Leggo My Game Manual!

With the announcement that Ubisoft will include the instruction manual to Shaun White Skateboarding in the game instead of a physical paper manual, my brain has spurred with mixed feelings. The collectionist gamer in me on one shoulder and the practicality angel on the other sparked an interior flame war.

I’ll turn first to my most cherished game series, Civilization.  No other game series created such a trophy of a game manual than the genius of Sid Meier. The manual is literally a novel, displayed by the hardcore Civ players on their coffee tables as casual reading material next to TV Guide. I was furious to learn that Civilization 4 would not include such a manual.

Preposterous! I screamed and kicked. Upon installing the game, I was greeted with a PDF manual. I cocked my eyebrow and sarcastically muttered some profanity in disgust. However my cynicism was won over by the ease of use of the PDF: I have the ability to keep it open as I play, to minimize my Civ window and open the manual window, and to ctrl+f my search term to instantly bring up info.

A shortcut to the PDF file quickly found a spot on my desktop, replacing my dead-tree parchment manual on the coffee table.

Yes, Civ is a PC game. I grant that. However, a game like Shaun White Skateboarding requires no manual, as such games usually include in-game tutorials anyhow.

And now for the nostalgia nut in me. My collection of various Nintendo and early Playstation games are akin to the vinyl records of yore, the boxes representing wonderful works of art, the instruction manuals colourful and informational. It pains me to receive a manual nowadays printed in black and white, as if the game publisher does not care about their loyal gaming customers.

For games geared towards the hardcore gamer, a dead-tree game manual is essential. For EA Sports games that get re-released every year and are played by the same people, manuals are unnecessary. Games that include in-game tutorials don’t need them either. For PC games, the PDF file is a beautiful thing.

How widespread no-manuals or environmentally friendly the industry gets remains to be seen. With all those plastic discs and cases, it will be hard to stamp a green sticker on the box.