Facebook Files: Videogame Manuals



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This week in Facebook files, we’re talking about videogame manuals.


Anton wrote:

The other day I was talking to my housemate about how game manuals these days are so boring and drab.
Usually, they include just the basic info you need on playing the game; what each button does, what certain icons mean in game, and so on. No back story, no character bios, etc. And no one ever really reads the game manual anymore.


I remember when I was younger I loved reading the game manuals. Especially for games in the Legend of Zelda series. Not only did they give you plenty of instruction on how to play the game, but there was usually lots of cool art, descriptions of all of the good guys and the bad guys, and more.


Maybe if new games had an interesting and colorful manual, more people would actually read it, and we could avoid boring in game tutorials. Do you ever read your game manual, or are you a fan of tutorials? Share your thoughts and opinions!


Tommy said:

Since I usually buy the games I want on Sundays after I hang out with my friends in Manhattan, and I live in Brooklyn, I usually read the manual to make the subway ride home seem faster. If buy from the store that’s 10 minutes walking distance from me, I don’t read the manual when I get home.


Ishaan wrote:

The problem is, I think publishers increasingly want to move away from manuals. Ultimately, printing a manual is a necessity to make your game accessible and I’m sure part of it is also that the console companies likely require that you include basic information like how to operate the console etc. Were it not for these two factors, we probably wouldn’t even see paper manuals.


Another reason to get excited for Diablo III! I remember loving the D2 manual. I would read it over and over as a kid; it was so fascinating. I’m sure Blizzard will deliver again. :)


Andre wrote:

IMO, for many different genres of games, tutorials really aren’t needed. For games like shooters and fighting games sometimes I feel that if I know how to play one, i know how to play them all. Only time I read them is when they introduce a new concept I’m unfamiliar with. Most of the time it seems that when I pop the game into the system and pick up a controller, my hands automatically know how to play.


Most of the time it seems that RPGs still have good manuals, I like the character designs and the illustrations. Each one feels unique and not like the last one I played. Tutorials in games do often feel unneeded and in my case they bore me and seem to think I’m an idiot.


Ultimately, game manuals may not be for us anymore. They’re more for a younger or more mainstream audience that might not have developed their “gamer instincts” yet.


That said, this leads you to question whether a manual is the most effective way to teach those people how to play your game. Shouldn’t the game itself do that? Are detailed manuals still relevant? How do you think they should evolve from here on out?

Ishaan Sahdev
About The Author
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.