This is something that has puzzled me for a long time. Indeed, it goes back to the beginning, to when I first started playing games. Why don’t people read manuals?

I always look at the docs first. However excited or eager I may be (though not lately, ahem) to play a game, it waits while I go through the manual.

In the early days, documentation was usually sparse. There might be just a command card with the keys described, along with a few tips. Or a couple of hastily-photocopied pages on how to play the game. Then again, many of those products had fairly simple gameplay and you didn’t need more than that.

Zork, perhaps not surprisingly, came with a full-blown manual. It was a more complex game than most on the market. And as new games reached new heights (depths?) of complexity, more “real” manuals showed up in the boxes.

Only, as I could see from messages on the boards, and my own experience, a lot of gamers either never read them or just scan them very quickly. So they miss important information, and then post in a forum for help that they could have found on, say, page 10 of the docs.

That makes no sense to me. Manuals are there to provide information on gameplay, and the more complicated the game, the more players need those explanations.

Of course, some manuals have been terribly written, but on the whole, I’ve found them to be adequate for the job. And it isn’t just eager newbies who shun the written word.

I have friends who are long-time gamers, and they hardly ever read manuals, either. There’s one in California who used to call me from time to time (pre-kids), and ask if there was a way to thus-and-so, or why couldn’t she do this-and-that. And then I’d tell her how to do thus-and-so or this-and-that, as well as tease her, because that information was in the manual.

Some might say manuals are dull. Foo! The only dull manuals are the ones that try to be cute and are written in story form. They only show that literature and game instructions don’t go together.

Then there are those who feel they shouldn’t need a manual, because the controls ought to be “intuitive”. But what’s “intuitive” for one person may not be so for another.

I will just mention in passing the “readme” file. Yes, I look at that, too. I want as much information as possible before I start the game, thereby avoiding – I hope – unpleasant surprises.

Naturally, not everything can be absorbed at once. But one good read through the docs is enough for a good start, and I have the manual next to me while playing.

So yeah, the manual is the first thing I look for when I open a new game. It’s worth it to me to take the time to read the information, and also to refresh my memory during the early days of gameplay.

So what is it with the others, that they don’t do it? Ego? (“Real gamers don’t need docs; I can figure it all out on my own.”) Excitement? (“Who cares about the manual; I wanna play right now!”) Illiteracy? Something else?

I think it’s sad that more players don’t read before playing. Someone put in a lot of effort to help us learn the basics of the game, and that effort often goes unappreciated. You may have your own views. But for me, the first rule of gaming, now and always, is: RTFM.miniscorp