The Decline of the Video Game Instruction Manual

Video Game Instruction Manuals

Once upon a time, tearing into a new video game instruction manual was a thrill for me. Even when I had the game itself in hand, the manual held a special allure. Manuals helped me decide what to name my characters, gave me a feel for a game’s controls, and provided a convenient place for me to take notes.

Nowadays, manuals have lost their luster. The manuals I poured through as a kid were full of unique art and interesting information, but modern manuals are pretty barebones. Many manuals are devoid of color, and most don’t feature any information you won’t learn in the tutorial. If it wasn’t for the Internet, they’d still be a useful reference, but as is, they don’t hold much value.

I’d love to write an impassioned plea in favor of manuals, but even with nostalgia goggles fully intact, it’s hard to argue they haven’t outlived their usefulness. Now that lengthy tutorials are the norm, I don’t bother skimming a manual before I play a game. Notes that were once scrawled in the back of a book now go in handily organized Notepad files. If I want to learn more about characters, the game’s wikia will tell me everything that a manual would and more.

Even digital manuals don’t seem to have much of a place in this world. The 3DS makes glancing through a manual incredibly easy, but it’s a feature I never take advantage of. I’m so used to asking the Internet for the answers to any questions that I have that thumbing through a paper game manual doesn’t even cross my mind.

But even though most of my manuals never leave their game case, I’ll be incredibly sad when they vanish completely. For me, manuals are an integral part of gaming, even though I don’t use them anymore. Like memory cards or old cartridges, many of my gaming memories involve manuals in some way. I’ve spent hours of my life pouring through manuals, and I don’t want to see them die. Manuals will never recapture their former glory, but I’m glad they’re still around.

A Link to the Past Manual

Plus, where else would you find an inexplicably pantsless Link?

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