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Crapsack World
aka: World Half Empty

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"The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds; the pessimist fears it is true."
James Branch Cabell, The Silver Stallion, misattributed to Robert Oppenheimer

A Crapsack World is a horrible setting where the jaded notion of "anything that can go wrong will go horribly, horribly wrong" almost always applies, and it corrupts its inhabitants into perpetuating that nastiness against each other. More succinctly, trying to survive in one of these places is gonna suck.

Although there are countless ways Crapsack Worlds can be depicted (often with Scenery Gorn), it is usually dark, and on the cynical end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism, so it will have either Grey-and-Gray Morality or Black-and-Gray Morality, if not outright Evil vs. Evil in the worst of cases (beware of Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy if you decide to go this route though). Settings like these are not kind at all to idealists, who usually get traumatized and/or die horribly when their attempts to change the world through idealism meet tragic ends.


Heroes in this setting are usually Anti Heroes, and often have at least a bit of the Deadpan Snarker about them. Being good will suck, and if there are genuinely good heroes in this setting, expect them to be Knights In Sour Armor and/or Hurting Heroes—more idealistic heroes such as the Knight in Shining Armor tend to not last long in this kind of setting. Any victories they manage to win over the forces of this world are likely to be Pyrrhic in nature.

Villains tend to run the gamut from sympathetic Anti Villains (on any level of the Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains) right down to the most horrific monsters to grace any kind of media. Truly awful villains are especially common in these kinds of settings, both to represent the misery of the setting in general and to give the Anti-Hero someone to whom he can look good in comparison. In truly extreme cases, even the most popular or powerful of these monsters suffer just as badly as everyone else. And Anyone Can Die.


From here, these worlds can be depicted by authors in various ways, whether it would be dramatic or comedic, immutable or mutable. Though most of the time immutable equals dramatic, it is possible to see combinations between these categories.

This kind of world often occurs After the End. Wretched Hive and City Noir are city-sized versions of the Crapsack World. A Dystopia is a speculative Crapsack World ruled by repressive forces modeled after real-life politics. A Teenage Wasteland is a Crapsack World run by kids. If the Crapsack World's continued misery is caused by supernatural forces, see Dark Fantasy, Hell on Earth or Cosmic Horror Story.

If a Sugar Bowl (usually the antithesis of this trope) turns out to be one of these under the surface, then you have yourself a Crapsaccharine World. If the people who live in the Crapsack World don't realise or pretend it isn't a horrible place to be in, it is a False Utopia. A Villain World or Death World is likely to be this, and Bad Future is a Sub-Trope. Someone who just thinks the world they inhabit is this is a Cynic or a Straw Nihilist (or a Grumpy Bear, if he lives in a pretty nice world).

For worlds that are almost literal sacks of crap see The Dung Ages. See You Would Not Want to Live in Dex for other crapsack environments, and (on a less negative note) the World of Badass which is also likely to have elements of the Crapsack World, to give justification on why kicking ass is very important to survival. Compare World of Jerkass, a world which is only unpleasant because all of the characters are horrible people.

This trope is also known as World Half Empty, for the expression of pessimism being a state of seeing a glass with half the amount of water in it as being "half empty". Also, a half-empty glass means it can only be emptied, and can't be refilled. It represents hopelessness and inevitable doom, fitting this trope perfectly. By definition, contrast A World Half Full. C.T. Phipps talks about some of the appeal to the concept here. The Appeal of Grimdark.

No Real Life Examples, Please! This is not a subjective trope; this is a metaphysical trope that's clearly defined by the writer, not an opinion by people complaining about the world as a whole (localized places that are very horrible in Real Life should perhaps go to Wretched Hive and other non-metaphysical tropes instead). Also, do not use this page to complain about worlds you don't like. If you have to say "Some people think" or "Arguably," it doesn't belong here.

