Video Games are long these days. It’s not uncommon for AAA games to get released touting “60” hours of game time. There’s so many long games that it’s routinely a topic of debate in the closed off bubble that is gaming Twitter. I’m not here to debate if games are too long but what I am here to say is that if a game is going to give us 80 hours of content then it needs to make sure we don’t get lost. Long games needs to have a “Previously On” feature.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re playing a big open world game, and you’ve taken a 10 hour detour to do side quests, you start the game back up ready to get back in the main quest but you can’t quite remember what was happening in it. Or even if you don’t blow off the main quest for long periods of time, if a game has an 50 hour story like Assassin’s Creed, sometimes people will disappear for a while and when they pop back up, you don’t remember who they are. There’s also the fact that gamers are people and have lives. Not everyone can play an 50 plus hour game all the way through in one go. Work gets in the way, family gets in the way, friends get in the way, even other games can get in the way. Sometimes we have to put a game down for a few days, maybe even a few weeks. When you pick up a game like The Witcher and have to put it down for a bit, it’s hard to remember 20 hours of story that you haven’t thought about for 2 weeks.
Video games are a long form storytelling medium and they need to steal what the other long form storytelling medium, television, has been doing for decades. They need to have a feature that will recap the important story points that have happened so far in your playthrough. It doesn’t have to be intrusive and appear every time you start the game again. It can be an option that you can select if you need a refresher. It doesn’t even to be an actual scene, it can just be a text log that goes over the beats you’ve experienced so far like a little short story to get you back up to speed.
There’s nothing more demoralizing, than picking up a game and realizing you no longer no what the hell is happening in the main story. Sure you can go on the internet and read a plot summary or watch a YouTube video to refresh your memory but that comes with the risk of spoilers. The game should have it’s own way of making sure you always know what’s happening in the story, it’s shouldn’t rely on you having to go to outside sources. It’s a simple quality of life change that would make it much more accessible to hop back into a game after a hiatus or a side quest detour. I can’t tell you how many big open world games I’ve come back to after a break and forgot the story so my only options were to either restart, continue without knowing what was going on or just quit and move on to the next game. That last option usually won because if I don’t know what’s happening in the story, I’ve lost a motivation to continue and if I restart then I have to replay 15 hours. So I quit.
There’s a reason television shows start new episodes with a quick recap of what happened previously. They know that people might forget things in between episodes and if they don’t know what’s happening then they might stop watching. An Assassin’s Creed game with an 80 hour story isn’t much different than a 1 hour television program with 10 episodes in a season. It’s time for long games to make it easier to put down for a while and start back up. It’s time for them to start telling us what happened “Previously On”