changes, such as "Proposition Infinity", "Crimes of the Hot", and "The Mutants are Revolting".
Real Life, for all the problems it still has, seems to be shaping up to be this. Wars are getting less frequent and less severe. The War On Terror- as costly as it is- is nowhere near the scale or death toll of the Vietnam War, World War 2, the Napoleonic Wars, etc. The Internet has allowed the public to more easily see when businesses or politicians behave unethically, discouraging such behavior. Crime and drug addiction are falling, standard of living is improving, people are living longer, and the mentally ill are treated far, far better than they used to be. Civil liberties slowly improved in developed nations until 2001, though they've taken a beating since.
It gets even better: Terrorism, though perceived as global, is generally a regional issue at worst, and though some forms of crime have increased, violent crime rates have decreased dramatically (which, unfortunately, doesn't change the fact that close to 2% of Americans are imprisoned). And although some germs have become resistant to antibiotics, new and better antibiotics to which disease have not developed resistances are invented every year. Divorce, abortion and illegitimacy are far more frequent than ever, but far greater (and increasing) tolerance makes such things almost irrelevant and devoid of real stigma, at least in the developed world. Unemployment and poverty are in decline. The world economy continues to grow, though rather more slowly in the developed world. The Internet has opened new avenues for creative crime, but still far fewer than in the past. Slavery does still exist, and is far more commonplace than anyone would like to admit (especially considering that slavery is finally illegal in every country) and there are more slaves today than at any point in history (between 12 and 27 million), but slaves today represent a much smaller part of the total population than when slavery was ubiquitous. That is, today there are 7 billion humans, as opposed to about 1 billion in 1800, when the slave trade was at its height. World Half Full indeed.
Let's give public health a special mention. The First World and much of the Developing World has undergone one of the greatest triumphs of human ingenuity. We die old, fat, and rich, rather than young, hungry, and wounded. We have pandemics of obesity, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes because we have enough food, good sanitation, good treatments, and extensive safety measures. They save the majority of us from infectious diseases, injury, and hunger. Just in the disease category, consider the following killers: bubonic plague, anthrax, gonorrheal meningitis and blindness, syphilis, polio, typhoid, tuberculosis, cholera, measles, rubella, smallpox, influenza, diphtheria, mumps, Hepatitis B and liver cancer (Taiwan 1984), shingles, rabies, hookworms, and Ascaroides. In industrialized and industrializing nations, these sicknesses are mostly gone.
Even the HIV pandemic is a good example of how much we've progressed. In about three decades, the first world has determined the etiological agent of the disease, discovered its structure, broken down its genome, figured out a very complete picture of what it does to our cells, completely mapped its genes, discovered how it spreads and how it could be prevented from doing so, found ways to hold it in check and keep patients from succumbing, and implemented public health programs which have brought the pandemic to heel in the first world. Compared to how any other time period in history would have fared, it's nothing short of miraculous. By contrast, Sub-Saharan Africa is being devastated in a manner which is simply heart-wrenching to watch as well as a chilling reminder of what other great pandemics did before we learned how to fight back.
There are about 1,000 cases of polio yearly in the world. At its peak in the US, there were over 55,000 per year. The disease was scheduled for complete eradication (like smallpox), but unfortunately fanatical groups in a few remote areas in Nigeria have preached the vaccine is a "Western mind control drug." India has some severely crowded, hard-to-treat populations heavily affected by polio. A few cases from these regions enter the neighboring African and Middle Eastern nations. All of Europe, north and east Asia, the Americas, and Australia are completely clear. That's almost 5,000 American kids dead per year in the 50's to zero today.
Not to mention how far we are moving in terms of renewable resources and sustainability, and corporations are trying hard to become green and sustainable for the future. Of course we have some ways to go, but we're getting there.
Of course, while this situation seems all fine and dandy, resources become scarcer by the day and won't fulfill the needs of an always growing population anytime soon; space technology is stagnating, meaning the solution to this problem could be not found in time; pollution and deforestation are ruining more than ever the environment and biodiversity. How long will it last before Earth becomes a World Half Emptyonce again?
Not for a long time. Space technology appears to be stagnating. However, commercial space travel is starting to boom (check out The New Tens for more on that). Likewise environmental protection laws are starting to have an effect as numerous species are being reported as recovering nicely. Deforestation is starting togo way down throughout most of the world and forests are said to either be recovering or becoming thicker. Also while some resources are depleting, other resources aren't as scarce as you may think. And many people and companies are working hard towards clean energy and sustainability and making great progess. Yes there are problems, but we are doing well towards finding solutions.
While the alarmists have predicted inevitable and total depletion of oil since 1970s, as a matter of fact, as on 2013 proven oil reserves are bigger, then ever in history and continue to steadily grow.
And as for population growth, total fertility rates are dropping like a rock. In 1950, the total world fertility rate was about 5 children per woman. Today, it's about 2.36, or just above average the average replacement rate, about 2.33. In Mexico, the TFR dropped from around 5 in 1980 to 2.3 today. In China, TFR declined from about 5.5 in 1960 to 1.54 today. That's below replacement. In most of the developed world (excluding Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States), it's even lower.
The human population is in excess of 7 billion and our biomass, as an apex predator, is comparable to that of plankton. Even if global childbirth falls under replacement rate, as long as a few children are still being born, there will never be a dearth of actual people in the foreseeable future. Yep, even a trope like We Have Reserves can be used optimistically.
Despite being the driving force behind many modern triumphs of freedom and rights, the Internet has its ugly side as well. Information is more easily accessible than ever but not all of it is accurate and the limits of the human mind mean that it's easier than ever to draw the wrong conclusion about many things. Both small scale actors and establishment giants are also becoming more and more adept at manipulating the global groupmind. And the massive interconnectvity has brought as many new methods of surveillance and control as ways of evading them, with some outright deconstructing the notion that the Internet is the borderless utopia some perceive it to be.
This experiment: . For one racist couple, there is a friendly dude to come to your rescue and a woman who won't accept it and will end up having this adorable reaction.
Of course, speaking sensibly, Real Life isn't this, a Crapsack World, a Sugar Bowl, or any trope. It's reality, not made with any specific tone in mind and not subservient to any kind of narrative. How it looks is entirely dependent on who you are and what you're looking at.