Created By: LaukkuAugust 12, 2012 Last Edited By: ArivneJune 18, 2015

Automatic Notebook

The PlayerCharacter keeps notes on the plot so you don\'t have to!

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Trope

Do We Have This One?

The protagonist of a Video Game carries a personal notebook, and automatically updates it offscreen with new information he or she has learned so far. The player can check it anytime to remind himself of past plot points.

This is mostly an Adventure Game trope and rarely seen elsewhere: This is because they tend to be very dialogue- and plot-heavy, especially investigation-themed ones, so that keeping track of it all can be difficult.

Some possible variations of this trope include:
  1. A list of major events and important facts, written in the protagonist's own words. This type is usually written more or less in a diary style, and can even be their actual diary.
  2. A complete transcript of all spoken dialogue so far. This is especially common in interrogation-heavy detective stories, as the player needs to remember every fact that a character may say.

See also Monster Compendium, which has a similar self-updating mechanic.


Examples

  • Broken Sword
    • The first two games didn't have notebooks, until they were added in the Updated Rereleases.
    • Both Broken Sword 3 and Broken Sword 4 have the "diary" type versions. As they have two playable characters that the player have to switch between at specific points, they both have their own notebook with only the facts that each character knows.
  • In the Lost Files Of Sherlock Holmes games, Watson follows the player (Holmes) everywhere and writes every conversation down in his notebook. There is a search function, which is useful because it can easily reach several hundred pages.
  • There is an interesting variation in Gabriel Knight: the titular character carries a tape recorder instead of a notebook, and records all conversations that way. In Video Game/Gabriel Knight 2, Grace Nakimura, whom you also play at some points, uses a diary-type notebook however.
  • April Ryan in The Longest Journey has a diary. Then there's Zoe's mobile phone in Dreamfall The Longest Journey: she keeps track of her adventures via notes on it (though to a lesser degree than April in TLJ).
  • Grim Fandango has the dialogue transcript version.

Community Feedback Replies: 43
  • August 12, 2012
    KZN02
    BIONICLE: The Book of Chronicles in the Mata Nui Online Game.
  • August 12, 2012
    dvorak
    Personally, I think it would be easier to list aversions...
  • August 12, 2012
    SuperTulle
    Grim Fandango has the dialogue transcript version.

    @Dvorak: I'm afraid I don't agree with you. This trope is common in RPG and puzzle games, but that's pretty much the only genres. If we would start listing the aversions we would have a list of every FPS, sports game, strategy games, etc, etc.
  • August 12, 2012
    Laukku
    @dvorak: Why? I can think of huge amounts of games that avert this: 99% of non-adventure games (platformers, action games, and so on), which is already in the thousands; plotless games; most adventure games in the early 90s and earlier (this is a fairly recent trope), which is probably in the hundreds; light-hearted comedy adventure games; and finally, a surprising amount of investigative games. (Seriously, no automatic notebook in a video game adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel?)
  • August 12, 2012
    TBeholder
    it's rather widespread, but not that widespread. Also, it may vary from automated quest-related logs to player's notebook.

  • August 12, 2012
    MrRuano
    Not quite a diary, but Metroid Prime has the Scan Logs, which record information on everything that Samus manages to scan with her Scan Visor. It usually records the biologies of creatures, the structural information of ships and lore left behind by the unfortunate civilization of the day. It also keeps track of her inventory and map.
  • August 12, 2012
    X2X
    The various Journal entries in Kingdom Hearts. In the original game, Chain of Memories, II, and coded, however, it is Jiminy Cricket who is jotting down all of the info and in the latter game, the journal itself is the catalyst of the plot and plays an important role in the form of Data-Riku.
  • August 12, 2012
    NoirGrimoir
    Might qualify as a Reality Writing Book
  • August 13, 2012
    Koveras
  • August 13, 2012
    PapercutChainsaw
    • Pokemon has two versions of this trope. One is the save mechanism, which in some games is represented as a diary of the player's adventures. The second is the Pokedex, which fills itself with the player character's "research" on a Pokemon the moment they catch it. Various claims it makes, such as Grimer being the result of toxic sludge exposed to "X-Rays from the moon," start to make a lot more sense when you realise that this is an encyclopaedia supposedly written by a ten year old.
  • August 13, 2012
    Laukku
    @Koveras: Of course it counts. I had even included it in the example list!
  • August 13, 2012
    Koveras
    ^ Ah, sorry, overlooked it. :) Well, you can also add Zoe's mobile phone from Dreamfall The Longest Journey, since she keeps track of her adventures via notes on it (though to a lesser degree than April in TLJ).
  • August 13, 2012
    Laukku
    I added the adventure game examples for now. The first Pokemon example sounds more like a fancy save/load system, and the latter one suspiciously like Monster Compendium. I'm unsure about the other examples - maybe the definition could be expanded to include thing like quest logs in RPGs.
  • August 15, 2012
    KarjamP
    • The Spelunky remake has the main character jotting down information about enemies he killed, items he collected, traps he encountered and areas he visited.
  • August 15, 2012
    ccoa
    • Estelle keeps a Bracer Notebook in Legend Of Heroes Trails In The Sky, which keeps track of whatever your current plot-relevent quest is and any sidequests you've accepted, plus updated notes as you learn new things about them or accomplish sub-goals.
  • August 15, 2012
    dotchan
    The Okami scrolls contains: a summation of the plot so far, any ongoing quests and sub-quests you're on, a Monster Compendium, and several item compendiums for treasures obtained, fish caught, and stray beads collected. And that's not even including the interface menus related to gameplay, such as your inventory, your equipment, and stats you can level up with the praise you gather.
  • August 15, 2012
    dotchan
    The Okami scrolls contains: a summation of the plot so far, any ongoing quests and sub-quests you're on, a Monster Compendium, and several item compendiums for treasures obtained, fish caught, and stray beads collected. And that's not even including the interface menus related to gameplay, such as your inventory, your equipment, and stats you can level up with the praise you gather.
  • August 15, 2012
    Antigone3
    The later Mystery Case Files games include the Master Detective's journal. (If you're playing the Collectors Edition of Escape From Ravenhearst, there's a bonus game in the journal itself.)
  • August 15, 2012
    PapercutChainsaw
    To clarify on the Pokemon one: In Pokemon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum, if you went back to your game after a few days of not playing, you would be shown a diary entry that listed some of the things you did last time you played- trainers you battled, Pokemon you caught, places you visited, etc.

