Are Video Game Instruction Manuals Obsolete?

I recently picked up a copy of Prey. When I removed the packaging I noticed that the instruction manual was bent at the bottom right corner. This got me thinking, “Why do publishers even bother including instruction manuals?” I remember reading through the instruction manuals of all my new games on car rides home when I was a kid. It was a good way to find out the controls, the story, and get a good feel of what the game was all about.

Instruction manuals had a lot more weight in the infancy of video games. They weren’t just a set instructions; they were the way you found out the controls, the story line, and all the features the game had to offer. Manuals had much more importance up through the 8-bit era, as many systems didn’t have the resources to do in-game what the manuals could accomplish. The instruction manual was no longer the only way developers could tell the story or introduce the game’s controls once the Super Nintendo and Genesis were released. It has become more feasible to have cut scenes explain the story and have an introductory level explain the controls as consoles’ technologies have improved. Also, bestiaries and galleries are commonplace as unlockable material in many games today, as opposed to previously only being available in the game’s manual.

Video game instruction manuals may not be obsolete, but they have definitely lost much of their importance throughout the years. They seem to be an artifact of gaming’s past, but will always have a small role in video games. After all, I would feel a little bit ripped-off if I opened a brand new game only to find a lone disc inside.

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