Image credit: Zarah.
The RPG computer game genre stretches back 30+ years. As time passed, the complexity of missions, quests, objectives, and plot information grew and grew.
Around the late 1990's, games started having a "Journal" function - you'd press "J" and you could see a recap of information from recent important dialogs.
Before that, if you forget info - well, that's really tough...
I remember a game I quite liked called Darklands that came out in 1992. It was really hard, which suited me just fine. I never liked easy games much. The game was set in the Holy Roman Empire in the 15th Century and... did I mention it was hard?
Yeah, I did. Anyways, it starts out with an interesting premise - no plot at all in the beginning. Your band of adventurers gets together to seek fame and fortune, and that's it. Later on, you start to hear rumors and weird stuff happening, and you can go pursue it if you want.
But - no journal. So if you come across a group of bad people chasing someone, fight the bad people off, and get info from the person running away - well, if you don't write it down on your real life paper, you're probably going to forget it.
Add to that that there's firm dates for triggered events, and you might never come across many important and interesting things if you aren't writing things down yourself.
You could get a job to go recover a relic for someone, go find the relic, but then forget who gave you the job... well, yeah, that's tough eh? You could wander from city to city talking to everyone to see if you can find who originally gave you the job, but the game is big. You might never find them.
That was '92. Baldur's Gate came out in 1998 with a pretty robust journal system, and it's been a mainstay since then, gradually getting more and more organized. You can see in the Morrowind journal image at the top of screen that it gave extremely detailed instructions of what work you are to do and where to find your contact. You couldn't mess it up if you tried to.
That's obviously a good design decision for games - who wants to write down on real life paper all sorts of nonsense just to play a game?
But it dawns on me that life is more like Darklands than the later, friendlier games. If you get some advice, a recommendation, a tip, a "reach out to this person", a "here's-my-card-give-me-a-ring" - well, you can't press J and call up a transcript of the important plot details there.
Recently I was re-recommended to "A Small World" when a friend of mine told me about good experiences meeting people in cities he didn't know anyone from there.
I thought, huh, that's right. I got advised to check out Small World back in 2009 when I wasn't traveling by my friend Chase, who reported similar good experiences. I thought, "That's interesting" but I had a solid social circle and activities in Los Angeles, and so I didn't pursue it further.
Then I forgot about it.
If we were in a world with the auto-journal, the mission, "If you're ever traveling, look up Small World" would've been added in Year 2009, and put in the index under "Travel."
This, I think, is something to be overcome. I really shouldn't lose book recommendations, travel recommendations, contacts and connections just out of lack of journaling it. Sure, it might not be relevant now, but I'd like to be able to metaphorically hit "J" and see a list of my open plot details, jobs, missions, and so on.
I'm pretty sure the answer will be some sort of hybrid Relational Database/CRM-like system. Put in entries, index them with tags/relations to each other, have intelligent categories, be tweaking/refining on it just like I do with time tracking.
Yes, this ought to be done and will be good when it's done.
My questions for you, answers in the comments appreciated -
Do you have some sort of system like this?
Do you know anyone that does?
If not, would you benefit from one?
If yes, care to share some details?
If no and you want to build one in the near future, care to talk/brainstorm spec details a bit?
I gotta do this sometime this year. I've got too much going on to miss important plot details for lack of writing things down. It's like, okay, I found the fucking Tarhelm, now who was paying for this thing again?
Let me know if you feel the same way in the comments or via email.