I was recently reading through a mystery novel and developing a bit of impatience, trying to see how long the author would take to develop the story to a point where I would care about this investigation. (Answer: looks like page 95, which is definitely too long.)
Since then, I’ve been thinking about this topic in the context of games, as well as fiction. When do we get interested enough to actually want to go along with a mystery story? How do I get my players to jump in, rather than feel like rats going through a laboratory maze? I identified the following components as essential to my own interest.