...and that's how I got $5 million dollars!
Wow. Man, that's cool. I wish I-
Many player reqirements are taken for granted simply because there's no getting around them. With digital media, you're expected to know how to operate the equipment it will run on. A novel will not come with an instruction manual explaining that you are supposed to turn the pages and not eat them. (Of course, considering the direction the world seems to be moving in, it wouldn't surprise me to see this change someday.) You are expected to understand the language. And so on. I shouldn't need to point out that these are not hindrances but benefits, but I'll say it anyway: These are not hindrances but benefits.
Okay, technically it's a problem from a marketing perspective. Requiring the reader of a book to understand English does limit the ability of the publisher to sell to people living in non-English-speaking countries. Or to the illiterate. Or to penguins. If you think of just how many non-English-speaking and/or illiterate and/or non-human creatures live on this planet, it's a bit hard to believe that marketers have not yet realized that what they really need to do to sell more books is do away with the usage of language. I'm sure they'll figure it out eventually.
But I think we can and should ignore this hurdle to sales. Not just because sales research ought to be kept far away from the actual art creation, but mostly because what's a few billion customers lost, in the service of such a benefit to art? Artistic potential is more important than sales lost. Case in point: Because I've already title="Simple Reactionary Dialogue Control">explained my dialogue system (or at least the first version of it), and because I tend to operate under the assumption that you've read every post I've written from the very title="Who Am I?">beginning, I could jump right to the good part- the usage of my system for creative purposes. If you haven't read my earlier post, then you could easily get frustrated by the very beginning of this new post. In this particular case, that doesn't bother me too much. But for works which are intended to be sold, it's good to keep in mind.
Whenever a long story is being broken into segments (and some people might only join in the middle) the writer needs to consider how to present the previous material. The easiest way to go is that taken by Peter Jackson: Just don't. The beginning of Return of the King doesn't tell you what you missed in the first two thirds- if you didn't see them, you're out of luck. Come to think of it, that's more or less the same thing I do here.
Or there's the method I see in the comicbooks published by DC Comics*: The first few pages have, either in monologue or dialogue, the entire backstory as it relates to the current situation. It feels completely forced, and cheapens the entire book.
A much more reasonable approach is that taken by Marvel Comics: The first page explains, in plain text, everything you need to know. It is clearly separated from the actual comic, so neither side harms the other. The same technique can be seen in most serialized TV shows, as the presentation opens with a montage of clips from previous episodes which together tell all the relevant backstory. But my favorite example of such separation is with early adventure games which told their backstories via short comicbooks bundled with the game.
Player requirements in gameplay can be dealt with in much the same ways. The traditional interactive Forms (music, dance, stage) do not come with instruction booklets. You don't know how to play piano? Too bad- fill in what you've missed and come back. Similar (though not nearly as harsh) is the adventure Form, particularly of the "point-and-click" variety. You're expected to have played such games in the past, so there's no in-game tutorial. Most you'll get is a manual which comes in the game box. The gamist takes advantage of the assumption that you know what you're doing by being focused on the story (the primary content) right from the beginning.
My least favorite option (as you might have guessed) is forcing a tutorial into the beginning of a game, or even having the tutorial run alongside the respectable, content-focused gameplay throughout the course of the game. Unfortunately, this is the most common approach. It cheapens the whole game, but what do they care?- it makes it more accessible to new players. Bl'bah!
Finally, my favorite option: the clearly separated tutorial. You might say that all games with manuals follow this approach to a certain extent, but I'll ignore that for the simple reason that no one reads manuals before playing. So let's just say that this is referring to games where the tutorial is focused on gameplay, but the "game proper" is focused on content. There is the chance that the player will get confused, but so what?- It'll be like an acquired language. Eventually, people will get used to it. Wouldn't you?