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Exposition Break
aka: Maechen Period
"And that, as they say, is that."
Maechen, master of the Rambling Old Man Monologue, Final Fantasy X

Unlike other visual media, games are interactive. That makes the contrast between interactive and non-interactive periods very stark. An Exposition Break is a specific break in gameplay that exists to provide exposition to the player. Sometimes the breaks are short, entertaining, or unobtrusive, in which case the player will generally forgive or even enjoy them. Sometimes they're not.

They often have valuable game or plot information, so it's best not to skip the Exposition Break during the first playthrough if you want to beat the game. That said, many games will ask if you'd like to hear it again just to be sure you truly understood all of it, sometimes too much.

There is often nothing visually interesting happening during a Exposition Break. In fact, most of them consist only of text or (in more modern games with voice acting) dialogue. If the period is too long, the player will be itching to get control back or else tune it out, valuable info be darned.

They can be especially annoying if they can never be skipped or if an important part of the gameplay is inextricably tied to one that is somewhat less than entertaining. This kind sometimes overlap with Forced Tutorial.

Exposition Breaks often precede a Climax Boss. This is fine for purposes of drama but annoying from a gaming standpoint, since losing means you have to sit through it all over again.

See also Exposition, Intro Dump and Expository Gameplay Limitation.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Action Adventure Game 
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time feels the same way as FFX for people who are fast readers. There's always the risk of saying "Yes" when Mr. Exposition asks, "Do you want me to repeat what I just said?" NO.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, you earn a mask by staying awake during an old lady's long, rambling speech (but dozing off is also a fast way to skip all the way to the Third Day without spamming the Song of Double Time)
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, there're a couple of these, but there's generally something interesting going on while it happens. In one case, it was a huge mindfuck.
  • Ōkami has a few of these, perhaps most notably from the period around when you gain access to the Dragon Palace to when you reach Oni Island, when there are 4 or 5 very long cutscenes for gameplay that amounts to one dungeon and a boss fight.
  • Anime cutscenes in Tail Concerto.
  • Amea has three main ones, right before fighting Mish, Valde, and the Master. The last case is actually very useful, as you can use your autoheal spell to recover from the fight immediately before while you wait.

     Adventure Game 
  • The 1997 video game Blade Runner featured Ray giving short narrations when entering areas for the first time or discovering clues, often giving greater insight into the world and characters.
  • The Monkey Island series spiced these up by continuing to update the context-sensitive Action Bar during the sequence, often displaying silly possible actions.
    • The Secret of Monkey Island was the undisputed champion of this, particularly with the scene where Guybrush steals the Idol Of Many Hands. In a classic Noodle Incident, the player watches a still shot of an empty room for about a minute, unable to see what's going on, only the increasingly absurd commands being used.

     First Person Shooter 
  • Used to great and disturbing effect in BioShock. Would you kindly? Interesting that it really only takes control away in order to show that the main character has no free will.
    • There are also plenty of cases where you are trapped in a tiny featureless room with an indestructible window while something happens on the other side. These tend not to last very long, though - most of the exposition is delivered to you over your radio as you're moving from Point A to Point B.
  • The scary Pipe Shooter Clive Barker's Jericho hits mandatory 10 minute speedbumps in gameplay for Infodumps.
  • In Doom 3, among its many "What were they thinking?" moments id Software inexplicably chose to use cutscenes, which yank the control/camera away from the player in a FPS.
  • Half-Life 2 twice locks the player in a warehouse to watch the rest of the cast infodump at one another for over ten minutes. Towards the end of the game, the plot abandons subtlety and locks the player character in a restraint chair for the same purpose.
    • The original Half-Life did the same. It was billed and hyped as having no cutscenes because you are always in control of the player, but there are several spots in the game where you have to wait for an NPC to say his/her piece before the door behind will magically open.
      • But at least you can amuse yourself by jumping around or smashing crates
      • Not any more! Episode Two gets very inventive finding excuses to completely stop the player moving or looking around.

    Mecha Game 
  • Custom Robo, for the Gamecube, had an incredibly long cutscene toward the end. So long, in fact, that it actually had multiple save points in it. Oh, and that game had no voice acting, so it was all in text...

    Roguelike 
  • In Pokémon Mystery Dungeon, you are often given the chance to save before and after certain plot sequences. (Though they aren't nearly as long as most of the other examples, the option is still appreciated...)

