Whatever Happened to the Instruction Manual?

Today I’m talking about a kind of Information Design that has affected me in my life. I love to play Video games, and it’s always been that when you buy a new game, it comes with instructions to tell you how to play the game. Instruction Manuals sure have changed over the years. Allow me to elaborate.

When I was a kid I had a Super Nintendo, I remember the instruction manuals for these games having a lot of pages, which were colourful and many of which had illustrations of the characters in the game. The illustrations helped show you how the controls worked and told you important information about things in the game, but they were also just fun to look at.

Mario world instructions

super mario instructions 2


Then something started to happen with later game consoles. The instruction manuals were starting to change. Perhaps it was a cost cutting measure for some companies, but many of the manuals starting in the PS2 era were much shorter, only around ten pages, and in black and white with maybe a few screen shots and no illustrations. The only exception seemed to be Nintendo. Up until games on the Wii the instruction manuals were still quite thick and plenty colourful, but for many games instead of using illustrations they just used screen shots and character models from the game.

Instruction Manual 1

Instruction Manual 2

Now with the current games things have changed even more.When I buy a new game and open the box instead of finding an instruction manual, instead I find a fold out telling me how to access the electronic manual. I really don’t care for these electronic manuals for a number of reasons. If I want to access the manual I have to suspend or close my game. Gone are the colourful illustrations. The designs now are very uniform and rigid looking with almost no colour and few screen shots, it’s mostly just text. I also feel like with some games these manuals just don’t give enough information. For the last Animal Crossing game there was so much information I wanted to know, so I bought the official game guide, which is over 500 pages.

Instruction Manual 3

Instruction Manual 4

Instruction Manual 5

Unfortunately I feel like instruction manuals aren’t really fun to look at anymore. I feel like it’s more of a chore just to read them with the way their layed out and the fact that their on a screen. I wish they could bring back the kind of instruction manuals I had when I was a kid.


2 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to the Instruction Manual?

  1. humanx001

    I can see how you feel about the manuals. Making them electronic sucks and having them uniform just isn’t fun to look at. Personally I think the full colours ones with awesome illustrations have an almost collectors item value. In the end it’s a cost cutting issue, which is understandable, but if they’re going to put the manuals online anyway why not pretty up the webpage?

  2. reghodge01

    My brother and I were having a conversation about the lack of good game manuals for games on the newer consoles. As a kid I used to rely pretty heavily on those manuals to understand the controls for a game, and one of my favourite memories about playing video games back then was looking through the manual front to back while driving home with my parents after purchasing a new game, anxiously waiting to play.


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