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Memoirs of a Senior Gamer: My Kingdom for a Manual

Well look who finally decided to visit their old pappy?!? Frick and Frack in the flesh and a lot more flesh might I add! I reckon the both of youse never met a cupcake you didn't like! Come to see this old timer before he bites the dust eh? Don't patronize me with your fake hugs and kisses, I see through your ruse! Here to sweeten an old man in hopes he'll change his will? How much cake and candy did your deadbeat daddy promise ya if you got me to change it? Out with it now! Whats that? He bribed you with a game, lemme see it! Pro Evolution Socc- wait a hot dang minute! You two like sports? Running and sweating and not after the ice cream truck mind you! Well there may be hope for you two yet! Since I'm in a generous mood I'll play a few matches with the both of ya. Hand me my reading glasses I want to have a looksee at the instruction manual before I play. What now? Whats an instruction manual? Boy you best not be testing my patience, I'm old but my back hand is quick! You really don't know do ya? Okay then, turn off the Game Station, class is in session, the subject is the instruction manual!

You see once upon a time video games had the good sense of coming with a nice little printed booklet otherwise known as the instruction manual. This was back when people actually read things and didn't have the attention span of a goldfish. Think of the manual as the hype man for a video game, lemme guess neither of you two know what a hype man is? Alright, look at it this way, you got that brand new game in your hands but its gonna be a while before you get home to play it. Kind of like that last thirty minutes of school, time comes to a standstill and anticipation could be the death of ya! Well you opened up that manual and instantaneously you were whisked away to another world. That shiny little book, oh boy I get goosebumps just thinking about em! Back in my day we used to get our kicks giving those manuals a good smell. Nothing like a fresh printed book, like smelling a brand new pair of sneakers! Don't judge me now, grown men pay top dollar for these things and for good reason!

Alright now where was I? Ah yes, much like the Native Americans with the mighty buffalo, the developers of old left no page to waste. From the beginning every conceivable problem and how to was answered in depth, leaving no stone unturned. Now you kiddies have your forums, oh how do I do this, how do I do that? Fooey! The almighty manual made a warrior out of all of us, it never led you astray. Once you read the thing, you knew that game in and out before you even played a minute of it!

While you flipped through its pages you were greeted with wonderful works of original art, it was like a mini comic book I tells ya. Now you kids actually pay for video game art books, the humanity! In my day the art was free and that's how we liked it! The art got the gears of imagination a turnin' especially when the games you were playing were all pixel like see. Without the art we woulda had no idea what these characters were supposed to look like! Why I remember it just like it was yesterday, page 26 on the Final Fantasy III manual, oh it sill gives me the shivers! A mysterious figure wrapped in a hodge podge of garments. What was his story? Was he friend? Foe? In an ironic twist of fate I'm still confused as to what that 'thing' was wrapped in a blanket but you get what I mean!

Then there were the stories! What am I playing? Just who are these people? And while we are at it, why should I give a hoot? Once again the all knowing manual answered everything. For instance, I bet you kids didn't know that Blanka from Street Fighter II is a B blood type! Or that Blaze from Streets of Rage is a dance instructor when he isn't fighting crime! While these little quibs were bound to put a smile on your face some manuals went even further, into the stuff of legend! Games like Earthbound, Civilization, and Gran Turismo, had manuals that exceeded a hundred pages! Atlas himself would have had trouble lifting these things you know. And within these pages, well lets just say it was a compendium of encyclopedia godliness, an effort you'll likely never see again in gaming.

But all these parts of the manual pale in comparison to my favorite section, known simply as 'notes.' A jack of all trades the notes section was. It was a place to write your high scores, back when those meant something! For the more fastidious player it was a place to jot down codes and cheats, which used to be hard to come by. Then there was the avant-garde gamers, those who lived on the edge, the ones who dared to dream! Those who passed on their sagely advice to the next gamer, or wrote cryptic messages that only they knew the answers too. You'd usually come across such scribbling if you were renting a game from the video store. Legend has it that within the notes section of a Pilot Wings 64 is the map to Jimmy Hoffa's grave, but you didn't hear that from me!

As for myself, sometimes those Japanese games would give me seizures and when I came too, I would write down my experiences of that trip in the notes section. Like one time while playing Mystical Ninja, I blacked out and when I came too all I remembered was having a sword fight with Elvis Presley atop a giant pink Hippopotamus. The winner got to marry Rich Uncle Pennybags from Monopoly, not a word to your grandmother about this!

I digress though, nowadays manuals are just a feeble please don't sue us pamphlet. Out with the artists and in with the lawyers! Some of these developers even have the nerve to print their 'manual' on the backside of the cover art! Never in my wildest dreams would I have pictured that one! These manuals are a lost art and while I'm sure the hippies of the world appreciate that they have a few more trees to take a nap under, I'm angry about it! That being said our time is up and its time for the two of you to skedaddle. Tell your father the nurse who gives me my sponge bath still gets everything in the will. While we're at it, you two write Konami a letter for old pappy, tell them if they cant bother to teach me how to play their game with a manual, I cant be bothered to buy it!

Lukejrl2919d ago

I too lament the loss of the manual. Especially metal gear. Metal gear had some of the best manuals

DarXyde2915d ago

Agreed. So colorful and packed with information. The same can be said about the PS2 Tekken manuals.

Good times. Good blog, Stringerbell.

barb_wire2919d ago

Ah, remember the days of the flight simulator games from the late 80s to the mid 90s.. those came with manuals that required a small forest to be felled.

I still have a game called 'Tornado' it released by Spectrum Holobyte, it came with 3 250 page manuals, a 300 page appendium to the manuals, a 250 page detailed schematic manual, a "cold war" 300 page novel, 4 different keyboard overlays and a bunch of posters/maps.

Sure don't do that anymore!

Stringerbell2918d ago

Yeah back then all those extra goodies really made opening a game up special. I guess the modern equivalent or collectors edition of games. But back then we got that sort of stuff without the sting of paying a hundred bucks for a game!

2918d ago
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Tzuno2918d ago

Do you remember the smell of the manual? lol

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