     Role Playing Game 
  • Played for laughs in The Bard's Tale; at one point, enduring an NPC's extremely long-winded, rambling story gets you a reward, though you're given the option to shut him up.
  • Chrono Cross had a particularly infuriating one; before you fight Miguel, you have to sit through a 5+ minute long navel-gazing monologue about how he got here, what his past is, and how he's connected to Serge. It's interesting the first time you read it, but scrolling through it gets old fast. Thankfully, if you know that you can run from boss fights, you can run away, go save, and never read it again.
  • Eternal Sonata has a 10-minute narration sequence recounting the love life of Frederick Chopin that consists entirely of words on the screen sloooooowly appearing while you see background pictures of...well, honestly, they're pictures of things that have NOTHING to do with Frederick Chopin or his girlfriend.
    • You can skip these cutscenes and read them in the menu at your own pace though.
  • Final Fantasy X had the character Maechen, whose sole purpose was to provide these. Fortunately, they were all optional. Final Fantasy X-2 continues the pattern, but hangs a giant lampshade on it - during his conversation breaks, multiple boxes pop up giving you the chance to shut him up (but if you do, you miss out on a scene later that counts towards 100% Completion), the camera pulls out during each one to the point your party can no longer be seen, and it's finally revealed Maechen is an Unsent who just wants to pass on what he knows before he goes to the Farplane.
  • The Golden Sun games feature many, many, many intermissions of dialogue between the party. These skits are almost never to reveal vital information or instructions, but rather character development and discussions. While they add a lot of charm and personality to the story, the games also feature no possible way to skip cutscenes, resulting in somewhat... tiresome breaks in gameplay for those who are replaying the game, or forgot to save and just want to hurry up to the point they were at before dying.
  • Knights of the Old Republic hangs a lampshade on this with an optional subquest where you can get the Sand People's storyteller to tell you their oral history (including a gratuitous bit about Tatooine being the original human homeworld). There's one segment that HK finds exceptionally tedious and wants to summarize as the Sand People tribes "fighting over who had the biggest bantha." You can encourage him to skip over it, or force him to recount all of it, a process that takes hours. (You, the player, get an Exposition Cut)
    • To paraphrase "This is hours of repetition of meaningless tribal data. Please let me skip this, master." "No." "I hate you, master."
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has one of these before the final boss fight, then halfway through the boss there's another one. Even better is that there's a non-standard game over after the first one, and neither cutscene is skippable.
  • There's somewhat of an example in Suikoden V with the character of Egbert, a rather eccentric man prone to long, rambling outbursts about people who have wronged him in the past. The thing is, to recruit him you need to sit through one of his speeches at the lowest text-reveal speed. If you press a single button during it (which would usually advance the text) then he refuses to join you, and you have to walk all the way out of the dungeon and come back in order to try again. A particularly annoying example of why Suikoden V is a Guide Dang It game.
  • Super Robot Wars (and its spin-offs) tend to devote a significant portion of early conversations to explaining the unique concepts of the constituent anime series for those who came in late. In some cases (such as series based in outer space or far future times) it's justified, but other times it's kind of a Voodoo Shark; in all but one or two rare cases, Super Robot Wars uses a Massive Multiplayer Crossover world where all these characters exist side by side, and always have. It would be like someone in Real Life never having heard of the Gulf War despite living through it.
  • Xenogears. In general. The cutscenes are very long, very frequent, and generally important. While the second disc is infamous for the developers running out of time/money and having the characters narrate instead of having gameplay, this actually sped things up, since the summarized cutscenes went by much faster than they would have otherwise, and most of the dungeons are still there.
  • The Baten Kaitos games often have these before boss fights, but they do try to avoid annoying you with them; if you die to a boss, the game gives you the option to restart the fight from the beginning, as opposed to kicking you out to the menu and making you sit through the cutscene again. Given how ferocious late-game bosses can get, this is a very good thing.
  • MOTHER 3 has Leder's ten+ minute Info Dump in Chapter Eight, which explains the backstory of the Nowhere Islands, Tazmily Village, and how the world came to be. It's so big, you get a unique item afterwards that will recite a paraphrased version in case you forget. It's also one of the game's most shocking scenes.
    • The game also had a "coffee break" of sorts with the Mr. Saturns as the game takes several minutes to explain everything you had done up to that point and what the rest of the adventure may hold for you if you press on. Earthbound also had a similar scene.
  • Bastion generally averts this, avoiding normal infodumps by having Rucks just constantly narrating over all the action. Perhaps the most obvious infodumps, though, are the optional Who Knows Where segments, enemy gauntlets where Rucks talks over the fighting by revealing everybody's backstories. This eventually leads to The Unreveal in The Stranger's Dream, which happens after all the other characters, which would make you think that Rucks would finally talk about himself. Instead, he just reads from an alphabet book, with the ending heavily implied that he wrote it.

     Shooting Game 
  • In Thwaite, each five waves represent one early morning, and after them, there's a short dialogue during the day about the villagers' investigation into what's happening.

    Stealth Based Game 
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty is a bad offender, with the final boss preceded by an hours worth of cutscenes, half of which takes place in the codec talking-heads screen. And by the end of it, you still won't know what's going on, even if you don't skip out on any of it.
    • Heck, the pre and post boss fight scenes were no better since each boss character had to give the player character at least 5 minutes worth of info dump, even after you shot them to hell. Metal Gear Solid wasn't any better for this issue either. The only exception to the rule is the second fight against Vamp in Metal Gear Solid 2 where he attempts to slice Emma with a knife. His appearance and departure are brief with very little dialogue.
  • After Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots came out, a joke ran around the internet saying that people were going to go watch MGS4, since the game has just over 8 hours of cutscenes.

    Strategy Game 
  • Odium. Only at the very end of the game, when you finally defeat the final boss, a NPC provides a long explanation of what exactly happened in the monster-infested city, before dying.

     Survival Horror 
  • In Saw (the video game that is a sequel to Saw and a prequel to Saw II), this occurs numerous times through the game. Very often the door you need to go through is locked tight until you pick up a tape and listen to Jigsaw's exposition, or watch a piece of exposition between Jigsaw and one of his test subjects.

     Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Assassin's Creed I is particularly bad with this. Even though you can move around (and occasionally change the camera position), the cutscenes are very long-winded and don't add much to the plot.

Excuse PlotVideo Game TropesFackler Scale of FPS Realism
Exposition BeamExpositionExposition Diagram

alternative title(s): Maechen Period
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