Sunday, April 25, 2010

The digital age and instruction manuals

 You might have heard by now that Ubisoft is discontinuing the use of instruction manuals and will no longer be packing them alongside our games. If you can quell the outrage for a moment you might see that Ubisoft may be on to something. Alright, not really. But honestly, who uses those things anymore? Sure they’re nostalgic and yes, sometimes they explain things a little better that the in-game tutorials, but for the majority of the time they remain unused. While Ubisoft may have been the first to initiate this act, I don’t think there’s anyone else to blame but the digital age of gaming.  

What does going digital have to do with instruction manuals you ask? A whole hell of a lot actually. Twenty, even fifteen years ago, I don’t think you’d find anyone who’d believe digital distribution was the way of the future. Yet here we are and programs like Steam are very much present and reconstructing our pastime incredibly fast. It’s not just PC programs that are taking advantage of this either. All the current-gen consoles allow for downloadable titles and the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 go beyond that with full downloadable versions of retail games, giving you the ability to skip rushing out to the store all together. It’s called convenience and it’s changed the way games are made and distributed immensely.

Think about it, most present day games are built with tutorials and, given the type of game, often have various help and “how to” menus. If you still need more insight, I know that Steam definitely allows you to download manuals with ease but would you even bother? We don’t need the things; it’s just a luxury to have them around for the sake of nostalgia. Let’s face facts here, with more and more people pressing a button to download their games the less we need the physical attachments. Of course, if you’re one of those people who just like having the cases around or simply must have the special editions of certain games, nothing will keep you away from making the drive to the store and that’s just fine.

Despite digital distribution we can live with both worlds thriving, but the loss of the manuals, while sad, isn’t widespread yet and ultimately really isn’t that big of a deal.

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