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Paradiegetic Gameplay

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Paradiegetic (noun): From Greek πέρα para- meaning "Beyond" and diegetic meaning "The confines of the medium".

Most games you can beat without having to get up from your chair, provided you don't need to use the bathroom. Sometimes, though, a puzzle's solution involves something that isn't in the game itself, and beating it will require you to do something that isn't just pressing buttons on your keyboard or controller. Maybe it involves a phone number you have to call, or you need to fiddle with the date and time in Windows settings, or press the "eject" button on your CD drive. This is where this trope comes in.

These types of puzzles may lead to Guide Dang It! since most people often don't expect this sort of gameplay. It's also a risky idea if the puzzle involves something externally hosted, such as a website to visit or a phone number to call: once the website goes offline or the phone number stops working (and they will, eventually), the game may become hard or impossible to finish without looking up a guide.

Sometimes these types of puzzles are done as a form of Copy Protection, having Feelies bundled with a physical copy of the game with an answer to a puzzle to prevent those who downloaded the game on the Internet to solve it and continue.

Extrinsic Go-First Rule is a subtrope. See also Breaking the Fourth Wall and Logging onto the Fourth Wall, which is similar however is simply Played for Laughs or as an Easter Egg. A frequent element in Digital Horror. Also see Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay and Unexpected Gameplay Change. The Other Wiki calls it a pervasive game. Note that Metapuzzle is not a Sub-Trope, since puzzles under that category are only called "meta" in the sense that they have other, seemingly self-contained, puzzles tied to them. Puzzles that rely on paradiegetic methods (and thus are sometimes called colloquially "meta puzzles" by players who don't know about the other kind) go here instead.


    open/close all folders 

  • X-Men (1993) requires you to perform a soft reset on the console before you can enter the final level.
  • WarioWare: Snapped!: Whereas most games in the series simply take advantage of their supporting systems' built-in special control schemes (like gyro, motion and touch controls, and more rarely speech or blowing via mic), this game is unique in that it requires the player themselves to directly use their image (specifically head and hands) to participate in the microgames, and after the play session ends the game runs a slideshow with photo shots of the players performing the actions done in real life. The game makes this possible with the system's built-in camera.

  • In Famous Second Son has the Paper Trail series of missions, where you find clues in game that you then need to solve through a special website by linking your PlayStation Network ID to it. However, as of December 2018, the website has become defunct, but the developers rolled out an update that allowed players to finish the campaign without it.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: In the Famicom Disk System version, the Pols Voice enemy is killed by yelling in the microphone in the Famicom's second controller. Each Japanese rerelease changes it so Pols Voice can be killed with a different method, such as pressing Select 4 times in the GBA version, or pressing L and R to virtually "switch" to the second controller and yell into the 3DS's microphone in the 3DS version. In all English releases, including the NES version, the enemy is instead weak to arrows, as the NES does not have a microphone.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass:
      • At one point you're required to transfer a seal on the top screen to its corresponding location on the map on your lower screen by closing your Nintendo DS and reopening it.
      • Pols Voices return as enemies, and can be stunned by blowing in the DS' microphone.
  • StarTropics: To obtain the secret code, you're supposed to make the invisible ink on one of the game's Feelies appear. Good luck if you rented the game or bought a used copy. In the Virtual Console release, which lacks physical packaging (due to it being a digital download), the effect is instead replicated by having the digital manual contain a page where the player can simulate the invisible ink puzzle. The code is 747, if you're wondering.

