April 1, 2011

The Death of the Video Game Manual

Since the mid-90's, Video Game manuals have been on a steady decline. EA announced last week that they are completely doing away with printed manuals in upcoming games.

I suppose the only thing we can blame is the internet, which rendered the manual obsolete. No longer did you need to write down the super-awesome secret you discovered in the "notes" section, you can look it up on GameFAQs. Need to learn how to play? The instructions are in-game now. I suppose it's a natural evolution, but one I'm not particularly in love with, y'know? Maybe I'm just a luddite.

But I like to reminisce to a time before I existed. The late 80's. Around that time, video game manuals were a significant part of the package. When you bought a game, regardless if it was for a home computer or console, it came packaged with a thick manual that was integral to playing the game. There were elements to the story, hints, information about various enemies. All-in-all, it made for an interesting read, sort of like the liner notes of an album.

What was especially interesting about the packaging for Home Computer games in those days, were something that were called "feelies." For those who don't know, Feelies were little objects, relevant to the game that were included in the box. This ranged from maps, thick manuals with back story, or little doohickies like nametags, keychains and other uselessly awesome stuff. We still see them today in the form of "Special Edition Boxsets." Yes, you now pay an extra $10-$20 for shit that used to be mandatory.

Everything but the spooky centipede!

A game that included an interesting pile of feelies was "The Lurking Horror," a Lovecraftian text adventure by the team behind the Zork series of games. The game included a student ID Card, a guide to the fictional University that the game takes place in, and a plastic centipede, which wasn't listed on the box. It's intention was to spook you a little bit before you play the game. Probably didn't work, but it was cool nonetheless.

Anyways, if you read this, I apologize. I just felt like ranting incoherently, that's all.

- Kyle K.

1 comment:

  1. Feelies were always awesome. As a kid I used to play a game called castlequest, and it came with a huge freakin' map that was littleraly required for use if you wanted to play the game. Still one of my favourite games to date.