Video game manuals were such a staple when it came to console gaming. Not only did you learn HOW to play a game, but you also got story bits, character bios, and sometimes even hints on how to get an advantage early on. I remember instantly opening up the game just to read the manual on the car ride home when my parents bought me a new game. Manuals were essential back in the 80’s and 90’s and they continued to be useful well into the 2000’s but, slowly and surely, they vanished. Now when you pop open a game for a current system there is no manual. Instead there’s an ad for a different game or it’s just empty. Which is a bummer for someone like me who used to love reading the flavor text in the manuals.
It’s no big secret as to why game developers stopped putting manuals in their games, tutorials have essentially taken over and the internet, well… exists. Just the other day I was looking up the manual for Tecmo Bowl to try and figure out how to make my players run faster. Even when I booted up my SNES Classic there was an option to read the manual BUT I needed to scan a QR code to do it. Today manuals are a bit of a commodity and can even increase the price of a game when selling it. I can’t tell you how many times I would be at a store and see 2 copies of the same game, yet one would be about $5 or $10 cheaper because it would be missing the manual. Sometimes I even see bins full of used manuals, just incase someone was missing on or just wanted it for collector reasons. As they say, hindsight is 20/20 and I can distinctly remember tossing my old GBA manuals when I didn’t need them anymore. I didn’t start really saving the boxes for my games until I got my original PlayStation where I made sure to take care of the manual and put it back where it was supposed to be.
Strategy guides also died out because of the internet. When people could look up walkthroughs on their smart phones, who really needed and book to help them play the game anymore? I have a decent collection of strategy guides (that I will keep until I die) but I do miss what the guides would give me. I would travel by car a lot with my family and when I would I would bring a book or something to look at and for a while it would be a strategy guide for a game I was playing. I always loved the flavor text, reading the strategies for those super hard bosses, and even the screen shots they would pick would sometimes be hilarious. Especially in the Mega Man Battle Network 4 guide where they took a screen shot of Roll calling a would be predator a “pervert” (yes she actually says that in the game). Now that manuals and guides have died out did anything take their place? Well in a way yes. Publishers like Dark Horse (The Legend of Zelda books and Final Fantasy Ultimania Archive books) and even Prima/DK (Playing With Power: Nintendo NES Classics) are publishing books that I feel enhance the games we are playing. These books give us more insight into the development of the games, concept art, and are just fun to read. So in a way manuals and even strategy guides are still alive and kicking, but they evolved just like our games have.