  • In Another Code, you have to press two maps together, one on the top screen and one on the bottom screen. To do so, you have to close and open the DS.
  • In Hotel Dusk: Room 215, you need to close and open the DS to flip over a completed puzzle for to see some important text written on the back of it.
  • The manual for Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis action game warns you that the roulette tables in Monte Carlo are rigged, and hints that you need to do something to "beat the system". The expected solution? See what number came up, then reload the game and bet on that number.
  • One late game puzzle in Last Window involves retrieving a key from a music box. The DS essentially acts as the lid and the interior of the box, which turns off when the two halves are sufficiently closed. The trick is using this at just the right time in order to pop out a key when the internal mechanisms are aligned in such a way as to let it out, which is assigned to one of the shoulder buttons.
  • In Memoriam/Missing: Since January contained alternate reality elements such as in-game emails and a lot of information you were supposed to websearch for on the real internet in order to find answers to the game puzzles. Of course, shortly after the game came out, most search results would turn up walkthroughs faster than they would the websites that were intended to contain the answers.
  • OneShot: Several puzzles require the player to interact with either the game window or the files in the game's Document folder in order to progress. In the 2016 Re-Release, navigating the maze in the Tower requires opening a program placed into the Documents folder by the Author and correctly overlaying the notes it generates over the game window so that it points to where Niko needs to go next.
  • Simon the Sorcerer: At the end, you find a computer where you are supposed to insert a CD. However, within the game you cannot interact with the computer to open its CD drive. The solution is to open this on your own physical computer. Unfortunately, some computer setups do not send the signal the game looks for when opening the CD drive, thus making the game Unintentionally Unwinnable.
  • Thimbleweed Park: To solve the last puzzle, the player is cryptically hinted at to go online and watch the kickstarter video for the game.

    Eastern RPG 
  • Boktai: The cartridge has a special sensor on it that detects the amount of ambient light. In order to keep your vampire-killing weapons charged up with sunlight, you have to play in the sunlight sometimes but not all the time, as the designers didn't want players getting heatstroke.
  • Monster Rancher: In the PlayStation games, Monsters are created from "saucer stones". In-game, these are artifacts from which the monsters are generated in a lab; out of game, the player has to put a different CD or game disc into the PlayStation, which generates the monster's stats from its subcode data. Later games in the line add different input methods, like the DS microphone and touchscreen.
  • Pokémon:
    • Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire: The infamous puzzle to get all three of the legendary titans has a lot of this. In addition to needing very specific Pokémon, which have to be in specific places in your party, you need to be able to read Braille to follow the clues in each of the chambers.
    • Pokémon X and Y onwards: In order for Inkay to evolve into Malamar, the player needs to hold the game console upside down when it levels up.
    • One sidequest in Pokémon Legends: Arceus revolves around "The Sea's Legend", a myth detailing a specific sequence of actions required to be allowed to meet a Manaphy. Thing is, the details are unclear as the book has been mostly lost to history and at the time, no one knows where to find a good copy. How do you get access to it? It's in a library in Brilliant Diamond And Shining Pearl, the game Legends is a Prequel to.
  • The World Ends with You: The game features full usage of all the DS's capabilities, including its hardware. Some Reapers—the game's quest-givers—require the player to use only certain types of Pins to progress, such as defeating a noise with only Shout pins, which uses the DS's microphone. The trope comes into full effect when encountering a unique variant of the Pig Noise that sleeps at the beginning of the battle, requiring the player to close the DS and open it again in order to "wake" it up.

    Environmental Narrative Games 
  • The Stanley Parable: One of the achievements requires you to not play the game for five years (updated to ten years in Ultra Deluxe). Another requires you to leave the game on all day on a Tuesday.

    First Person Shooters 
  • Doom³:
    • There are two "promotional storage cabinets" in the game (containing powerful weapons), from the fictional company Martian Buddy. To find the code to open these cabinets, you had to visit the actual website in your browser, which was hinted at by the in-game spam e-mails found in certain PDAs. Today the website is long offline.
    • Resurrection of Evil contains another Martian Buddy locker, which likewise requires a code. This time, you need to complete an arcade machine mini-game, which will give you the URL to a subpage where the code can be found.

  • The Secret World is so loaded with these that they gave you a working in-game web browser. You may have to look up the ISBNs of fictional books, type a handwritten note in Romanian into Google Translate (unless you already speak it), look up the sheet music to a medieval song, or consult a specific Bible verse.

