Scott’s FAQ about guides – Part 2

In my last FAQ about guides, I explored my childhood bias against game guides and how it now affects my gaming time in adult life. I ultimately resolved that it’s okay to ask for help when you really need it, but I still need to tackle my other area of contention with walkthroughs – the printed strategy guide.

Perhaps it’s a result of elitist thinking, but I’ve been confused by the need for printed guides for a long time. I’m sure they made a lot more sense in the early 90’s, when Internet access was restricted to which Compuserve and AOL keywords you could remember, but with the rise of GameFAQs (and video walkthroughs) they now seem completely redundant. Why pay for something that’s outdated the moment the print hits the presses, when you can get a versatile text guide for free that is regularly updated in response to demand and interest? There have no doubt been some great print guides in the past – David Cassady’s epic “Official” Final Fantasy VII International guide comes to mind, and it’s always handy to have a stat-filled Pokédex around – but the value proposition just doesn’t seem to be there when you’re already paying £20, £30 or even £40 for a game.

GameFAQs killed the strategy star.
GameFAQs killed the strategy star.

Or at least, this was my attitude towards printed guides until quite recently. Browsing a local gaming store, I found a second-hand copy of an Official Metal Gear Solid 4 guide, priced at £2.99. Somewhat tatty, it had seen better days but was mostly intact, so I thought I’d take a chance on it. Reading through the book, I was frankly blown away by the quality of the content: a detailed, spoiler-free walkthrough of the game; useful information written in a witty-manner; clear, high-resolution game maps; and a entire post-game essay section, exploring the story of the Metal Gear universe… not to mention a foreword provided by Hideo Kojima. I was later delighted to discover that there is also a higher quality collector’s hardback of the book on sale, which includes a signed lithograph of Solid Snake and an exclusive art gallery of sketches and scribbles straight from the development team. Further investigation yielded guides of similar quality for other modern games.

I think I may have found a new hobby.
High-quality hardback guides for some of my favourite games? I think I might be losing a lot of money in the future.

Has it always been like this? Not to sully the tireless effort from guide authors in the past, but I don’t think so. It seems that in reaction to free alternatives on the Internet, companies such as Piggyback and Prima have really stepped up the quality of stand-alone guides, offering merchandise and exclusive insider info that you might not find even on the web. I have since acquired hardback editions of not only the MGS4 strategy guide, but two Zelda guides and a Resident Evil 5 walkthrough, which includes a complete run-down of the then unreleased and controversial multiplayer DLC. Of particular note is the collector’s edition Twilight Princess guide, which features a detailed cloth map of Hyrule, golden-etched pages, and the same exceptional presentation and useful information found in the other books. Great stuff.

Looking forward then, in quite a stark contrast to before, it’s safe to say that I’ll probably be buying a lot more guides and using FAQs when I feel it necessary. After all, when the only detriment to fun is your own ego, sometimes you’ve just got to swallow your pride and enjoy yourself. That, and I like gaming merch as much as the next person!







3 responses to “Scott’s FAQ about guides – Part 2”

  1. chobe avatar

    They’re certainly a lot better now than they used to be. Look at the piggyback FFXII guide versus the bradygames FFVII guide, for example.

    It’s nice to have a fancy book you can consult, but to be honest I don’t think they’ll ever be fully comprehensive. 99% of the time any specific issue you have can be solved on GameFAQs, not through the guides necessarily but by doing a quick search on the message board.

  2. Ben avatar

    The hardback strategy guides look stunning, I fear for the day when I stumble across them as they’ll no doubt find their way next to my other gaming books.

    My Final Fantasy X guide is lovely, it’s only a soft cover but the quality is just brilliant.

    Piggyback are just awesome for guides, worth buying just for the “phwoar” look they hold.

  3. Lorna avatar

    I love my collector’s ed guides and even blogged on it a while back. The Fallout 3 one is huge but the Fable 2 one, although floppyish, comes with a stunning art book. Mirror’s Edge on the other hand is diddy but the info is not that great – gorgeous though. I love how much effort the companies are now going to with this sort of merchandise and long may it continue.

Leave a Reply