Gaming is rapidly changing. Whether we’re talking about things becoming more digital or new business models or whatever else, the industry already looks a great deal different than it did 10 or 20 years ago and that’s only going to continue in the coming decades.

As with anything in entertainment that changes, people are going to yearn for the way things used to be (while also worrying about what the future will bring). For me, one of the things I miss most is the sort of manuals games used to come with. What I looked forward to most when first buying a new game, regardless of what it was, was opening the box up and flipping through the manual before actually trying the game out. And I’m not just talking about spending time devouring the pages of a manual (or whatever other paperwork a PC game would come with — keyboard shortcut cards, tech trees, etc. — as it installs); console and handheld game manuals had to be read cover to cover before the game went into the system. This wasn’t a matter of preparing for games with no tutorials, as I treated those with in-game instructions no differently. I specifically remember reading the entire manual for Mario Party 2 — Mario Party 2 — before I would even stick the cart in my Nintendo 64.

Manuals

More recently I’ve found manuals to be far more superfluous than they used to be as it’s not often that you play a game that doesn’t start out with a tutorial and follow that up with a good deal of handholding. Even so, I find it hard not to be upset when I open up a brand new game and see a two-page manual filled with nothing but legal warnings and other stuff that’s of no use to me. Then again, my Vita collection makes even that seem preferable because at least it’s something.

I’m not the only one who misses manuals. Responding to a question we posed on Facebook, Andrew Corne noted, among other things, he misses “full color instruction manuals and game inserts that weren’t only for special edition copies.”

Between those sharing their thoughts on Facebook and the 1UP boards, one of the most popular relics of the past was the arcade. Especially in the west, arcades are not anywhere near as common as they once were, much to the chagrin of those who enjoy being in the company of other quarter-wielding gamers.

“Arcades died more and more as consoles became more popular, and now with all of the social aspects of online connectedness, there’s not even as much need for the social element of an arcade anymore,” wrote Coarse_Limely. Lukerum2 remembered the “epic arcade battles that got so heated they drew a crowd,” while UltramanJ added, “I miss the days when the arcade scene was thriving, and the latest arcade titles were well beyond what the home systems were capable of. There was always a tremendous amount of excitement when a favorite arcade title was announced for the home systems, and the question was always how close it came to the arcade version.” Eric Wittbrodt is also on the list of those bemoaning the loss of arcades: “No next gen console can replicate the experience of being in a packed arcade with Journey blaring in the background.”

arcades

Another common complaint about where the industry is headed — and this is a more contentious issue, at least in my mind — had to do with downloadable content. UltramanJ chimed in again, writing, “I miss the days when publishers and developers saw consumers as valued customers rather than wallets. Back when games were packed with extra bonus content that’s now held off in the interest of squeezing more money from us.” Stefan Markovic felt similarly, saying he misses “unlocking characters and levels by simply playing the game,” not through DLC.

“But the biggest thing is how much of a commodity the gaming industry has become,” wrote PizzaBagel. “In the past, we never worried about what DLC we would get, or this current war against second-hand resellers. … Games felt like complete, unique experiences.”

“I miss when games used to come all together at once,” stated MyKillOwSki. “You didn’t have to pay extra to get full online functionality, you didn’t have to pay for DLC content… I miss getting a brand new PS1 or PS2 game and getting to play it all the way through, and not worrying about having to pay more money to get more of the game. Not to say that DLC is a bad thing, it just shouldn’t have to get paid for. If I’m paying for the game, I want the whole thing. If they update the game, I want the update for free, not to pay for it.”

That last comment is why I actually find this to be an arguable complaint or bit of nostalgia; I really like developers having the ability to release new content for their games without resorting to the old $40 expansion pack model. It goes without saying that I’m not a fan of extras (costumes, for instance) we would have gotten in the past being sold to gamers as DLC. But I appreciate the real content developers come up with — and I certainly don’t think they should have to give away anything they make which costs money beyond the game’s budget. Besides, it’s not as if DLC is being forced on anyone.

By Chris Pereira