  • Achievement Unlocked: In Achievement Unlocked 2, one set of achievements require access to a special coffee-related area, only able to be reached by opening two windows of the game simultaneously, with the second one leading you to the coffee area.
  • Fez: You have to use a smartphone with a QR code reader to solve certain puzzles.
  • Karoshi: One level in Karoshi 2 involves putting a music CD into your CD tray so that an in-game radio would push the crate towards you.
  • Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble had Waggle before waggle was a thing. Instead of controlling Kirby with the gamepad, you had to physically tilt the console to get him to roll in the correct direction (powered by a sensor in the cartridge itself).
  • This Is the Only Level: One stage requires you to refresh the page or window you're playing the game on in order to open the gate that lets you pass the level.

    Puzzle Games 
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: The Nintendo DS version has an upside-down Sudoku puzzle that requires you to turn your DS upside down. Throughout the game, the top screen represents Junpei's perspective and the bottom represents Akane, who is the actual protagonist. Turning the DS indicates that you are temporarily taking control of Junpei so that he can solve the puzzle.
  • Black Box: The puzzles present in the game require performing unique actions like powering off your phone, deleting the app itself, screen recording, etc.
  • Nifty: Many puzzles require you to look at the header of the game window and/or into the files of the folder that came with the game, usually to get passwords and directions on how to complete a puzzle, and a hombrewed texture editor packaged with Nifty is necessary to progress through a later stage. One level also makes you delete the save files in order to progress (though this does nothing to the actual game), and New Game Plus is accessed by moving files into a specific folder.
  • Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box: One of the puzzles you must solve to progress the story requires you to use a physical copy of a train ticket included in the game's instruction booklet.
  • Shadowmatic: The solution to last level requires the player to scan a QR code that is the solution to the penultimate level, which leads to a website that gives a hint.
  • System's Twilight: The final puzzle is to reboot the system, which is solved by quitting the game and then reopening it.
  • The Talos Principle: One puzzle presents you with a non-interactive QR code that can only be read by scanning it with an external device, like a smartphone or the like. This gives you an ASCII code sequence that you need to run through an external converter in order to make sense of, and then you can finally attempt to solve the puzzle proper.

    Stealth-Based Game 
  • Merry Gear Solid: Two bosses in the second game — the Milkman and the Postman — are beaten by, respectively, setting your computer clock forward by a week, and dragging a file from the game's directory into the game window.
  • Metal Gear:
    • The first Metal Gear Solid has you get a person's contact frequency from the back of the CD case. Additionally, Psycho Mantis hijacks your controller input and thus can read your actions, so you have to move the controller to a different port.note  Or you could just power thru the fight with a massive disadvantage.
    • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, you can "kill" the End by saving the game and then waiting for one real-life week (or, more commonly, fiddling with your system's date). When you load your game, the End will be dead from old age.

    Survival Horror 
  • Short indie game Moirai has this as the entire premise. Partway through the game, on your way into the mine, you run into a strange man in bloodstained overalls with a knife. You can ask him questions and then choose whether to kill or spare him. At the end, on your way out of the mine, you run into the same guy — but with clean overalls - who asks you the same questions. As it turns out, the answers from the first guy you met were the answers the last player gave to those questions. The game then asks for your e-mail address to tell you whether the next player kills or spares you.
  • My Friendly Neighborhood's most difficult puzzle starts with opening an orb-shaped safe using an easily-missable code on the wall in a separate map, then using the mask found in that safe along with four others from a previous puzzle on the second floor of the hotel, using an order found behind the curtain in another missable location to unlock a door. Simple enough, but things take a turn for the paradiegetic when it comes to solving what's beyond that door: a machine with six letter/number inputs, and a screen that flashes various four-digit numbers. It may not be too difficult to figure out those numbers are dates, but the next step is realizing those dates correspond to the dates each trailer for the game was published on John Szymanski's YouTube page, which the player will need to comb through frame-by-frame in order to find individual yellow blocks with a letter or number on it. Enter the characters in the machine in the correct order and you get your reward: a QR code linking to an exclusive Discord server. There's also morse code playing on repeat the entire time, which you'll need to decode if you don't have it memorized in order to reveal the secret message: "lol. lmao even."

