Ask and ye shall receive

This post was requested by a new reader, William Spear.

He asked “I’d like to see your perspective on modern game manuals”.

So here’s my perspective:

The absence of the game manuals seems, in part, due to the fact that nearly every game coming out, that has a collectors or special edition, invariably comes with a “art book”, consisting of pre-game sketches, in-game art and whatnot. Is this a replacement? Definitely not.

The age-old tradition of packing an instruction manual, including not just the various controls, but some art and cool tidbits – has come to die with the latest in generations in games. Like William said, now-a-days, all we get is a pack in of advertising for another game, maybe a DLC code if we’re “lucky”.

The only pleasant surprise I’ve gotten inside of a case these days was when I opened up The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. CD Projekt Red, and their amazing sincerity definitely knocked me for a loop. I think that’s the best thing I’ve seen inside a game case. In all honesty, now, the only thing I look forward to with the cases – is the cases. Especially if it ends up being a steelbook.

I was happy to see William Spear ask about this topic. It hit me with waves of nostalgia. A little history on me:

As a kid, my grandparents were always the ones to buy me my consoles. Usually a Christmas present, sometime a prize for doing well in school. So they got me my NES and my SNES. When I’d spend the summers with them, my grandmother would always end up playing with me. She enjoyed it so much when I’d bring them down with me, she inevitably purchase a console for herself. She was, and is, pretty hip. She is still actively playing her NES and SNES – she’s a die-hard Donkey Kong Country fan.

The reason I bring this up, aside from how awesome my grandmother is, is that when we’d play together, we had some specific games we both really liked. The two that stand out the most to me still are Bubble Bobble and Black Bass Fishing. Withing the Black Bass game, there was a map of the lake that you could fish on. When my grandmother would play, she’d always be making on the map where the bass could be fished out. So the map had a bunch of penned in circles and intricate notes regarding which lures to use in the area as well. Bubble Bobble – same sort of idea. She would beat a level, and when she did finally die, she’d write down the passwords to go back to whichever level she’d (or we’d) manage to get to. She still has both games and all of the notes, today.

So the books, like the collectors editions, offered something of tangible value to the end user. It was something you could hold and touch and say “aside from this digital medium, I get X and I like X”. The books served as an addition, an art piece and as a functional aspect of the game. It also served to explain aspects of games that lacked any kind of true narrative. They gave background on characters. It was an item with intrinsic value. It also gave you, what tutorials in current games offer – and instructions that allow you to actually play the game when things like gamefaqs and walkthroughs didn’t exist.

So, yes, I too have noticed a drop off in the quality of provided assets. I love free DLC codes, it’s nice because it’s a little extra. It’s the pack of Rolo’s inside of the chocolate egg. Taking away the manuals, going to a digital book – which generally only details the licensing agreement between whatever publisher and whichever development studio and how we don’t “own” our games – takes away something that is quite magical (in the light of nostalgia).

Hopefully we will see a resurgence, but not if it has a cost.

– The Ego


3 thoughts on “Ask and ye shall receive

  1. Thanks for tackling this :) I get pretty nostalgic over some of those old game manuals, specifically Fantastic Dizzy, Ecco The Dolphin: Tides of Time (which, like Bubble Bobble, was filled with my level password codes), and the Age of Empires booklet (which I read, and re-read, and re-read).

    That’s awesome that you get to share those memories with your grandmother – mine gave me my first game system, an Atari Lynx, and man did I love that thing. Nostalgia everywhere.

    That’s awesome that

  2. This is WAY late after having written then, but for anyone still reading, if you don’t recognise that game manual screen, it’s okay. It is, however, from one of my all time favourite SNES games – Saturday Night Slam Masters.

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