Get the Love Out: Manuals

Gary here.

You all know I hate Bloodborne, Dark Souls 3 and every video game. I've been outed. I'm the Bogman and I'm here to drink your fun. After I've eaten all your fun, I'm going to eat your gods.

Before I get to all that, I thought it'd be nice to focus on some stuff I love. Just a few short, very positive entries. Really get all the positivity out before I move on to dunking on your childhood memories.

I've done this before, with my entry on Monster Manuals, but this time, I want to talk about video game manuals in general and why I love them. Specifically, I want to talk about big, unweildly nightmare manauls. Hundreds of pages. Doorstops.

A big manual means one of three things.

  • 1) A full or partial walkthrough. I can't tell you how much time I spent reading the Phantasy Star 2 manual. Not only did it include all the normal stuff (here's what these nonsense words we used for spell names actually do) but it also contained a partial walkthrough of the game. This was akin to reading Nintendo Power walkthroughs, a sort of proto let's play experience where I could sort of have the feeling of playing a game without dedicating the time or attention to it. I never had a Genesis growing up, but my cousin did, and he'd be damned if he'd let me play a 50 hour RPG during my visits. So, while he played Herzog Zwei (a game waaaay too complex for my 11 year old mind), I would sit on the couch and read about Rolf, Nei, Shur and her friends. It was bliss. My mind filled in all the blanks.

  • 2) Tons of extras, color pictures, charts and the like. This is obviously another big draw to my young boy imagination. I remember looking at the color pictures of weapons and armor in Dragon Warrior and imagining what they felt like or what it'd be like to use them. The Legend of Zelda manual is great for this. Fuck, the manual for Maniac Mansion on the NES came with a fake, in world bulletin board full of hints for the game. Again, I guess this came down to getting a small part of the experience of playing without actually playing.

  • 3) Perhaps my favorite, big PC manuals mean depth and complexity. The manuals for Baldur's Gate 1 and 2, Torment, Icewind Dale, Arcanum and Fallout are things of absolute beauty. Full of arcane explanations of character classes, spells, and rulesets, these manuals are just fun to read. It wasn't so much about a feeling of vacarious play, but more about planning. Before playing Arcanum, I read the manual front to back, getting an idea of the rich world I was about to explore and picking out which spells looked the coolest. I was making choices before playing, deciding to err on the magic side of the divide.

The Baldur's Gate manuals almost function like D and D player handbooks. They have hundreds of spell listings, explanations of Thac0 and armor class, and detailed breakdowns of character classes. Reading one of these gives me the same feeling I get reading a D and D splat book, which remains one of my all time favorite passtimes. They're so complete that, in thrift stores, they're found next to the game guides. Goodwill employees can't tell the difference between the Icewind Dale manual and the Icewind Dale guide. There's something about that that is joyous to me.

The Fallout Manual is written from the perspective of a travel guide to the wasteland, complete with in universe tips and in character assides. Holy moly, is that cool.

This is literally my only qualm about going digital. I like not having discs junking up my apartment. I know that if Steam dies somehow, I can probably acquire the games I want to play via piracy (and probalby not feel that bad, given that I already bought them). But losing these manuals, or having them move to PDF, is well and truly a bummer.

I don't have anything profound here. I just like thick ass manuals. Do you? What are your favorites?

Oh, and to stay on brand, um, Rare is trash and Chronotrigger is overrated.