    Visual Novels 
  • Doki Doki Literature Club!: The game's climax — so you have been warned, it's a spoiler to more than just a puzzle... Monika has trapped you in a room with her indefinitely for nefarious purposes. The game interface isn't allowing you to say or do anything. She won't let you save, load, or start a new game either. You can quit the game, but it will only return to the same scene with Monika when restarted. The only thing you can do to get ahead? Delete Monika's character file from the game directory. The Updated Re-release only simulates Paradiegetic Gameplay here, because it's available on different platforms and thus has to have its own simulated file management system that kind of has an in-story explanation to let you do this.
  • Save the Date (Paper Dino) will always result in a bad ending unless you edit one of the game files to make yourself a "hacker".

    Web Games 
  • In the Room Escape Game Crimson Room, at one point you find a note with an URL. When visited in your browser, the URL would lead to a page containing the words "Takagism since 1994", hinting at the combination ("1994") to a hidden safe. Today the webpage is long offline, so the game can't be finished without checking a walkthrough (unless you feel like checking all the 10000 possible combinations).
  • Adobe Flash game I Don't Even Game is a surreal adventure. At one point, you're blocked by a gate, and told to visit a URL to progress. This leads to a separate Flash puzzle, which gives you a very long code you need to enter. The original URL is down, but you can still Google the code to find out what it is.
  • This Is the Only Level: Several stages require going to the credits or refreshing the page in order to continue.

    Western RPG 
  • OFF: In Zone 3, the solution to the controller puzzle cannot be found anywhere within the game. You can give Zacharie the Music Box in exchange for a hint regarding the answer's whereabouts, to which he'll tell you to open the game's folder and look at the Read Me file carefully. The code is listed as a bunch of controller inputs with no context whatsoever.

    Text Adventure 
  • Zork Zero consists half of Stock Puzzles and half of this as a form of Copy Protection. The solution to puzzle after puzzle was simply to pull a specific bit of trivia out of the game's Feelies and type it in. This was especially disappointing since many of the tasks that seemed to be clever puzzles, like finally getting to play Double Fanucci, had their only solutions printed in the documentation.

  • Duck Amuck: Closing the Nintendo DS while playing the Licensed Game would result in Daffy shouting at you about a monster. Opening it up would begin a minigame where you close the DS again and use the L and R buttons to help Daffy chase after the beast (who turns out to be Gossamer). Arbitrarily, you could only try this once per day; after that it would go into Sleep Mode as normal.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit there's a 1-800 number that you could call for assistance from Jessica. There's no telephone in the game though, and you're supposed to actually call the number using a landline or cell to get a prerecorded message containing gameplay advice. The number, of course, now connects to something completely different.
  • Takeshi's Challenge involves singing Japanese karaoke three times, in addition to a treasure-map puzzle where the player is either supposed to let the game sit out for at least five minutes (but no more than ten) after soaking the map in water or leave the game sitting for an hour to let the map sit in the sun.
  • Imscared has a segment with you at an empty train station with a ticket machine, a timetable with three timestamps, and a clock displaying your system time. In order to progress, you have to alter your system time to one of the timestamps so that you can get a ticket from the ticket machine.

    Non-Video Game Examples 
  • Escape Tales: Puzzle cards in the game require using a webapp to verify that they're solved. On success, the webapp directs you to a paragraph in the book.
  • Exit The Game: While most of the game's puzzles make use of the cards, booklet, and various Feelies included in the box, there's almost always one puzzle in each game that somehow makes use of the box itself. Other puzzles will often make other clever uses of unexpected parts of the game.
  • Munchkin features the Munchkin resurrection cookie; eating it after your character dies can bring them back to life and undo any side effects of fighting a monster. Sadly, because you need to actually physically eat a cookie to use it, you can only use it once. Make that use count!
  • Some real-life escape room games will require players to actually call phone numbers, scan QR codes, or visit websites visible somewhere in the room, resulting in either a prerecorded message or a small interactive puzzle to get the next clue (there's even one instance of players needing to view local wi-fi networks for a solution!). Since most escape rooms run on a "everything you need to win is in the room" policy, it can throw customers for a loop, although some companies place cell phones for people to find as a hint, or use Exact Words as a reference: since "everything in the room" includes the players' phones, they're part of the solution, too.