Manual Override

I thought that throwing this into the wider pool that is Ready Up would yield interesting results: I don’t wish to make a general statement about gender on the issue, however, I have noticed a trend when it comes to that oft overlooked part of gaming… the manual.  Whether it is directly related to the part of the stereotyped portion of the male of the species who don’t (or won’t) read a map or stop and ask for directions, I don’t know but neither my father nor partner bother with them, as opposed to my sister and myself who do. Perhaps it is coincidence or merely down to personal preference but I thought it was worth exploring.


Personally I love to read the manual.  I like to hold the controller in my hand and get a feel for the controls, read any back story, study important stats, and get a feel for the HUD before I dare to fire the game up.  I like to know what I’m doing, where I’m going, and why.  Not everyone does, however and this was never more clear to me than after returning home from a recent trip to Glasgow to watch the Ready Up World Record attempt.  Partner and myself both arrived back with a copy of Burnout Paradise and while I settled on the bed and cracked open the manual, I could hear the whoosh of partner’s Xbox 360 booting up in the next room before the strains of Paradise City immediately began to filter through.  I actually stopped reading and considered banging on the wall.  What was he doing?  He couldn’t have read it that quickly.  Nope, he didn’t bother!  But, but… stuttered my incredulous brain, how could he not?  Why wouldn’t you?

It boggles my mind, but he isn’t alone – my father is worse, even extending his, ‘nah, that’ll be alright’ approach away from gaming to everything from flat-pack furniture to shed construction.  Thankfully my sister at least shares my incredulity.  After (quite foolishly) convincing my father to try the satisfying but tough ancient Egypt management game, Pharaoh, she lovingly printed out the manual from the budget CD-Rom and gave it to him. It got nary a second look. Hours later, he declared the game stupid… the reason?  His townsfolk were being decimated by hippos because he hadn’t bothered to read the manual and had no clue what to do next or how to get lazy remaining workers to build those ancient wonders.  It served him right.  “Did you read the manual?”  No, was of course, the defensive answer.


Flash forward to Oblivion.  For a long period of time my other half groused about trudging to and fro between towns and places and the time swallowed in doing so.  It was only after clocking up a large number of gaming hours that he discovered the fast travel option.  Where had this gaming gold nugget of information been hidden?  Yes, the manual.  Which he hadn’t read.  Now, there are some games you could argue, you don’t need to bother, but with a game like Oblivion, taking a flick through may just be of import, especially when at that all important character creation stage, and certainly the same case can be made for a tricksey and often brutally unforgiving management game like Pharaoh.

I suppose I just don’t get why you wouldn’t read the manual, but I grudgingly accept that there are some to whom simply wading in is perfectly natural… but on their head be it.  So if your Glass Boots are wearing thin from walking to the Imperial City or your villagers are being menaced by assorted Nile wildlife, it’s your own fault if you didn’t bother with the manual.  With my measured approach, I may not beat anyone to the disc-tray to fire up a game, but at least I know what the yellow dots are on the Paradise City map and my Egyptian villagers won’t incur the wrath of Anubis… because that just stings.


You will read them…







25 responses to “Manual Override”

  1. Jamesbuc avatar

    Oddly enough I usually do flip through the manual first. Usually when heading home to play the thing or when waiting for a bus to turn up XD

  2. Jay avatar

    Manuals are for wimps.

    (although often I’ll begrudgingly turn to the manual when I get stuck or can’t work out what some tiny icon on a map means)

  3. Darach avatar

    I ‘read’ the manual first.

    I don’t “flip through” it, I don’t ‘give it a look’.
    I ‘read’ it.

    And then I kick ass. 🙂

  4. Tom avatar

    I must confess that I only usually flick through the manual while I’m waiting for the game to load (or on the bus on the way home if I’ve bought the game in town), but I do tend to go straight to it when I can’t figure out how to do a certain thing.

    However, some manuals are lovingly crafted and are just begging to be read (such as the GTA manuals). Those manuals I’ll usually read from cover to cover, but to many developers don’t put much effort into the manual these days and just rely on in-game tutorials to teach the player.

  5. Tony avatar

    You read the manual for Burnout?


    I can understand reading manuals for certain types of games (strategy etc.), but I generally don’t think a game is well done if it doesn’t explain or introduce things to you as you play.

    Main reason I crack open a manual is if a game doesn’t have that “Controls” screen with the pic of the controller and what does what.

    Which reminds me, I did open the manual for Mariokart on the Wii the other day because I can’t figure out why sometimes when you’re just driving normally your Kart goes really fast and you get a blue glow around it. However, the manual was no use.

    Anyone know?

  6. Michael avatar

    I do read the manual, usually, unless it’s for an instalment of a game I’ve played before (namely Oblivion after Morrowind). But I do like when a manual is put together with a bit of imagination – y’know, like a tourist guide for GTA games and that kind of thing?