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    Comic Strips 

    Films — Animation 
  • Aachi and Ssipak manages to be this both literally and figuratively. The world's main fuel source seems to be human faeces, and indeed there's a lot of cultural focus on it. While this is not a bad thing - well, sans the Squick, - society is governed by a tyrannical regime, the leader in the movie's events being a sadistic creepy little girl with a huge head with no qualms in killing whoever she wishes to kill (at a point in the movie she happily watches a bunch of men being sentenced to death for "misusing the great anus"). However, most of the problems come from the fact that, to incentivate people to "produce fuel", they offer popsickle like "juicybar", which is highly addictive and seemingly is the cause of the birth of a group of mutants which entitle themselves "The Diaper Gang", and which commit terrorism to obtain the juicybars and seeming wish to take control as they do so once they get Beauty. As people already commit terrorism to steal the damn things, you get a lot of violence all the time, and seeing as none of the characters in the story are good this pretty much implies a bad place to be.
  • Russia and New York are essentially portrayed as this in An American Tail. It's amped up a notch in Fievel Goes West to justify the Mousekwitz family leaving New York to go west.
  • The island where the main characters of Bird Boy: The Forgotten Children lives turns into this after the nuclear crisis. Best case scenario? You can live an unhappy life in the town. Worst case scenario? You have to survive trying to find copper to pay for food while dealing with violent, territorial rats in a massive scrapyard where there is no law.
  • DC Universe Animated Original Movies:
    • Green Lantern: First Flight: Cadmendoh, the planet Hal and Sinestro go to to hunt Cuch, is a planet that alternates between crime-filled Wretched Hive city and garbage dump.
    • Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths: In the parallel Earth, the governments are busy appeasing a horde of supervillains who are only waiting for sufficient leverage in order to Take Over the World, and the Justice League has been eliminated save for one member.
    • Batman: Under the Red Hood: Gotham City is the Wretched Hive it usually is, with a foul-tempered Black Mask controlling the city's crime and the Joker causing chaos. However, it's made worse than usual by the implication that Batman's crusade will never succeed and nothing will change.
    • Green Lantern: Emerald Knights: The entire universe was this in its earliest days, being a lawless wasteland in a state of perpetual warfare. The Green Lantern Corps was founded to fix this.
    • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: At the beginning of the film, Gotham has slowly become this since Batman's original retirement. Crime is out of control. In addition to the normal thieves, rapists and murderers having relatively free reign due to a now impotent police force, the new Mutant gang is murdering men, women and children For the Evulz with the intent to take over the city and impose their own violent, blood-soaked despotic rule. Everyone else lives in fear for their lives. Finally, Bruce can take it no longer and decides that Gotham will get better because he will force it to.
    • Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox: In the Flashpoint timeline, Atlantis and Themyscira are at war, with humanity caught in the middle. While some are trying to stop it, the vast majority of humanity have accepted their inevitable demise. It's made abundantly clear that the war will lead to the end of the world, and the only solution is to change the timeline.
  • The Lion King: After overthrowing his brother Mufasa, Scar becomes the Evil Overlord of Pride Rock simply because he wanted the title. Soon enough, he devolves into a Psychopathic Manchild who reacts poorly to criticism against his rule, and runs everything with laziness as his unified hunting policies have turned it into a literal hellhole. He selfishly refuses to let the pride move elsewhere out of his own ego, which prevents him from realizing his reign was ineffectual. Due to this, he is widely despised by all of the animals, including his hyena underlings. The only reason why he's holding onto his power is because he petulantly whines about how "[he's] the king! [he] can do whatever [he wants]!" like a Spoiled Brat when Sarabi compares his reign to Mufasa's. As if that wasn't enough, Pride Rock does erupt in flames. It's only after Scar is killed by his hyena minions and Simba takes his rightful place as king of Pride Rock that the kingdom transforms from a barren, burned out Mordor to a Ghibli Hills savanna.
  • ParaNorman: The town is a rundown little suburb, the locals have a low tolerance for any behavior that lies outside the norm, and it of course has a dark secret.
  • The Snow Queen (2012) takes place in a world conquered by a totalitarian Snow Queen, who has brought on a new Ice Age, and also banned art.
  • WALL•E: The entire Earth centuries earlier had been reduced to a trash-filled Hellhole, the human population fleeing when it started to become too difficult to breathe and the "throw legions of trash-compacting robots at the problem" approach failed. By the time of the movie, all the WALL•E units (barring one) have broken down, with the last one continuing to pile up the trash into layers surpassing the skyscrapers, with only a cockroach as a friend. Still, things had improved enough for plant life to be viable.

