Do you like Reading in Video Games?

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Edited 1 year, 9 months ago

Poll: Do you like Reading in Video Games? (398 votes)

Yes 65%
No 35%

I don't. The writing is always weak and if that's your main way of telling a story is through writing then i'm not gonna bother.

I think as a secondary to an either verbal or visual or both, it would be fine. Like in Skyrim where you can read extra things about the world in books and notes but that's just extra, not the only way to get the story.

Writing good stories isn't easy and through text only seems more like a handicap than anything else.

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#1 Edited by rubberluffy (788 posts) -

The text adventure segment in NieR and the Devola & Popola optional backstory written segment in Nier:Automata are great. But then the writing in those games is actually good.

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#2 Edited by MattGiersoni (587 posts) -

Yes I do. I always read every book, letter, whatever I pick up in video games, especially RPGs. I can understand why some hate it, but it adds so much to the world for me and makes me feel more immersed.
EDIT: If you also meant dialogues without VO etc., then yes I also like reading that stuff, or rather I don't mind it. Full VO is almost always nicer, but If a game has partially voiced dialogues or no voice at all then I don't mind it either. I do disagree that writing is always bad, there's a ton of games with good writing, maybe not on the level of highest literary classics but it's still pretty good.

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#3 Posted by fisk0 (6952 posts) -

Absolutely. Personally I lament the decline of text adventures or general textual descriptions in games.

In older RPG's text was used to provide the player with lot of sensory information like smell, touch and sound, which I don't think modern games have been able to replace even as graphics and sound design have gotten more detailed.

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#4 Edited by BeachThunder (15165 posts) -

There are certainly times when I get tired of it. In fact, sometimes I avoid playing certain games because I just know there'll be a lot of emails or journals. There was a point where I would make sure to read every single lore dump, but recently, I've tried to get into the mindset of not having to worry about reading everything.

I'll definitely disagree with you though that "the writing is always weak". There are plenty of games with fantastic writing.

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#5 Edited by BoOzak (2645 posts) -

I'm guessing you mean games that choose to do it via text that also have voice acting? Because Morrowind was %99 text and I thought the story was better than Oblivion and Skyrim. Also I know this probably isnt what you mean but I prefer subs over dubs in games that are set in Japan.

The text adventure segment in NieR and the Devola & Popola optional backstory written segment in Nier:Automata are great. But then the writing in those games is actually good.

While I agree I think that stuff should always be optional, granted the bit you mentioned was, which is nice. I think Lost Odyssey did a good job with that even if the plot was all over the place. I'm not a fan of the Dark Souls method where item descriptions are the main sources of piecing together the narrative, but a lot of people seem to like it that way.

So yes when it's optional or when it serves the setting. No when it's required to understand the story and it could have been done with VO. I'm going to go with "Yes" though.

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#6 Posted by Superharman (306 posts) -

Case by case. Yes, the writing is generally weak but I've found playing a lot of older JRPGs this year, the ones that have stuck on a character level have been the text based ones because I'm reading it and a voice actor isn't interpreting it. Reading brings a stronger engagement in a lot of cases.

Having said that, I'll often breeze through a lot of text in games these days, particularly when they have heavy voice acting. My brain defaults to the idea that if it isn't spoken, it isn't important.

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#7 Edited by BladeOfCreation (1405 posts) -

For RPGs, I always set out to read every in-game booke, letter, note, etc. By the 20th hour of any given game, I've let these books fill up in my inventory with the intent to read them all at once. It's a bad habit.

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#8 Posted by Jangowuzhere (134 posts) -

Depends on its use.

For the most part, no. I think it's a pretty lazy way to tell a story in a visual medium. If we're talking about something like Planescape, then absolutely. That game is built on storybook writing, and it works incredibly well. However, if we're talking about something like Dishonored 1/2, then no, it sucks. It ruins the pacing of the game completely.

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#9 Posted by nicksmi56 (850 posts) -

Yep. As long as what I'm reading is interesting.

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#10 Edited by BrunoTheThird (843 posts) -

Depends how good it is. In the Talos Principle's case, absolutely, as the writing is fascinating and incredibly well crafted, especially the Road to Gehenna DLC.

Planescape: Torment is another. Emotive, funny, beautifully written dialogue and story. Both those games' writing is absolutely on par with Tolkien or Arthur C. Clarke.

