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Exploding Barrels: The Next Generation

Audio logsInclusion of exploding barrels in video games has been a bit of a community running gag for a while now, but the current generation of games provides a whole new set of clichéd elements.  Mike Minotti of Bitmob has come up with a list of five overly-recurring design choices such as a glut of zombies, auto-regenerating health, artsy sidescrollers, and — my favorite — audio logs.  It seems that when civilization is coming to an end, everyone has time to record their plot-advancing thoughts on tape before everything goes dark.

What would you do if the world was about to end, if someone was trying to kill you, or if you were performing some top-secret scientific experiments? If you're a video-game character, you'd probably record an audio log. These diaries either advance the plot or reveal the code to a locked door you passed up 5 minutes ago.

Audio logs can be an interesting mechanic in gaming. In BioShock, you would often enter a room filled with corpses and mysteries that would only unravel after playing the diary found in the room. But the audio log presents a number of logistical problems. Why are these people recording such intimate details about their lives, just to leave the tapes lying around?  Often the speaker perishes in the middle of the log. Does their murderer politely push the "stop recording" button for them?

I'll agree that zombies are wearing out their welcome.  I don't particularly like zombies in the first place because they lack characterization and personality, but they are turning up everywhere this generation in places where they don't really belong.  As for the audio logs, when they're done right, they're genuinely entertaining.  Batman: Arkham Asylum turned collecting audio logs into an intriguing, ongoing mystery, for instance.  Other times, I just wish the game would shut up and let me get back to blasting zombies.

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