    But you're right- the Pokedex is covered by Monster Compendium. Although, there is definitely some potential for overlap if the compendium is supposedly being filled out by the player's character.
  • August 16, 2012
    Stratadrake
    ^ Additionally, Pokemon Fire Red And Leaf Green also gave you a recap of what you did last time you played, but it wasn't in a journal format.
  • August 22, 2012
    Laukku
  • August 22, 2012
    billybobfred

    The Synopsis option in other Tales games is similar, but usually written from a third-person omniscient POV.
  • August 22, 2012
    Maverick
    • In LA Noire, a transcript of all spoken dialog during an investigation is kept so the player doesn't miss any important facts.
  • August 22, 2012
    HonestGent
    Skyrim's quest log reads as a journal, being written in first person and updating according to the player's actions.
  • June 10, 2013
    Laukku
    Bump.
  • June 10, 2013
    Larkmarn
    This is a good trope.

    Might want to mention it's an Anti Frustration Feature.

    • In Shenmue and its sequel, your journal is automatically updated with quest progress and what you need to find out next. Given how easy it is to spend get distracted and play minigames, this is appreciated.
  • June 10, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    Zig-zagged in the Dick Tracy game on the NES: Tracy uses his notebook only to record evidence but not clues given through interrogations, even though the player needs both sources to figure out where to go or who to track down next.
  • June 10, 2013
    MorningStar1337

    ..and I just realized that this had been brought up before.
  • June 10, 2013
    eowynjedi
  • June 10, 2013
    Generality
    • Diablo III has a journal that keeps track of the player character's progress through the current quest. But you don't actually need it, because there's a sidebar on the screen at all times telling you where to go next.

    Can easily overlap with Captains Log.
  • June 10, 2013
    Stratadrake
    Should we perhaps limit this to a logbook of plot-relevant events only? Stuff like a Monster Compendium is a separate trope.
  • June 11, 2013
    Laukku
    We could define Monster Compendium as a subtrope. But yes, this is mostly about plot-relevant events.
  • June 11, 2013
    Chernoskill
    Kingpin Life Of Crime features a notebook the protagonist uses to write down clues, missions and overall story progression.
  • June 11, 2013
    kjnoren
    Two possible examples:

    Literature:

    • The Dis-organiser in Discworld can act as this. In one case it malfunctions and pick up future events, or events that could happen in another timeline.

    Videogame:

    • The Sotsdex in Sword of the Stars: The Pit records your progress through the laboratory, collects recipes and decoded message fragments, and acts as a manual of monsters met and items used.
  • June 11, 2013
    DracMonster
    Automatic Journal might be a better title.
  • March 19, 2014
    Laukku
    • Cirquits Edge Has the ability to recall up to fifty events as a feature. These are exact descriptions for noteworthy situations that have passed. This is possibly one of the first games with an in-game journal.
  • March 20, 2014
    DAN004
    Auto-writingJournal?
  • March 20, 2014
    Alucard
    Nathan Drake's journal in Uncharted edits any time the player solves a puzzle with his sketches to the solution, or whenever a plot-important sketch is needed. Some of this could be written off as Drake not needing that information in-story up until that point, preventing the player from turning to those pages.
  • June 17, 2015
    eroock
    Amnesia The Dark Descent features a self-updating notebook.
  • June 17, 2015
    dalek955
    • Freelancer has Trent's Neural Net journal, which has an update for every checkpoint in the Single Player Plot. It makes you wonder sometimes where he finds the time, since some of the updates are clearly written DURING battles.
  • June 17, 2015
    Koveras
    This trope is one common way to avert Now Where Was I Going Again.
  • June 18, 2015
    Arivne
    • Changed * to # to number a list.
    • Examples section
  • June 18, 2015
    NateTheGreat
    The Bomber's Notebook in Majora's Mask allows you to keep track of which sidequests you've done in this particular time cycle. There are entries for each of the twenty people you can help; some with simple quests and some with ones so convoluted that at least two time cycles are required to explore all the facets of them.

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