Players hate reading text in games!

Recently I received an email from a experienced video game writer. He told me that he likes my game Witch Hunt, however, as a writer and narrative designer he was disappointed that more personality, tone and atmosphere wasn’t conveyed in the texts and voice acted content. He also attached and example of “improved” intro text for Witch Hunt. Unfortunately, his improved version is exactly the reason why I’m afraid to outsource writing. The main problem of his version is that it uses two times more words to convey same information. And as a cherry on a top Witch Hunt is not a story focused game. I did expect to see that kind of issue, from non-video game writer, but I was really surprised to see it from experienced video game writer. For that reason, if you’re involved with video game writing in any way I want to give you advise and share a fresh example prove it.

You probably know that most people don’t read books and from my 10+ years of experience in game design it quickly became clear that majority of video game players hate reading text in video games. Therefore, every time I write any text, priority number one is always on using as few words as possible to convey information I need. I know that when you make short text a priority, it means that you must make sacrifices. But I strongly believe that it is justified for video game writing.

I want to share a fresh example of just how much people hate reading in games. When I’ve launched Witch Hunt in Early Access I’ve started watching let’s plays of the game. Soon I’ve noticed that a big percentage of players don’t know that they have Silver Saber. It happened even though it is clearly visible in player inventory that they did saw and there was a tutorial message related to the Silver Saber. This happened because in older versions of the game, your equipment in inventory was displayed as a list of item names. At the start of the game it’s a quite short list, containing only 3 items.

Old inventory

But people hate reading so much, that when they opened inventory a big percentage of people were too lazy to read that short list and a lot of them ignored tutorial message. So, to solve that issue I now display player equipment in inventory as icons and after this change and a change of tutorial message where I also replaced text with icon. Those changes completely solved the issue and now 100% of players know that they have Silver Saber at the start of the game. That is how much some people hate reading text in games!

New inventory

Also, on that inventory screen you can see a Tips section. Less than 10% of players opened that section and most of players who did, have read only couple sentences before closing it. Which aligned with my expectations, but was a complete shocker for my family member, who watched more than 100 let’s play of Witch Hunt. I always thought the fact, that video game players hate reading text in games is a common knowledge in video game industry, but that email from experienced writer clearly shows that it isn’t.