The Evolution of the Instruction Manual Theorem

December 18, 2008

I like to think of myself as a smart and creative person, but when it comes right down to it I tend to have a lack of truly original ideas. I am an accountant after all, and in the current economic climate “creative” and “original” accounting tend to be heavily frowned upon (if not outright prosecuted). That said, when an interesting item originates with me, I like to share it.

I like to think about correlations. For example, the amount and variety of alcohol at a┬ácompany party is directly proportional to how much I want to attend. Alternatively, the presence of my old roommate (who I’m not comfortable making conversation with, but is engaged to my coworker) is inversely proportional to my desire to be there.

During the course of my life I have come up with many brilliant correlative theories that could one day make me famous and wealthy; unfortunately I have forgotten most of them. Of the two that remain, however, one has to do with video games.

I have owned many video games in my life, and for most of them have read at least the majority of the instruction manual, if not the whole thing. From that experience and the subsequent playing of the game, I came up with the theory that the quality of the game is directly proportional to the quality of the manual.

I think this idea may have been a result of me being raised on a steady diet of excellent first-party Nintendo games, as they almost always have excellent instructions and are almost always awesome games. Also, my favorite PC games in my formative gaming years were the Command & Conquer games, and I loved reading about all the different units and buildings in those games. Plus Kane is the man.

Over the years the theory seemed to hold up relatively well. Only recently have I made some slight modifications to it. Obviously MMO booklets are out of date by the time the first patch comes, although I was pretty happy with the books for both WoW and WAR (even though WAR’s book left out several obvious things that I would have covered). So you have to take MMOs out if the equation. Further, I have to come to understand that a poor manual does not necessarily preclude a game from being awesome.

However, there is no game in my recollection that has had an excellent instruction manual but has been a crappy game. So the current incarnation of The Instruction Manual Theorem is thus:

“Any video game with a well-written instruction manual will be an excellent game.”

I just purchased Lost Odyssey, which I have not yet played. I have read some of the manual though, and it is a quality piece of work. I’m looking forward to playing it and putting my theory officially to the test. Let me know how your own experiments go and feel free to prove/disprove me.

P.S. This theory will probably not make me nearly as famous as The Iced Tea Theory, which states the quality of a restaurant is directly proportional to the quality of its iced tea. This theory I have extensively tested – it is solid as bedrock. It may become a law soon.