"...why the hell do video game books only have one page in them? Even Chick Tracts have like 24 pages."
Going on an adventure doesn't always mean you have to hack your way through hundreds of monsters to save the world. Sometimes, you'll want to take a break from all of the killing and relax with a good book. Luckily, whenever The Hero
visits his local library, there'll always be tons of books on the shelves, but he'll always find the one book on the shelf with information that's somehow relevant to the quest at hand
. Of course, some ordinary people
like to keep books in their homes, too. They're not always relevant to the quest, but like the stuff in the library, it's still good enough for a quick read. And we mean quick.
Usually, books within a video game hardly contain enough text to fit on a full real-world page. This can easily be written off (no pun intended) as an Acceptable Break From Reality
. Sure, it may sound
kinda silly, but when there's a world to be saved, you wouldn't want to spend hours skimming through a book to find the information you need
A common variation on this is to imply that the tiny portion that the player gets to read is merely an excerpt, or a summary of everything relevant you managed to glean from it. Curiously, it also seems that not only does every book contain only one page of interest, every bookshelf contains only one book of interest.
In extremely rare cases, the in-game information is in fact as realistically long as you'd expect it to be. In those cases, it's known as the In-Game Novel
. A Pamphlet Shelf
might be Flavor Text
, when the information isn't necessary to understand the plot.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, the starting town has a library where eight books are laid out for reading. One is them is a world map, but all the others barely contain a paragraph of text each. In particular, when you combine the fact that the "secrets" book only contains two lines of text with the fact that you need a magnifying glass to read it, it might as well have fit inside a fortune cookie.
- Taken to its irrational conclusion in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. The grandmother in the inn offers to read you one of two bedtime stories. The longer tale of the two could easily fit on one or two pages of a real book. The process of listening to the story takes twelve ingame hours and requires you to equip a magical mask if you don't want to fall asleep in the process.
- The royal library in Shining Wisdom contains around 10 bookshelves, each one contains about one sentence and most of that is the plot for the previous games in the series.
- Averted in Myst and its sequels. Although most of the books in the original game were burned and could not be read (the library being burned is core to the plot), it was a shock to be treated to several journals over 20 pages in length. There isn't nearly that volume of reading in the sequels, but Mysts 2-5 each have at least one diary to read, and most have several that can be found. Indeed, finding and reading the diaries is critical to understanding the plot in a game with maybe fifty lines of dialog.
- The Neverhood contains a twenty-seven-screen-long Bible of sorts. Although not quite enough to fill a book, it comes damn close.
- Quest For Glory IV has the shelf in the run-down Adventurers' Guild, which actually does contain some pamphlets. Rather than making the player hunt for each book, however, interacting with the bookshelf simply brings up a list of the readable books.
- Averted in Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge, where the library mostly contained irrelevant books, and finding the useful ones was part of the puzzle. On the other hand, the book of quotations did contain remarkably few quotes.
- In Marathon, you get to kick back at computer terminals dotted around the eponymous colony ship and read all sorts of snippets from Martian history to philosophical articles to classified ads to chunks of hexadecimal garbage. The compactness and relevance of most terminal texts is implied to be from malignant cyborgs and sentient (not to mention completely bonkers) computers battling each other.
- In Deus Ex, ellipses help indicate that you didn't just read everything in the book. Sometimes it's even a real book, like The Man Who Was Thursday, and you get to see only a few paragraphs from the middle.
- Justified in Zork Nemesis; with most of the many books lying around, you can only read a few pages, but often the last page will end mid-paragraph, implying that there's a full-length book the player character is too lazy to read all of.
- During the Inventing tutorial in City of Heroes, one task you are given is to read a specific book. The entire contents of said book are sufficient to fill one dialog window, and no more.
- In World of Warcraft, information comes in two forms, items in your inventory and books lying out on tables. Items are often letters or notes specifically given to you and written in full (sometimes brief, sometimes verbose) details. Books (both in inventory and more often out) are not quite as full as a book should be, although they contain numerous pages worth of lore. Few if any books have the equivalent of one paperback novel's page of text.
- Played with in Mabinogi. Books are only available for purchase from NPCs, or awarded from quests. The only library doesn't have any readable books. Reading the books gets a visual book with pages that must be turned manually. Length ranges from a single (short) page, to well over a dozen or more. Some of them are guides to various in-game functions, which are useful to read; some are skill-granting artifacts or quest items, which don't need to be read, but which can contain useful info on how to use the skill, or on the quest storyline; and some are completely extraneous, containing nothing but backstory or flavour text. Most of the longest books are the extraneous ones, and the newbie guides.
- Super Mario Galaxy has Rosalina's book, which is slowly unlocked over the course of the game. It contains Rosalina's biography.
- In Spyro: Shadow Legacy, various books have the plots of previous games, or other in-game information, boiled down to about three sentences.
- Dragon Quest has obeyed this trope from time immemorial; Dragon Quest VIII may count as Lampshade Hanging, as the hero opens every book to the middle (after flipping two pages) and never turns the page, so he's clearly only reading the page he needs to read out of the book.
- One sidequest early in Fable I asks you to collect books for an elementary school teacher for him to read to the youngsters. You don't get to read the entire books yourself, but when you hand each one over to the teacher, he reads them aloud to the children, and all of them actually are that short.
- Fable II has some actual pamphlet, but all the descriptions of the books simply tell you what they're about in a quick synopsis.
- Mega Man Battle Network and its sequels.
