The missing manual

I’ve been playing games for nearly as long as I can remember, and I’ve amassed a sizable collection of the things over the years. And for each of the games, there’s a tiny (and sometimes not so tiny) booklet detailing the story behind the game, the controls, and the basics to get you started.

But I have a confession: I don’t even look at them.

It seems to be counter-intuitive. I mean, games have exponentially increased in difficulty, length, and complexity in the last several years, but the humble instruction manual seems to be little more than a vestigial remnant of a bygone era.

Take a game like Neverwinter Nights for the PC (the 2002 version, not the older one). First releases had a spiral-bound tome that spanned well over 200 pages to give you the ins and outs of the game. And now, the latest game by the same company, Dragon Age: Origins, has a manual that limps in at a scant 30-ish pages, with just barely enough information to tell you how to turn the thing on before it turns you loose.

Now, do you actually need to read such a beast of a manual to get the proper level of enjoyment out of a game? Eh, probably not. Unless you’re the type of person who needs to have step-by-step instructions detailing how you’re supposed to have fun, you’ll probably figure it out. Heck, with as many tutorials that are getting built in to games these days, you’ll get all the hands-on training you’ll ever need from the first few hours of the game anyway.