Game Manuals – The Lost Art of Video Games
Have you ever been a fan of something, and then almost without warning it changes? While this change is often positive you can’t help but miss the way it used to be. Sometimes it’s nostalgia, other times it’s the execution, while other times it’s just a matter of someone not liking change. Regardless of the reasons, the overall feeling is the same, you miss the way things used to be. This is the feeling that many gamers share regarding game manuals.
Game manuals are a relic of a bygone era
Once upon a time when you bought a video game, the package had a weight to it. A big portion of this weight especially, during the 8-bit and 16-bit eras were the games themselves, another part of the weight though was the game manual. As the medium for games changed the manuals changed with them so that they could fit in the case along with the game.
This was most noticeable during the era of the PlayStation when games game in CD cases. Manuals were made to go inside of these types of cases making them smaller in size than in previous generations.
Despite the size of the manuals for a specific generation of gaming one fact always held true, they provided gamers a great source of information. Some manuals were larger than others, this often depended on the amount of information that the developer needed to relay to the player. One of the most notable features of game manuals were the notes section at the end, allowing players to jot down any useful information they discovered for future playthroughs.
The Industry Has Moved On
Sadly, things have changed, and the art of game manuals seem to be lost to the annals of time. The change can be attributed to a lot of factors, cost being among them. Aside from cost and the green benefits of no longer publishing small books to include with video games. There’s also the role that digital distribution has played in the demise of game manuals.
Like it or not digital distribution isn’t only here to stay, it’s also growing. Game manuals have no place in this business model, no matter how you try to argue it. How would that even work, you buy the game and they mail you a manual? That has disaster written all over it. Instead many games today make good use of in-game tutorials and an options screen where you can view the control scheme. What the game doesn’t tell you, or you can’t figure out, you can just search for on the internet.
It’s often said that you can find anything on the internet if you know where to look. As it turns out one of the things you can find on the internet are old game manuals. This demand as only increased as the more people discover retro games, many of which don’t include in-game tutorials.
Of course, it’s not all about retro games, some of these manuals are being preserved by collectors and for their historical significance. Then there are when companies decide to release classic titles for a new generation of gamers. Much like Nintendo has done with both the NES and SNES classics. With the release of both systems which came preloaded with several games, Nintendo made the manuals to these games available on their website.
There’s No Going Back
As much as game manuals are missed, you can’t go backward. With the industry inching closer to a digital future, it makes no sense to try and bring them back. While it’s nice that Nintendo made several of them available online, that’s not a practical solution for everyone.
Game manuals weren’t just a lot of text explaining how a game worked. They often included artwork some of which could only be found in the manuals. They included tips and places where you could make notations for the sake of posterity. In short, they were a resource, a resource that took time and money to put together, one I would argue was worth it.
Game manuals were once as much a part of the new game experience as the new game was. Sadly, they now seem to have become something of a lost art. Which is sad when you consider that future generations of gamers will never experience the joy of reading a game manual.
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