I love physical copies of games. If I have the option between buying a disc version or a downloadable one, I will always pick the disc based copy. It’s just a quirk of mine, I suppose. I like having the game; I like being able to hold it and touch it and call it mine. Is it weird? Maybe, but that’s the way I am. With the advent of the new systems, however, physical copies of games have changed. My PS4 games don’t come with manuals; Battlefield 4 only came with the China Rising download insert, and Lego Marvel Super Heroes only had a small, 10 page instruction manual that only went over the basics. In the picture above, the control scheme for Killzone: Shadow Fall is printed on the back of the cover art; there’s no physical manual at all. Is it just me, or do the loss of instruction manuals disturb you as much as it does me?
The weird thing is, I don’t even read instruction manuals. There have only been a handful of games where I’ve even really glanced at them. Usually, this has been to learn combos in fighting games, jukes and moves in Madden, and that one time there was a button combo for a hidden demo in my old Spyro game. In any case, since I never read the manuals, why do I care that they’re disappearing?
I have no idea. I can’t explain it other than by saying it’s because I like having things. This manual is a thing I used to have that I am no longer getting even though I’m paying the same price. Instead, the manuals are coming downloaded on the discs, so I can only look at a virtual copy. This is annoying for two reasons. Reason one is that it’s not physical; I don’t actually have it. Reason two is that trying to thumb through an online manual is a lot tougher than a real one, especially if you know what page the info needed is on and you have to keep clicking when you know you should just be able to open a real booklet right to that page.
Another reason is that booklets stand the test of time. There are old booklets from systems long past that are floating around the internet and thrift shops. They’re cool to have, and even when the game doesn’t work anymore, they’re a nostalgic piece of history. Furthermore, these manuals often have cool bonuses, and are sometimes chock full of information not found in the games. For example, the booklet for Halo: Combat Evolved has a two page explanation of the storyline and what’s happening. Each important character has a half-page bio, and each enemy variety has a bio as well, detailing tendencies, physical features, and so on. Each weapon in the game has stats and information, and the booklet is written like a military guidebook, so there isn’t much known about some of the Covenant weapons. It’s almost as if you’re reading a rookie’s booklet given to you upon your enlistment into the Marine Corps.
I know this has been a short article, but I just wanted to share with you my concern. With the absence of instruction manuals already, how long until the games aren’t even disc based themselves anymore? When will all games be download only? This worries me; how about you? Do you care that instruction manuals are gone? Do they signal something more for the industry, or am I over thinking it? Comment your thoughts below, and hit the like or follow button if you’ve enjoyed. Check out the LP channels in the “Links” tab if you’d like, and I hope you all had a Merry Christmas!