Why I Miss Video Game Manuals

Last Updated on September 10, 2023

There is a saying that we should not take things for granted, because the very things we used to ignore will eventually be gone and we will want them back. For us retro gamers who play on consoles like the Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and handheld consoles, we all know the feeling of opening a new game box and discovering a small booklet.

We might read it for a few minutes, but then we throw it away because we think we know what to do or that it might be a waste of time. Little did we know that we might have made the biggest mistake of our lives, as these manuals are now extremely rare and can cost a lot of money to buy.

I sometimes even feel frustrated and question myself as to why I didn’t see this coming and that I should have kept them for nostalgic reasons, like the games themselves, had I known.

For those who are new to the retro gaming scene, a video game manual is a booklet that usually contains the basic controls, character information, game elements, and how-to instructions. It may also contain notes and other information. In some cases, these manuals even tell the background story of the game. They can be very informative and even include maps of the game world, especially for role-playing games (RPGs).

At first, I thought that these manuals were a waste of space and money, but they did contain the information I needed. So I would usually skim through them and then put them away somewhere, where they would eventually get lost.

Nowadays, with the changing video game landscape, I feel immediate regret when I see that modern games don’t even come with manuals. Instead, they force you to learn how to play the game by trial and error, which can be frustrating and time-consuming. The work that was put into creating these manuals, even though it cost money, makes me feel like I betrayed the developers’ efforts.

Eventually, the companies realized that it wasn’t worth it to produce manuals, so they stopped making them altogether. The near extinction of video game manuals is our own fault, if we are being brutally honest. We took them for granted, and now they are gone. I also realize that these manuals could have been useful, but there is nothing we can do about it now. We can only blame ourselves.

Video game manuals contain a lot of useful information for retro gamers like us. They can be colorful and beautiful, and they are a part of gaming history that is quickly disappearing.

The generation of today will never know what it was like to read a video game manual, which is why it is now considered an endangered art. If we had known what would happen to them in the future, maybe we could have preserved and saved many of these manuals that are now so difficult to find.

Fortunately, there are many people who are stepping up to the task of preserving video game manuals. Many of them can now be found online, which I am grateful for. There are websites where users can view manuals for free, such as this one.

While we can now read these manuals in PDF format (like these), nothing can replace the feeling of holding a physical copy in your hands. I recently bought some manuals from a retro shop in Gold Coast, and I was lucky enough to find some for games that I had played. When I looked through them again, I felt a sense of guilt and regret that we were the ones who dismissed them in the first place.

There are also attempts to re-release games with colorful manuals, such as this one. This is great, but the problem is that they are only available for a limited time. Once they are gone, the only way to get them is to pay high prices on eBay. This is unfortunate, as I believe that games should be accessible to everyone, not just a select few. However, I can forgive those who are re-releasing these games, as they are doing their part to preserve video game history.

Sometimes I wonder if I should build a time machine to warn my past self about what would happen in the future. Maybe I could urge my past self to keep the manuals instead of throwing them away, as they would eventually become extinct.

I could also tell them to appreciate the hard work that went into creating these manuals. But this is just a distant dream. For now, I can only be sad when I open a Switch game case and find only the game inside, no manual. I really hope that video game manuals will not go extinct, and that there will come a time when retro gamers like us can easily find them at a reasonable price.

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