GoNintendo Thought: Why don't more games remind of where you were/what you were doing in-between play sessions?

Refresh my memory...

Writing this piece made me realize how old and lame I am. Oh well, I guess it happens to all of us. Hopefully my sentiment still resonates with a few people! As always, thanks for reading.


Video games have come a long way since they first burst onto the scene. The first video games were experiences that could show you everything they had to offer in 5 minutes, if not less. You had one screen, one objective, and that was about it. Sure, there were exceptions to the norm, but by and large, most games were simple "high score" affairs that could be easily understood by even the most uninformed player.

As the game industry ventured forth and hardware became more powerful, developers started to stretch the limits of what was possible. Games could be sprawling, scrolling adventures instead of single-screen affairs. Game stories went from non-existent to rivaling the amount of text found in novels. Players were given multiple objectives to tackle, along with plentiful side-quests. As technology was improved and developers learned more, the limits of gaming became nearly impossible to foresee.

Fast-forward to the industry today, and games are bigger and more involved than ever before. There are certainly games in today's age that can be played in a single sitting, but by and large, the vast majority of titles offer up hours upon hours of content. Gamers didn't want to pay $60 for a 3-hour game long ago, so developers started to cram in as much content as possible, and then tack on even more through paid DLC. It's very rare to have a game nowadays where there's not enough to do, and instead, its become about the player having enough time to do it all.

I remember cranking through games like none other back in my childhood. Outside of school and a few household chores, I had a ton of free time to do as I saw fit. If I wasn't hanging with friends, I was playing games. There simply weren't enough games to keep up with my insatiable appetite. Even games that offered multiple hours of content would be done and dusted in a week, and I was already looking for the next big thing. I honestly remember being frustrated with there not being enough games to rent!

Now as a 38-year-old man, I am on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Free time is an all-time low, unfortunately. There's work and other obligations to take care of, and finding those free moments to play games is becoming harder and harder. Sadly, as much as I don't like to admit it, I sometimes lack the energy to play games as well. I absolutely love playing video games...probably more than ever, but sometimes the day is so long and you're so spent at the end of it that taking a nap/going to bed is an option too good to pass up.

I know I'm in the same boat as millions upon millions of people. There are more gamers than ever before, but so many of us lack the time/energy to really sink our teeth into an experience. Sometimes we get an hour or two during the week to play something, and then we have to hope that next week we can squeeze in another session or two. I've felt that motivation countless times. I'll think about getting through the work week just so I can have a few more hours to sit down and play a game.

If I do get to hop back into a game a few days after playing it, I consider myself extremely lucky. Sometimes it's a week or two before I can dive in again, which leads to the big problem. I can't tell you how many times I've finally found a moment or two to return to a game, and once I fire it up, I realize I have no idea what I'm doing. In a matter of days, I've completely lost all clue as to what's going on, and I'm left with very little to figure out my path ahead.

I used to hear older family members talking about this when I was a kid, and I thought they were crazy. Uncles and aunts who would be playing a game/watching a TV show/reading a book, only to have something get in the way for a few days. They'd come back to it and find themselves unable to pick things back up. They'd lost the plot somewhere along the way, no matter how much they thought they could sneak back in. It just didn't make sense to me as a child, but nowadays I can see just how dumb I was!

There are some options you can turn to in the hopes of getting back into the game, but they're not perfect. If you find that you've forgotten a game's controls, you can usually head to an options menu and get back into the groove. If you've lost your path ahead on the next objective, or have no idea what you just completed, you might be in worse shape. Sure, you could hop online and look for a FAQ/guide to help jog your memory, but sometimes that's just not enough to do it. You'll read snippets and end up even more confused than you were when you sat down.

Game developers have had the ability to fix this for years now, yet it's something that is pretty much a rarity. Some developers have taken pity on those with little free time and bad memories by including elements that recap what you were last up to. While I know there are a handful of games out there that do this, the one that comes to mind most recently is Dragon Quest XI S. I cannot tell you how helpful that feature has been.

Every time you jump back into Dragon Quest XI S, the game will give you a recap on the major things you did last time you played. There's a ton of snippets the developers wrote to chronicle the player's journey, as all players will have to go through the same main story beats to get to the end point. With that in mind, Square-Enix was able to keep track of what you last did, and feed you a refresher when you got back to the game. In just a matter of minutes, you're back up to speed with what you did, where you need to go next, and why.

This feature is an absolutely godsend, and has saved my butt countless times. There were times I would play and have plans to jump back in the next night, but three weeks would pass before I'd get a chance. It didn't matter one bit though, as I knew that reminder would be there for me when I finally had another chance to play. These little reminders took away a big fear that comes with playing games nowadays. When I do have a chance to play, I worry that the next time I come back to the game, I'll be too lost to pick it up again. Dragon Quest XI S makes sure that's never the case.