I loved the emails and notes and logs in Prey, the new one, especially those authored by the creator of the looking glass tech.

If it hasn't hooked me after a few hours, I will stop reading them.

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#11 Posted by FacelessVixen (2664 posts) -

I play games for the power fantasy. If I want to read, I'll read a book.

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#12 Edited by deactivated-5b85a38d6c493 (1990 posts) -

It depends wholly on the quality of the writing. If it is engaging enough I will read it all. If it is too generic and is just repeating itself over and over I will eventually tire and just start skipping through it.

I honestly prefer games that force or require you to read vast portions of its text. You hardly have to bother with modern RPGs, I mean even the new Piranha Bytes game Elex has waypoints for literally everything you need to do, the notes and text is just flavor. But with older RPGs like some of the Ultima games you had to read a lot of the notes, the books, the conversations. But it was also engaging enough because you could tell the devs put some effort into making it part of the world building.

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#13 Posted by Efesell (4565 posts) -

My favorite game is Planescape Torment.

So

Kinda.

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#14 Posted by riostarwind (1363 posts) -

If I pick up a note of some kind in a video game it's going to be read even if the writing is bad. Some good use of text can make a video game world feel huge even when the entire experience is linear. I recently played through Rain and it uses text in a unique way to tell a story. With no dialogue and no narrator it is left up to some text that pops up during gameplay to convey the thoughts of the characters. Which is done well in a storybook like fashion.

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#15 Edited by Redhotchilimist (2971 posts) -

I think it would be hard to make games in a lot of genres(visual novels, adventure games, RPGs for instance) without a lot of text. Including dialogue, both because of subtitles and because of games without any VO. I think it's possibly to put too much in, and pure text documents are bit of a hard sell for me in games that have a lot going on. I'm definitely not the kinda person that sits down and reads every book in Skyrim, to put it like that. But I don't dislike reading in my games as a rule.

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#16 Posted by John1912 (2504 posts) -

I rarely find anything in a game worth reading. Playing Divinity 2 recently I quite reading everything. I just picked notes, and books up to see if it caused a pop up for quest or w/e, then read read the quest notes. I get impatient. If I want to read, Ill read a book. I just dont typically find random stories, trivia in games all that interesting to flush out the world. Or least not written well enough to be entertaining every time. Which is hard to do. And Ill be honest, TV and gaming in general has ruined my attention span for doing it.

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#17 Posted by hwy_61 (1061 posts) -

I’m one of those weirdos that watches movies and tv shows with closed captioning on. Helps me soak in everything easier. Same for games. All subtitles on all the time. I also go out of my way to read every scrap of anything I find in any area.

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#19 Edited by anakanemison (5 posts) -

@rubberluffy: I came here to talk about NieR and immediately saw your post at the top. It was very gratifying.

Thank you for your work.

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#21 Posted by DrArchon (18 posts) -

Depends on how good the writing is obviously. But if it's good, then hell yeah. Pour it on me baby. I proudly have Sunless Sea in my top 10 games of all time list, and a solid 80% of that is because of the writing.

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#22 Posted by Humanity (18944 posts) -

Not especially, or at least not when it takes you out of the game. Dishonored is a series with rich and interesting lore, but man reading through all that dry lore in books was that last thing I wanted to do. I found it interesting, but when you're in the middle of sneaking around and soaking in that awesome atmosphere, getting suddenly dumped into a wall of text wasn't the most elegant solution. Probably one of the few times in my videogame career where I thought "wow this game could really use audiologs" cause I would instinctively button my way out of all those things to keep actually playing the game.

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#23 Posted by Vampire_Chibi (496 posts) -

My brain defaults to the idea that if it isn't spoken, it isn't important.

That's also part of the problem, not only that it isn't important but that it also doesn't contribute anything to your experience with the game.

If you could take a note out of the game, is the note even worth having in the game?

There's this general rule when writing a book that you shouldn't waste the readers time with information that's not going to matter or in other words, information that's useless.

Should game developers have a similar rule?
In the example of Skyrim you would come across notes and such but then also be able to find remnants of those people that wrote those notes, if not dead then maybe some loot.


Do something with the text and not just have it be filler, that's the key.

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#24 Posted by Vampire_Chibi (496 posts) -

@nicksmi56: How often do you come across something that is?

