And the previous year was 200X
"Why is it always X? It's like they couldn't come up with an exact year, so just make it X."
Setting is important in story telling, especially when you want to tell what time period that story takes place in. The easiest way to do this is to simply state what year the story takes place in... however, being too exact
may sometimes narrow down flexibility. So in order to pinpoint the time and keep it vague at the same time, writers like to give the century number, but replace the year and decade with X.
For example: 20XX. You know this takes place after the millennium
, but when
after the millennium? 2097? 2030? December 21, 2012
? We don't know, and that's the beauty of it.
It also renders the setting somewhat resistant to the flow of Real Life
time, since Real Life
will take longer to cross that date and make fans start wondering why the future doesn't look anything like fiction depicted it
. Of course, as the list below shows, years like 199X and 200X have been used and passed, and even 20XX will pass eventually. Inevitably, Time Marches On
Commonly seen in Science Fiction
, but not limited to it.
Not to be confused with Exty Years from Now
, which is about future dates or intervals being nice round numbers, often based on the work's own release date. Compare Spell My Name with a Blank
, which is similar but with names or locations.
Anime and Manga
- 19XX, part of the 1942 Shoot 'em Up series by Capcom.
- Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne is set in Tokyo, 20XX.
- Xbox game Zombies and Pterodactyls 20XX
- PS2 game Seven Samurai 20XX
- Mega Man (Classic) is a strong example of this trope, starting in 200X and later moving into 20XX. The spinoffs are all set relative to this ambiguous date; the X series takes place in 21XX, and drags on into 22XX, while Battle Network is in an alternate 200X. The later games in the main timeline starting with Mega Man Zero (which was assumed to take place in 22XX before Mega Man X: Command Mission came out) have abandoned this & don't specify any dates, possibly because the world has suffered so many successive apocalypses by this point that people don't even remember what year it's supposed to be. According to the ''Perfect Memories'' sourcebook, the Legends series takes place around 6000 years after the end of the X series (which would put it circa 82XX), but that's about all we know.
- Hamumu Software's Robot Wants Series game Robot Wants Puppy had an Opening Scroll about rebels in the year 20XX plotting to liberate Zeta Sector from the iron-tentacled rule of the tyrannical Morgox the Unborn.
- EarthBound is set in 199X. If you borrow a map from the library and then talk to the librarian again, you are told you don't have to return the map until the year 2002, much to the amusement of modern-day fans.
- The early Double Dragon games are set in a post-apocalyptic New York after a Nuclear War occurred in 19XX.
- The WarioWare games take place in 20XX
- Half-Life takes place on May 16, 200X.
- Portal, which shares the same universe as Half Life, takes place at an unknown date. However it is stated in supplemental material that GLaDOS was brought online in 200X, the same ambiguous year as Half Life.
- Metroid is set in 20X5. Like Mega Man, the other games in the series all take place relative to the ambiguous date of 20X5 in the original.
- The Streets of Rage games are set in 199X.
- Bomberman Generation takes place in "cosmic year 200X".
- Falsion, a 3D Shoot 'em Up by Konami for the Famicom Disk System, is set in 21XX.
- Godzilla: Monster of Monsters! takes place in "2XXX A.D."
- The events of the first Metal Gear was originally placed in the year 199X before the sequels decided to give it a specific year. The manual for Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was inconsistent as to whether the original game was set in 1995 or 1996 (with the in-game dialogue placing the events of the sequel three years later), but ultimately Metal Gear Solid went with the 1995 date.
- According to the intro cinematic of Pikmin 3, the game takes place in "Galactic Date 20XX".
- The SCP Foundation often redacts dates, but sometimes the century or decade is left uncensored, leading to a similar effect but with Censor Boxes instead of X's.