I understand not all games can have this feature, but I'd think that the vast majority could implement some aspect of this reminder. Also, while I love the feature and would like it in all games, I believe it should be an option that can be turned on or off. There are players who have plenty of time and don't have to worry about losing their place. They don't need to be reminded of what was going on, and these features would just get in their way. Let the player turn these reminders off, but make sure the data is still kept track of in the background. That way if a player does end up needing a bit of help, they can just flip a virtual switch and have their recap ready.

With so many games aiming to be more inclusive nowadays (and rightfully so), I'm shocked that we haven't seen developers addressing this issue. Free time is always at a premium, and anything that'll help me remember what I was doing gives me more time to actually play the game. With how system updates work nowadays, sometimes you don't get to actually play a game until hours after you expected to. You hate to go through all that, get the game ready to go, and then waste even more time because you're drawing a blank on what's next in gameplay goals.

It really does seem like such a simple fix, and I can only hope this feature becomes more standard as time goes on. Video games can provide hundreds of hours of gameplay, along with so many different ways to play. Sometimes it's a bit too much to ask players to remember everything they did, keep all the characters in mind, recall complex controls, and dive back in without issues. A few helpful hints and reminders could go a very long way to easing players back in, and will also make sure they're not afraid to revisit after weeks have passed. It's a quality of life feature that's long overdue, and would no doubt be applauded by the majority if included.

...and yes, I know this post makes me sound like an old man!

Categories: Consoles, Portables, Feature


Fri May 08 20 06:13pm
Rating: 1

For me, remembering the story is less of a problem than remembering how to play the game. Or where the hell I am in a maze like world. But I get you, story recaps are great and they should be used more often. I suppose there are some stubborn developers who want to do things their own way. That’s not always a good thing.

Oh yeah, this is in reference to recaps in general. Story, location, objectives, you name it. An all-encompassing recap that gets you right back into the game. Sorry if that was unclear!

You don’t have to apologize. You were clear about it. That’s just the aspect of a game I’m more likely to forget. I don’t seem to have a problem remembering plot. I can remember super obscure stuff, even years later. I have family who can’t remember what they watched even a day or two before. It’s kind of a running gag that my sister read a whole book and only thing she remembered from it was a scene with a cave and snow.

I don’t know if any amount of recaps can help with that one. She’s special like that. ;)

A topic near and dear to my heart..

For more complex games, I basically have to keep a journal (usually in the form of an iPad Notes file) of my exploits so that I don’t lapse for a week or so and then return, only to wonder what I have or haven’t done, what sidequests I haven’t resolved, etc..

It's really not difficult to implement in a way like DQ11 does. Integer variable to track which chunk of the game you're in, array containing all the reminders, just show the reminder from the array index corresponding to the tracking variable and bump it up by one whenever you get to a new chapter.

I think Golden Sun had a little something or am I imagining? I recall that when you came back to the game after saving and quitting, it gave you a brief “here’s what you were just doing” kind of montage in black and white. Almost like a flash back cutscene.

I whole heartedly agree that more games could do with something that reminds you where you are, what you’re doing, and how to play.

Unfortunately I feel like the audience that would benefit from something like that is very much a minority so the cost/benefit of implementing something like that doesn’t make much business sense.

Pokemon Fire Red had a short segment that would tell you what you were last doing when you played. They were in black and white and just short little screens that explained where you were and any major events.

Sure Fire Red doesn't have the deepest story and isn't really confusing, but it was nonetheless charming, and if you didn't want to see it? Easy to skip. There's a lot of games that seem to have tried it at one point but have since abandoned the idea, and it makes me a bit sad.

I have TONS of games the I'll need to restart when I come back playing... IF I ever do :-/

When I saw the title I immediately thought of Dragon Quest XI. It does a great job, and in the grand scheme of scripting a game that huge, it isn't much work and goes a long way.

I recently completed AI: The Somnium Files and before loading or jumping to another part of the story they do quick flashes of the previous events. No text, just selected screenshots of what previously happened. It isn't much, but is still greatly appreciated.

The DS suspending play when you closed it was the right direction, I had a game paused for at least 3 years and just opened it up to when I last played. Sadly the feature wasn't as useful for the 3DS since it eats battery when closed.

Yeah, it would be great to have something like this added into most modern games.

It wasn't too essential back in the day as the majority of games were pretty simple and linear in the way the levels played out, and they were of course broken down into actual levels, so it was easy to just pick up and essentially keep moving forward. This isn't the case with modern games that often aren't level based and often go for complex narratives and more "open" worlds and the like. So, yeah, a feature like this would be welcome.

I hope developers are taking note.


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