Probably everyone knows how bows and arrows work - you hold the wooden part of the bow, you attach the arrow's non-pointy end to the bow's string, you pull the arrow while stretching the bow and its string, you aim, and then you release the arrow, letting the physics catapult it in the desired direction.
It's a no-brainer that a string is strictly necessary in a bow. It's not very thick, but it's there, and you can clearly see it. This trope, however, applies to a situation where the string in a bow is clearly missing, and yet the bow is still being used as if it actually was there.
In video games with 3D graphics, the creators can sometimes decide to cut corners that way when creating models of bows, often due to technical limitations, time and money issues, simple oversights, unforeseen bugs, etc. Depending on how obvious this practice is, it can result in the players' loss of their Willing Suspension of Disbelief when they look at the characters pulling the arrows on air, with no reasonable explanation.
- Actually justified for Shaft from Youngblood. His bow is based upon alien anti-gravity technology, therefore nullifying the need for a string. Presumably the point of this is making it easier to store and maintain.
- In Clock Tower 3, Alyssa uses a bow without a string. Justified in that she is shooting energy arrows from an energy bow.
- Bows in Disgaea games don't have strings. This allows for cooler, more impractical designs, though. Especially with Magichange system.
- Dragon Age series:
- Gods: Lands of Infinity has this.
- Kid Icarus features a curious example: Pit's bows do have strings, but only when he is shooting an arrow. They disappear when not in use — they seem to be made of light or something like that. Of course, his bows can also be taken apart and used as swords, so the string would have to be done away with in that event anyway.
- The first Neverwinter Nights. Curiously enough, when a bow is enchanted, the magical glow outlines where the string should be.
- Shana and Miranda's bow in The Legend of Dragoon follows this trope, understandable for a PS1 game.
- Guild Wars plays this trope straight, while its sequel inverts it with visible bowstrings and invisible arrows (while aiming).
- None of Rena's bows in Elsword have bowstrings, not even the crossbow used in her Wind Sneaker class. Possibly justified in that she's firing magic arrows made of nature energy.
- The bows in Fire Emblem Heroes don't have strings due to the fact that they'd be impractical to animate on the puppet-like sprites, but most of the accompanying artwork for the archer heroes have proper bowstrings.
- Subverted for Aiyana the Autumn Elven Archer and Amazonian Archer from Boss Fight Studio Virtuvian H.A.C.K.S. series. Their bows don't come with a string, but the bows have hooks on each side, meaning that you can attach a string onto their bows.
- Many Robin Hood, Green Arrow or Hawkeye figures suffer from either this or stiff plastic strings.
- Bow-wielding models from tabletop wargames, such as Warhammer, typically don't have strings on their bows since the scale of the models would make sculpting them pretty much impossible.
- Also present in military miniatures, where the limitations of casting in metal, resin or plastic preclude providing strings on archer figures' bows. Some makers have tried, but the result, on a 25mm figure, is generally vastly over-scale◊.
- Both Windranger and Link ver. DX Edition from the Figma line don't have strings on the bows.
- Hank the Ranger's bow in Dungeons & Dragons has no string — unless Hank readies an arrow, in which case a magical one appears. His arrows are the same, in that they only show up when he mimes nocking one.