    Nice picture at the end! 😀

  7. MarkuzR avatar

    But but but… in my defense, the reason I didn’t think there was anything untoward about Oblivion not having a fast travel feature… is because Morrowind didn’t have the option either, so I wasn’t expecting one 🙂 Yes… I concede… the manual did in fact glimmer in the darkness along with that “choir of angels” noise when that page was turned and the fast travel function was mentioned… but I LOVE wading around the countryside in Oblivion… it’s why they made it pretty!!

  8. Tiq avatar

    Fail @ MarkuzR =p



  9. Lorna avatar

    If you want fed at the weekend you will, young man!

  10. Van-Fu avatar

    Manuals, manuals, manuals. In all fairness, the quality of manuals range from incredibly usefull to incredibly useless. The GTA IV manual was awful and it made more sense to just check out the controller options in the game proper. Blue Dragon’s manual was superb and I am glad I read through that before the game started.

    I don’t usually go for the manual if I am playing an EA game, because their presentation skills are so top-notch that they usually have little tutorial videos for everything that you can do in the game.

    So yes, I don’t always read the manual, but what I will do is memorise EVERY single button for a game, which usually is enough to know what to do to have a great grounding in the game.

  11. Ben avatar

    Ahhh Pharaoh, now that was an awesome sim type game /memories.

    Will always remember the behemoth that was the Civ manuals back in the days of shoe box style boxes, you could knock a Rhino out with it! 200+pages of full on info, pull out science chart, that’s how PC games should be.

    None of the manual as a .pdf on the disc bollocks. I may not read them all the time, but I at least want to see them clipped into my box when I buy a new game.

  12. Kirsten avatar

    Pharaoh definitely required a manual read! Of course all games do though, but especially Pharaoh. I like your photo, Lorna. I wouldn’t defy that look you’re giving us 🙂

  13. Lorna avatar

    I’m with you all the way on that one Ben. I hate the ‘manual on the disc thing’ as I like to have it handy when I’m playing, especially for games like Pharaoh, Colonization, and the management type games in general. For me it’s all part of the ‘feely game’ thing which is why I’m not racing headlong into the digital download cause.

    When I worked in a Reprographics department, I used to print out my budget game manuals and then fastback bind them with lovely card backs and acetate covers. In between working of course ;p

    And I miss the days of huge PC game boxes…damned environment.

  14. Loz avatar

    awesome bloggage! i loooovee reading the manual! its especially great when my mates are playing, get stuck, and i pop out with the most fantastical answer from behind the manual! genius!

  15. Lorna avatar

    Thanks Kirsten 🙂

    And I should hope so about the defiance, though I think I’ve just about given up with my dad reading anything approaching a manual, nightmare that he is! 🙂

  16. Tiq avatar

    Real gamers don’t need to read manuals.

    I swear, you’re all a bunch of noobs. =p

  17. waxc3 avatar

    i read the manual for every game i play. typically i read it in bed the day i start playing the game.
    i have noticed EA manuals have been shrinking down majorly in an effort to probably save money.

    i have a 6 inch tall stack of manuals from the intellivision and atari 2600 games. i collected them for a long time…

  18. The Rook avatar
    The Rook

    Right, my turn. I read the manual before I play any game. I have to, I can’t play the game until I’ve read it (my OCD symptom). I also read the in-game How To Play guide on XBLA games before playing.

    Usually manuals are read on the bus going home, but sometimes the roads are empty and I get home before finishing the manual. This is the reason I have not played Resi 5 yet, I didn’t finish reading the manual on the bus. I could have read it at home, but playing something else beats reading.

    I remember reading the manual for FF VII and thinking I needed a degree or something. It was more than just attack and defence stats. Took ages to read.

    And you don’t get manuals with pirate copies of games, so people who don’t read manuals support piracy. You bad, bad people. 😀

  19. Jake avatar

    I read manuals at lunch times (after purchasing said game) or on the bus on the way home so I am primed and ready when I get to it.

    The copy of Burnout you borrowed off me had no manual – I now realise the hardship I must have caused you :p

  20. Lorna avatar

    Lol, Rook, you tell ’em 😀

    We got another copy from Game on the way home, Jake 🙂 Now finding it addictive.

  21. Power Up avatar
    Power Up

    I used to read the manuals long ago, but a lot of games give a tutorial at the beginning anyway. Sometimes if there’s something I can’t work out, I check the manual. I certainly read all of the Oblivion booklet before wading in. Occasionally consulting it for details on spells.

  22. MarkuzR avatar

    “We got another copy from Game on the way home, Jake :)”

    Yeah, so there’s MY reason for not reading the manual… there was only one, and you nicked it for yourself while you cast me aside with no manual even if I’d wanted one. Thanks for the reminder Jake 😉

    Tiq… stop dissin’ my girl or I’ll lock the lube away when you’re over and make you sleep in “The Barbie Room”. Nuff said.

  23. John.B avatar

    Aaaannndddd bang goes that draft for a blog post I had on my PC. Great minds think alike but this is just spooky.

  24. Lorna avatar

    Well, Jake nicked my half formed idea a while back for Text Adventure maps…

  25. John.B avatar

    Just keep out of my head for my next blog!

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