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#25 Posted by Slag (8159 posts) -

Yeah I prefer it to Voice Acting in a lot of cases actually. Because I generally read much quicker than the lines are spoken.

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#26 Edited by nicksmi56 (850 posts) -

@nicksmi56: How often do you come across something that is?

I found the Mass Effect codex interesting, as was the book in Ni No Kuni. Persona 4 pretty much runs on text and I love that game. Dragon Quest 8's dialogue has been pretty fun so far. Far Cry 3's little handbook is too short to really feel the need to skip and I like the personality of the guy who wrote it, so it's fine.

Idk, maybe I just have really good luck when it comes to this stuff, but I can't remember the last game whose text was so bad I felt compelled to skip all of it.

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#27 Posted by Superharman (306 posts) -

@vampire_chibi: In a Bethesda game, I'll generally read a note if it is quest important, but the game will usually let me know it is. These games are littered though with a lot of books and I just ignore all that. I understand there is an element of world building here but there are better ways than just dumping text into a book called "the history of Skyrim pt 1."

Thinking of Dark Souls, I was driven to explore text in that game by virtue of the fact that I found the world that I was exploring so damn fascinating. That text is also written with a certain level of ambiguity that I generally enjoy in the books I read. Text in a Bethesda game usually feels like a history book.

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#28 Edited by Monkeyman04 (2801 posts) -

I'm playing through The Witcher 3 for the first time and I'm trying to read all the things that I can.

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#29 Edited by Vampire_Chibi (496 posts) -

@nicksmi56: Isn't half of the Mass Effect codex actually VO?

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#30 Edited by PavlovianHell (38 posts) -

Looks like a lot of the no answers in here have more to do with the writing they have come across being tedious or unengaging, and not so much that they dislike reading in games themselves.

If the cutscenes are full motion, not having vo but text boxes while characters gyrate and pantomime to dramatic music feels pretty hokey.

However, Ill take reading over bad VO any day of the week, and I prefer text at the bottom during cutscenes, as I read several thousand times faster than any voice actor can say their lines. So unless the acting is REALLY engaging to me, I just end up skipping it as I read the lines myself, with the hapless voice actor never getting past the first word in the sentence.

I do think its important to keep text in games though. Not only can you save millions during production that can be spent on making a better game, but developing kids can cut their teeth on lots of reading while going on a cool adventure, developing reading speed, accuracy, and comprehension, which increases cognitive abilities, critical thinking, and problem solving skills, which aside from being good for kids, it also leads to better games in the future. Smarter audience leads to smarter games.

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#31 Posted by Nev (778 posts) -

@slag said:

Yeah I prefer it to Voice Acting in a lot of cases actually. Because I generally read much quicker than the lines are spoken.

This is my feeling as well. In fact, I often just mute my games and read the text, while listening to music.

But yeah, story is #1 for me in games, so reading tends to be vital.

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#32 Edited by nicksmi56 (850 posts) -

@vampire_chibi: The main part is, but the secondary codex that isn't voice acted is still pretty interesting. It's where I read the books I buy at the Citadel XD sadly not full books, more like plot summaries.

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#33 Posted by zombiepenguin9 (775 posts) -

Generally, yes. While bad writing is bad writing regardless if it's text or VO, I would rather be able to further the story by reading text than having to sit through tons of cutscenes with full voice acting. If subtitles are on I finish reading them long before the VO is done anyway.

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#34 Edited by deactivated-5a00c029ab7c1 (1777 posts) -

Sometimes depends on the games GTA I like to read all the satire books fake web pages and magazines while in Fallout 4 or Skyrim I don't care enough.

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#35 Edited by Fredchuckdave (10824 posts) -

I like JRPG reading, short chunks of conversation back and forth; I don't like sluggish paragraphs a la modern versions of old Black Isle games. I do like Encyclopedias a lot if they're not longwinded; the Xenosaga 1 Encyclopedia is a big part of what made that game/trilogy/universe the best voiced story of all time right up until the Witcher 3 came out (which ironically has an excessively large encyclopedia).

I do like actually good longwinded writing (a la Joseph Conrad) in books of course but good luck finding a modern publisher that tries to facilitate that.

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#36 Edited by Teddie (2157 posts) -

Depends on the presentation usually. Visual novels and text-based cutscenes know how to make it engaging, but something like the Mass Effect codex screen are just so boring and unpleasant to read through that I never touch stuff like that. I'm also not a fan of stopping and reading every book I come across in Skyrim or Divinity, mostly because of the frequency they appear.

