This month I started a new playthrough of one of my favorite video games of all time, Dragon Age: Origins. But as seems to happen every year that I replay it, I forgot just how much reading there is to do while you play. Because it’s a role-playing game with all kinds of lore and history, it has loads of codex entries on everything from mabari war hounds to the history of the Circle of Magi.
And the thing is, I didn’t read all of them the first time I played the game, because each playthrough brings new entries. For instance, this year I’m playing the dwarf noble origin story for the first time (out of six different origin stories in the game), which means I have pages of information about dwarven politics, my character’s noble family, the dwarven caste system, the city of Orzammar, and how the dwarves revere exemplary ancestors almost as gods. I never needed to know all of this when I was playing a human mage or elven commoner, but now it’s relevant to my character who has grown up in this culture.
I know a lot of people play video games without ever reading the codex entries. I’ll admit I used to skip or skim most of them, too. When you just finished battling monsters, it feels so unnatural to stop everything, open up your journal, and read. And it doesn’t help that even the most entertaining codex entries tend to read like history textbooks.
I always found it much more engaging to pick up information from in-game dialogue. All that fact-dropping can make the dialogue sound a little stilted, but it’s a more interactive learning experience. The auditory aspect helps me remember things, too — and there’s the added bonus that you can’t skim, so the information sticks better.
However, for most games that feature epic worldbuilding, there’s just too much information to drop into dialogue. That’s why I can’t see codex entries going away any time soon. And they shouldn’t. After all, reading them is always optional… so they’re really there for the fulfillment of major fans.
Slowing down and savoring all the little tidbits of information that make the fictional world I’m in feel so rich and realistic can be truly rewarding. It takes some patience — even for me, someone who loves to read and plays RPGs for their stories first and foremost — but I’ve come to love those codex entries a whole lot.