- Wild Arms
- Averted in Wild ARMs 3 with the Adventure Book quest: you have to find eleven books detailing a children's story and then read the assembled story to a certain little girl. The entire story is told with text and still frame pictures, and while not long enough to be a proper book- let alone span eleven books- it's still quite a substantial text compared to the RPG standard.
- There's another one like this in Wild ARMs: Alter Code F, though it's quite a bit more random than the Wild ARMs 3 version.
- Averted in most of The Elder Scrolls games, in which every book shown is readable, and books often just contain backstory and lore sometimes not even related to the particular games' storyline. Other times, they contain full-fledged short stories. They do cheat a bit by padding the shelves with multiple copies of the same book.
- The exception to this is The Lusty Argonian Maid. Yes, because it is exactly what it sounds like.
- That, and Boethiah's Pillow Book, which is entirely represented by:
- In Daggerfall, various books throughout the game hinted what days to summon Daedric Princes and what to expect from it. Morrowind does not have complicated summoning that requires specific storm-less days, and the only remnant in Vvardenfell's selection of literature is referenced in Invocation of Azura.
- Skill books even contain these stories, instead of just adding to the skill.
- Followed in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door; most of the time, if Professor Frankly has to read a book, he opens it right to the relevant page.
- In addition, a player with coins to burn may purchase, one at a time, the Super Luigi series of books. Like in the Pamphlet trope, these books are rather short; however, they are completely irrelevant to the quest at hand.
- When larger books are read in the Fallout series, an appropriate amount of time passes while the Player Character peruses them.
- Entries in the Codex in Mass Effect appear when something relevant occurs in-game; you don't have to read the Codex, but it provides interesting information anyway.
- Played fairly straight in Knights of the Old Republic. There aren't any shelves or books, but there are datapads, usually containing only a single paragraph or two.
- Baldur's Gate has completely optional books that are longer than typical examples of this trope, but still vastly shorter than any self-respecting real-world book. They provide a wealth of flavor text, and a few actually are tangibly relevant to the plot (The Dead Three and Time of Troubles)
- Neverwinter Nights also has the brief, but setting-enriching flavor text books as well.
- The Pokémon series is guilty of this. Normally, the text is purely for fun, or the character will say something like "A bunch of hard-to-read books are on this shelf," but in Diamond and Pearl a library is a major plot point, and yet it still does this.
- Played with in Lenora's Gym in Pokemon Black And White, as you only read a few lines from each of her books, but she's hidden vital clues to solving the Gym's puzzles inside some of them.
- Final Fantasy IV has a few of these, most notably at the library in the Land of Summoned Monsters.
- EarthBound plays with this when you find a magazine containing a funny short story in a bonus area.
- Geneforge has a lot of books that are so heavily damaged only a small section of them remains legible. Later games in the series offer other explanations for the speed of reading (Shaper training allows one to learn new things very quickly) and the brevity of the books (most books are composed largely of things over your character's head).
- Subverted by Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura; while there are quite a few short books in the game used to move the story along or used in a sidequest, there are also entire libraries of books that have no connection to the plot and merely exist to create a feeling of depth. Some of them are quite long, at least by in-game RPG standards.
- Similar to Mass Effect, Dragon Age had numerous notes, letters, books, and interesting bits of masonry that would dump anywhere from a single paragraph to three pages of text into your journal.
- The sequel has the Player Character perusing his/her own books at home, with comments regarding those which are gifts or recommendations from friends ("101 Uses for a Phallic Tuber? Thanks, Isabela, that's one hundred too many.")
- Aidyn Chronicles does this with any books you find. There are a few libraries in the game, all of which only have a few books you can read, and almost all the books contain only the briefest of snippets that don't even fill the page.
- The SNES game Robotrek has plenty of this, since beyond plot-related reading the main character learns to produce new items from the Invention Machine by finding "Inventor's Friend" volumes. Then again, the machine just spits items out on demand, so maybe he just copies the CD in the back of the book and leaves the written info to the more hands-on inventors. There's also a hidden library that contains one of each volume in the game (a few of which are exclusive to that area), but it's still one whole tile of bookshelf for each book.
- Betrayal at Krondor has you come across a library, and it deals with the issue in its trademark manner - you get a long, wordy narration describing your characters trudging through shelves and shelves of dusty ledgers, obsolete textbooks and illegible scribblings to find a little tidbit of information in the margins of a half-hidden combat manual, for example.
- In Dubloon, you can find a short piece of info about a mysterious captain who searched for the Golden Chest many years ago. This short piece of info can be found in 3 tomes, each lying next to each other.
- In Dungeon Siege and especially the expansion, there are numerous books lying around to read. However, there's always only a single page that remains legible for various reasons.
- In Fortune Summoners each shelf in the game contains only one readable book (although, interestingly, the main character is Book Dumb and can't read most of the books, so you have to switch to another character to read them) although some of them are of a fair length.
- In Ys I, the Books of Ys are MacGuffins with not much actual text in them.
Turn Based Strategy
- Averted in Metal Gear Solid 2, where the extras section has a book, mentioned in the game as being an account of the events of the first game. It is an actual book at 300-some pages.
Wide Open Sandbox
- Final Fantasy Tactics averts the trope with the Germonik Scriptures; choosing to read them leads to Ramza summarizing the contents, after noting that it took him quite some time to get through it.
- Body Harvest
- After the 1.3 update, Minecraft players can write their own, mostly due to the limited space per page and the 50 page total limit.
Non-video game examples: