Fisher, Jayson Spring 20083
The Viability of Recap Sequences in Games


Games allow players to forget their daily problems for short periods of time. When life inevitably demands more of their attention, games are put aside for days, weeks, months, or even years. Eventually the player may return to the game when life demands less attention. The player may not remember the plot or progress of the game, but he will remember the distinct joy and challenge the game provided.

As the game merely begins where the player last saved, there is a substantial amount of frustration on the player's behalf. The saved game provides no mention of the overarching plot or significant events. This lack of information provokes at least three reactions for players: frustration, resignation, and/or acceptance. Frustration occurs when players cannot make significant progress due to lack of knowledge and understanding. Eventually the frustration leads the player to resign and restart the game, allowing for a longer re-integration into the plot.

One way to counter this phenomenon is through the use of "recap" systems. Drawing predominantly from television, the recap is a review designed to briefly provide the audience with all the key characters, any pertinent events so far, and any other information that the director or producer feels the audience should know. Different television genres have different types of recaps. Sports games, such as football, will have recaps of the last play with narrator commentary on how good or bad the play was, such as on NBC Sports. Game shows, such as Deal or No Deal, will have recaps done at specific intervals by the producer in addition to having the host briefly narrate the progress of the contestant. Media genre influences the recap content being presented. This is also true for games.

Recaps for games can be implemented in two ways: introduction recaps and continuance recaps. Introduction recaps continue a story-arc between games and are primarily limited to those games fortunate enough to induce a series, such as Final Fantasy X-2. Implementing an introduction recap is rarely done, even for episodic games. Sometimes having separate storylines is deliberate, and frankly, up to the producer to determine. The purpose of an introduction recap is to draw a player into the story, regardless of a player's previous experience within the series. This capstone explores the theoretical and practical limitations of recap systems for video games.


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