  • Many of the worlds featured in Twilight Histories are not very pleased places:
    • “Cato’s War” sees the horrors of Confederate slavery taken to new heights with the coming of industrialization. Factory slaves must keep working even if injured, and the death of a slave is treated as only a minor inconvenience. Worse, slaves aren’t even allowed to have families, and female slave are often assigned to birthing crates, where they are raped until they’re impregnated. Children as young as five are sent to work in the fields. It is mentioned that slaves account for over seventy percent of the Confederate population.
    • “Project Gliese” is set in a world where a supercomputer created an army of robots to wipe-out humanity. Billions have died as a result of the robot war. What few humans remain have long given up hope of winning, and are merely trying to survive another day.
    • Paris in “The Paris Event” is described like something out of Dante’s Inferno. The asteroid that would have caused the Tunguska Event instead struck Paris. The force of the strike was comparable to that of a hydrogen bomb. You are sent to investigate the ruined city shortly after the impact.
    • “City of Pyramids” takes place in a world where Egypt was the only civilization to survive the Bronze Age collapse. 12,000 years later, Egypt finds itself face a new ice age. There is a strong sense that Egyptian society is on its last leg and about to collapse. There’s mass unemployment, but also mass taxation to pay for the constant construction of new pyramids. Oh, and everyone’s houses are melting due to the constant rain.
    • “Deep City” takes place in a Soviet city at the bottom of the ocean. The government not only controls the economy, but also the light and even the air the citizens breathe.

  • Present in every game in the Destroy the Godmodder franchise, often a result of the sheer destructive force unleashed by both the Godmodder and players. The various settings of the games range from a crater-filled, bloodstained battlefield to a psychopath glitch-creature's mindscape. No matter where the game takes place, there's always death. Tons of it.

    Web Animation 
  • The world inhabited by the title characters of Lego Pirate Misadventures is pretty grim for a Lego world. Pirates apparently own at least one city, have an academy dedicated to learning the trade of raping and pillaging, and are ruled by a guild stuffed full of Obstructive Bureaucrats. This city also has a hit TV show called "Torture Time With Mr. Cuddles" where people get tortured to death, and people get gunned down in the street for little to no reason. No one seems terribly bothered by any of this, though. Additionally, a world conquering League of Darkness was able to rise to power with absolutely no one noticing before it was too late, necessitating Gag's Set Right What Once Went Wrong gambit.
  • This is actually pretty common on Newgrounds:
    • Probably the ultimate example would be the featureless muddy hell of Salad Fingers.
    • Let's not even get started on Madness Combat. There's a reason "madness" is in the title.
    • The world of Pico is so fucked up that any vaguely-aged kid can pick up a gun, lay waste to the problem, and be hailed a hero, even if said kid is a Destructive Savior with the demeanor of a '90s Anti-Hero at barely half the age. Now throw in his best friends (usually), a suicidal slut, and a Pyromaniac, and add all the Comedic Sociopathy you can imagine.
    • Tankmen starts with the war-torn remnants of a city, but what what makes it so crappy is that the warring factions don't even know what they're fighting for, but keep on warring as if it were an average 9-to-5 grind.
    • In the Colour My Series, there's a long list of forbidden activities on the stick-figure citizens. Among these are pets, plants, running, emotion, color, and smiling. There are huge robots to enforce the laws, too.
  • Nomad of Nowhere: Nowhere is a desert, with most of the natural resource wells finally drying up aside from Don Paragon's oasis. Aside from our protagonists, virtually all residents encountered are either greedy and self-interested, or impoverished and desperate. Those of the populace who don't fear or despise magic want to use it for their own ends, making it dangerous for a magic-user like the Nomad to stay in any place for too long. Nowhere is also ruled by a magic-eating tyrant and the "governors" he empowered to conquer the desert quadrants.
  • Off the Grid takes place in a desert wasteland, populated by mercenaries, Eldritch Abominations, Humanoid Abominations, and Killer Robots.
  • RWBY takes place in the post-apocalyptic world of Remnant, where monsters known as the Grimm are attempting to kill everyone in the world. There are literally only five places left that are safe from them, and if the villains have anything to say about that, those places aren't going to be safe for much longer. And then there's the rampant racism against the Faunus, and the domestic terrorism that has popped up as a result...

Everything is NOT awesome...

Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Sick Sad World, Sad Sack World, World Half Empty


Empire City

After the Ray Sphere went off and destroyed a third of Empire City, the rest of the city has been quarantined and the city is left a lawless hellhole overrun with disease and gang-violence.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / CrapsackWorld

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Main / CrapsackWorld