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We Miss Quality Instruction Manuals!


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When I was a kid, video games were the best things in the world. They still are, to a degree, but there’s nothing quite like getting a new video game as a kid and popping it into your system having no idea what to expect. As an adult with some intelligence and internet access, there are less surprises when it comes to what games I get and what I expect them to be about. But no trailer is complete, and during the drive home, I always take the time to read the instruction manual and immerse myself a bit before I take off.


Fun game, crappy manual

At least I used to. Nowadays, you’d be lucky to even get a manual at all. Black Ops 2’s manual consisted of four-page insert showing me what the buttons did, how to connect to Xbox Live, a software license agreement and a photosensitive seizure warning. All of these are important things, after all: a game in its last year of existence might have people who have never used its online service, some parents may not have tested their kids for these important health issues and EVERYONE reads those license agreements, right? And if any of that didn’t come off as sarcastic, I have a $10,000 bill I’ll give you for $200 in small bills (ITS A BARGAIN!).


I knew what all of them could do, just from reading

I miss the days when those manuals would make you feel like you were preparing for a grand experience. Ghostbusters: The Video Game described weapons and items you could get excited over, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 listed all of the units and buildings to show you what you’d be destroying and what with, and Resident Evil 5 described new controls and a fun recap of the history of the four games that came before. Most importantly of all these, they gave you a way to enjoy the game without even playing the game.


They described it perfectly!

The best example of great inserts came in the Grand Theft Auto IV case. It was a writing and presentation masterpiece. The manual is titled “Liberty City Guidebook.” It describes the controls and game mechanics, but it does so from a tour guide point-of-view, describing in-game features like the bars and bowling alleys with the sense of humor we’ve come to expect from Rockstar Games, included alongside “advertisements” that achieved the same purpose. True, half of the manual is credits, but when the music credits are four pages long and the cast list takes up two, all of which is in small print, it seems a lot more fair. Oh, and it comes with a map of the city you will be playing in.


The Goal. Minus the zombie. And the scary.

However, it must be addressed that the reason for shrinking box contents is an important one: limiting environmental damage. Using the above example, GTA IV has twenty-five pages and thirty pages worth of map. Sure, instruction manuals aren’t so big (less than one square foot of thin paper per page), but when you have fifty-five per game and account for the over 25 Million copies sold, that can add up to a whole lot of paper. Honestly, they would save more paper by not bothering with a strategy guide (most games have a free online FAQ somewhere on the web), but those are usually by other companies. I may miss the manual, but that’s a lot of paper saved by switching to a four-page version and publishers should be proud of these efforts.


How we feel about current manuals

The gripe here is the lack of interest in what IS in there. Is it so hard to leave controls to an in-game tutorial? That saves another page. Photosensitive seizures? I can see that being required, but you already gave us a link for saftey and health in a much shorter area. Half a page is excessive. ESRB information is equally easy to find by looking at the rating on the back of the box. Another unnecessary half page. So there’s a whole page. And what about the extra inserts advertising other games? I just bought a brand new game, but you know what I’m gonna do? Buy a whole new one! It wastes more paper that could be used more effectively to either interest me more in the game I JUST bought, or save more trees in the long term.

In conclusion, game companies, if you put effort into your inserts, the ride home and installation are better. If not, cover the basic and refer us to websites you’re already paying for to save paper and money to produce these inserts.

What do you think about the inserts you get with your games? Let us know below!


About RedGuinness

Andrew Shortall (RedGuinness) is the Writer, Editor, Administrator and founder of Stay-At-Home Gaming. He also suffers from sleepless nights, summer new release withdrawals and trying to behave himself in front of his new nephew.

5 comments on “We Miss Quality Instruction Manuals!

  1. Stephen Wolling
    March 12, 2013

    The manuals were one of the best things for me as well. I loved reading them before the drive home. Or reading them before I played the game. Manuals were also a simple but enjoyable pleasure

    • Stephen Wolling
      March 12, 2013

      I also enjoy the maps, Grand Theft Auto or Skyrim Oblivion Morrowind. Loved checking out the maps.

      • RedGuinness
        March 12, 2013

        I love a manual that can keep your interest piqued before you even have a controller in your hands. And any Elder Scrolls map can blow your mind. I imagine GTA V will improve on IV’s great inserts, but we will see soon enough!

  2. Man Walking
    March 12, 2013

    I miss manuals too. Used to be whether you rent or bought you’d get one to read on the ride home. Nowadays you just sit there staring at the box for that agonizing drive to your pc/console.

    • RedGuinness
      March 12, 2013

      Even worse, you’ve already read the box while waiting to purchase the damn game! I need better inserts!

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