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#37 Posted by JamesKond (243 posts) -

Normally I would say no (long books in Elder Scrolls etc.) However I'm playing through The Evil Within 2 right now and every piece of text is just short enough for me to really enjoy reading through them.

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#38 Posted by ArbitraryWater (15746 posts) -

I mean, I do like Planescape Torment a whole lot, soooooo....

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#39 Posted by thebisonxrc (21 posts) -

I like reading in games, but only to a certain extent. I rarely read longer stuff, like those books found in the Elder Scrolls games. Some extra reading is nice, though. Gets the old noggin working a bit.

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#40 Posted by Rebel_Scum (1442 posts) -

Depends on the game and the story. This poll is too basic to vote on tbh.

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#41 Posted by FrodoBaggins (2101 posts) -

No. I'd read a book if I wanted good writing. Small amounts is fine but anything other than that no thank you.

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#42 Posted by afabs515 (2005 posts) -

4 of my top 5 games of all time are Visual Novels and the other one is Persona 4, which has text for days. However, if you’re talking about reading books you find in the environment, like in Skyrim or Dishonored, I hate that stuff.

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#43 Posted by Jonny_Anonymous (3675 posts) -

I think as a secondary to an either verbal or visual or both, it would be fine. Like in Skyrim where you can read extra things about the world in books and notes but that's just extra, not the only way to get the story.

That's actually not true.

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#44 Posted by Sweep (10608 posts) -

I love to read in general, and my library is pretty eclectic, but I don't like reading in games. It seems like quite a lazy and unimaginative way of communicating exposition in a medium where you have literally unlimited visual potential to experiment with. Part of why I loved The Last Of Us so much is because, while there were collectables the writing was brief, and the majority of the exposition was told through conversations between characters, through the grafitti on the wall and the skeletons you see scattered around. You digested that information passively, without having to stop and let it draw you out of the game.

Audiobooks are an acceptable compromise. I'm happy to listen to audiobooks indefinitely, as long as I'm allowed to continue playing while they're on.

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#45 Edited by Jazz (2365 posts) -

I play and watch almost everything with subtitles on - so yes. I hate not being able to read in games.

I also like playing games with a variety of different spoken languages - AssCreed 2 is the key example of this.

That being said - I don't think I've ever been 'immersed' while playing a video game - I'm always conscious of the fact I'm playing a game. Hence game systems intruding on the 'world' don't bother me in the slightest.

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#46 Posted by ramagamma (35 posts) -

Not really, it slows things down to much for me, I did get really into the text in the Dishonored games and also the Thief games but then those are 2 series which are kind of slow and plodding by design.

Can't imagine someone playing Skyrim. and reading all the books etc. Its just too much.

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#47 Edited by Ravelle (3319 posts) -

Yes but only when done within a good flow and when it doesn't stop the gameplay, like in Tomb Raider or in Shadow of War. I like reading if it's dialogue or part of the narrative but not if it's a bunch of text from collectables.

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#48 Posted by GundamGuru (786 posts) -

It depends entirely on the game's genre. Reading too much text in a action game like Uncharted would certainly kill the flow. On the other hand, in an RPG like Original Sin 2 or Mass Effect, I'll read anything and everything. The Codex in ME was probably my favorite part of that game (the VO narration was noticeably absent in ME:A).

Side text can really enhance a game's sense of place, and it's a great way to make additional worldbuilding optional for the players who really enjoy it, without overburdening the plot with exposition.

Though if you're talking about games that have no VO for cost or stylistic reasons (like many visual novels), I think they're perfectly able to tell great stories. Not everything needs voice acting, and no VO is definitely better than bad VO.

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#49 Posted by foxhound421 (86 posts) -

I'm really bad about falling asleep while reading in games. Especially if it's on a portable system. I find that the writing in a lot of games just isn't interesting enough to keep my attention.

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#50 Posted by Zebasteroid (12 posts) -

Yeah, I have no problem reading in games as long as it isn't long and boring. I prefer it over voice acting. I read way faster than the voice actor talks, and that makes it hard for me to not skip the talking when there's text, since I'm done reading the dialogue long before the character is done talking. And that makes it sound weird when I constantly abruptly interrupt the voice acting.