Conflict between text and graphics?

Guys, can you tell me if this happens to you too?

When I am reading a book, the fact that I have to read a lot of text is not a problem (of course! that’s what a book is :slight_smile: ) . I like to read. But when I am playing a game, for some reason having to read a lot of text becomes annoying. Why on earth does this happen? It makes no sense.

(example: reading the stories in the diary, in “The Fidelio Incident”. The characters walks around and finds pieces of his wife’s diary, containing textual stories, which he reads. Or the textual memories in the beginning of Firewatch. I found both annoying. But, to a smaller extent, this also happens when reading long dialogs in a Lucas-style adventure, regardless of how good and funny the dialogs are, and whether or not they are split into clickable choices.)

At first I thought this happens to me only. But I don’t think so: take comics. They have very short texts, and this can’t be a coincidence. Can you imagine a comic book where a character tells a long story in text form? (not in visual form)? It seems clear to me that it wouldn’t work. (Actually, sometimes it happens to see a very long balloon, and it is annoying.)

So what’s going on? Why , in a game, is it a problem if a character tells a story that lasts 10 minutes, (in text form), but in a book this is not a problem? The answer cannot be that, in a videogame, a long narration makes you lose control for more than 15 seconds. Because, if that were the answer, then there would be no problem in comic books with long texts. (you don’t have “control” in comic books)


I have never thought about it before, but I think its how it works for me too.

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When reading novels (or playing text adventures) I’m reading all the time and imagining the world in my head.

When playing a graphic adventure interrupted with a lot of text to read I have to 1. switch my state of the mind a lot between looking at a graphical world and reading + imagining my own stuff, 2. maybe my imagined world doesn’t fit the one portrait by the artist.

ad 1: I don’t like constant context switches.
ad 2: If not so much text is used it’s easier to base everything of the existing graphics. But if a lot of text is used everything needs to match my taste/imagination.


I agree with Nor’s analysis. Reading a book sets your mind in a completely different setup: your only focus is on words. Visual media like games or comic books have words AND images. There are no descriptions, since the visuals are actually there, and there is little to no narration, since the characters are portrayed “in real time”. So having to read a lot switches your mind back to reading mode instead of watching mode, and it doesn’t feel right.

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Thank you guys. So the problem is the context switch from visual to text, not the loss of control. But this has strong implications: this means that, in a game, it is perfectly fine to have a cut scene where a character speaks for 10 minutes and tells a story, provided that this narration happens in visual form and not in text form? Do you confirm?

No. A 10 min cut scene in a game is not ok. I want to play a game not watch a movie.

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so there are two separate problems in the example? one is the switch from visual to text, and one is the amount of time the player loses control?

(where the second problem only applies to games, the first also applies to comics.)

so even if you remove the first problem, the second problem remains?

This is a separate problem.
e.g. when I played DOTT Remastered I thought that the introduction was very long (although briefly interrupted with finding the lab), this is so much better handled in TWP.

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Ok, so, in practice, if you have a part where a character must tell a background story that lasts 10 minutes, what do you do? You convert the story into a playable scene, like the Delores and Ransome flashbacks?

This is true.
By the way, if the text is written letter by letter (like in many Nintendo DS games), and only a few lines are displayed at a time, waiting for user interaction to continue, it’s less annoying.

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[quote=“seguso, post:1, topic:977”]
When I am reading a book, the fact that I have to read a lot of text is not a problem (of course! that’s what a book is :slight_smile: ) . I like to read. But when I am playing a game, for some reason having to read a lot of text becomes annoying. Why on earth does this happen? It makes no sense.
[/quote]That is what I experienced when playing The Talos Principle. For one, there are the QR codes all over the place, and then, you are confronted with even much more text on the terminals. This somehow feels like pausing the game and keeping you from figuring out the next puzzle.
Yet, I think, it’s a great game nevertheless.

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For making good book and movies there is the phrase: ‘show, don’t tell’ (which means dont just let some character phrase out a (back-) story but let it show through the action.)
For games I would change this to ‘play, don’t show’. And this is done very nicely in the flashbacks.


Ok, let’s now focus on dialogs which cannot be turned into playable scenes, but are sufficiently long to be annoying (because of the context-switch from visual to text). Did someone else experience this? In which games?

This may also depend on having voice-overs or not.

I think the Runaway series is known for (unnecessary) long dialogs, have you played them before?

No, I haven’t…

This makes sense: @Nor_Treblig has already mentioned some of the reasons. But there is another important one: the device.

A display isn’t the same as a sheet of paper. The display sends out light, the paper doesn’t. So for your eyes it is more stressing to focus and concentrate on a text on a display. So if you read a text on a screen/display your eyes get faster tired. This is another reason why humans don’t like to read a lot of text on a display. (Same is valid for text in a movie btw.)


Just came across this grumpy gamers post:
The part abour red dead revolver mentioned a too long cut scene.

I wonder if text-rich games might be less stressful for the eyes when played on e-Ink devices, that don’t have back-light.

For example, it might be interesting to play an interactive fiction story on my ebook reader, assuming that there is nothing to type but only to tap.

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Lately I’ve been wondering why do interactive fiction for Kindle not exist. I would expect one half of Stephen King’s production to be novels and the other half to be interactive novels, but it isn’t so and this for me is a puzzle. I remember you say that interactive novel is more mentally challenging than a simple novel, but it is not necessarily so. I’ve been wondering if the real reason is that writers are control freaks. I myself have written some very modest scripts for theatre and I found myself spending a huge amount of time just deciding in what order to say things. My impression is that any story, or at least any mystery story , that works would stop working if you make a slight change. Good stories are very fragile things.( What I just wrote must be taken as me thinking out loud.)

While I wouldn’t describe it as writers being control freaks, I think you’re right. Writers create stories in which they know the motivations of all the characters. To create interactive fiction is to accept that the motivations of the protagonist are no longer known, since the reader is now effectively the protagonist. The writers then have to come up with multiple stories (or at least multiple variations of a story) in order to account for what they can reasonably expect the protagonist to want to do. If the writer and reader disagree on what sorts of options the protagonist should have available, that’s going to be a problem.

This also makes it far more difficult to use a story to make a point. For example, it would be hard for Jurassic Park to depict the folly of mankind trying to control nature if the story has a way to save everyone in the park and open it for business with no lasting consequences. A story designed to push that point no matter what course of action the reader chooses can have the effect of railroading the story and making it appear that the reader’s choices don’t really matter. I’m sure there are ways to strike a balance, but it involves having writers do something way outside of their comfort zones.

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