Once an obscure element, the audiolog has elevated into an integral part of game design.
The audiolog has become a go-to for game designers when they want to insert a tasty nugget of plot or flavor into their games. The act of obtaining one of these used to be a novelty in games, arguably first utilized in the 1994 PC Game System Shock. Since then, audiologs have crept into many styles of games from shooters to RPGs. Graeme Virtue addresses the many uses of audiologs in issue #229 of The Escapist.
The beauty of audiologs is that they're essentially in-game monologues - a very distant echo of the illuminating soliloquies so beloved by Shakespeare and his dramaturgical homeboys. Characters can expound and info-dump all they want in an audiolog. The format even helps suspend disbelief by being plausibly one-sided; players can't interrupt the speaker even if they want to. A quick thought experiment: If your attractive co-worker casually mentions to you on your lunch break that she's going off alone to investigate that sinister Umbrella Corporation lab, you'd probably try and talk her out of it, right? But if she leaves a voicemail message to the same effect on your S.T.A.R.S. communicator, all you can do is set your jaw and head for the munitions cupboard. "You're my only hope ..."
The only downfall of audiologs is that some gamers never listen to them. Therefore, game designers are unwilling to insert quest or plot-necessary information into their audiologs. Collecting every audiolog in a game has become the domain of achievement-hunters and completionists. Yet they are still effective narrative tools, even if you don't listen to them all. Read the rest of Snap, Crackle and Plot and tell us if you believe audiologs are a game's best feature or their worst.