Eulogy for the Beloved Video Game Manual
Fellow video game enthusiasts, hobbyists, nerds, geeks, freaks, and gamers:
Today, we say goodbye to an old friend, the video game manual. In time, the world at large may not remember his name or the content he contained within. But we’ll remember; you and I, this cadre of adventure seekers who only ever needed a good map and a brief synopsis on just where we were going.
For those of us who knew him and loved him and ache with his passing, we’ll look back and remember, fondly, the stylized logo in the special font that some snappy artist whipped up, or the rich and hyperbolic words of wisdom and forewarnings of danger that our special friend kept guarded just for us.
We’ll remember the artwork, the sometimes terrifying, the sometimes magnificent, and the sometimes awe-inspiring. We’ll remember getting to take just a piece of our video game world with us as we ventured forth on a long car ride to some aunt’s house, or accompanied our mom to the store, or dangled our feet off the toilet.
Indeed, it is true what so many have said before and what writer Cynthia Ozick so succinctly observes:
We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.
The video game manual was always a generous and kind creature. He couldn’t wait to share his knowledge openly and freely with all of us. He’d have facts and figures ready to go. Tips, tricks, and character blood types were the treasures he gave to us in a time when the internet was a military science project and information was written down and memorized.
And he always carried with him a section of blank notes in the back. No one I know used it. No pencil could write on it and no ink could stay affixed to the wax coated pages. But he brought it along every time anyway. You know, just in case.
We thought he’d be around forever; that as long as we kept buying games, he’d keep giving us gold. Well, we kept buying games, but he changed and got in a bad way. It was less about fantasy worlds and weapon specs and more about end user license agreements and blah blah blah. The world changed. Information was instant, the artwork was laughable, and kids didn’t understand why you couldn’t scroll it and zoom it with a finger roll and a pinch. Near the end, it was getting harder and harder to look.
He went digital and left behind a 2 page leaflet where there was once a burly 40 pager. He just wasn’t the same charming guy we all knew. And so I think we all prefer to pull the plug and lay him to rest so that we may remember him as he was.
Goodbye video game manual. May you rest in peace alongside my Dreamcast and Rock Band drum set. You had a great run and we’ll miss you.
By Jeff Le