I Miss Written Guides

This might be a function of my age and what was available when I was growing up, dear reader, but I really miss the days where the best way to get information about a game was from a website like GameFAQs (I’m sure other guide websites were out there, but this is the one I used). The best guides had extremely thorough walkthroughs and info/stats tables, told you everything you needed to know, and usually had some epic ASCII art titles to boot.

Aside: It didn’t occur to me until I just went to try and find some cool ASCII art to take a pic of for this post that text-to-ASCII-art generators are a thing, and were probably a thing back then too. I thought each title was painstakingly crafted with precise spacebar usage! Naive much.

The words "Video Game Guide" in ascii art
I was easily impressed at 13.

These days (you know it’s gonna be good when someone starts a paragraph with ‘these days’) people making guides primarily make videos, and I understand why. As well as telling the information, creators can show it, too. It’s much easier to record a clip demonstrating something and narrate than it is to clearly write a guide that conveys the same information.

However, written guides are easier to search through, they go at a pace that’s comfortable for you, they don’t stop midway through to show you an advert, they don’t have annoying music or sounds that clutter up the in-game sounds or whatever else you’re trying to listen to, and they are easier to access alongside a game if your computer isn’t super powerful.

This is definitely something I can do. I think written guides with accompanying pictures, plenty of internal links, and a reliable source are something there’s still space for out there. I am probably going to start on some Hollow Knight guides. I know there’s a Wiki, but it’s a bit lacking in detail compared to what I have in mind, and it’s a game I truly know well so can feel confident in my ability to create this kind of content for it. The other game I know that well is probably Stardew Valley, but the Stardew Valley Wiki is exceptionally good. Plus hopefully, when Silksong releases, anyone who hasn’t played Hollow Knight yet will do so because of all the hype, and whatever I can do to help them enjoy my favourite game is worth doing. Besides, practice makes perfect!

What do you all think? Are you a lover of the video guide, more interested in a text document, or are very granular wikis your thing? Let me know in the comments and if you love video guides, let me know why.

14 replies on “I Miss Written Guides”

Definitely agree, I really miss written guides. Usually I only want a guide for something very particular, and having to click through on a video to find the info I want is super awkward!

I wonder if another reason for the video guide overtaken the written one is that the former is easier to monetise, with unskippable ads playing before the info you want instead of more easily ignored banner ads on text articles.

The monetisation thing is something that did cross my mind, but there are so many ads on every written guide I’ve tried to read recently that I discounted it. I didn’t consider it very deeply though, and I don’t know the numbers – maybe 1,000 YouTube ad views is worth more than 1,000 page banner ad views.

I agree, for very specific movement or weird interface things, video is second to none, but a lot of them have a lot of runtime to stuff that’s not what any specific person is after.

Text guides turning into a million separate pages to allow more ads to be shown is a pain too, the clear single plain text documents of GameFAQs were generally great, and haven’t been topped.

Absolutely – there’s no reason that each of the 16 Mask Shards in Hollow Knight (for example) needs its own page.

I loved these guides, they were great 🙂 Especially for older JRPGs (looking at you, Final Fantasy on the NES). In addition to the other issues you raised, video is much harder to preserve so knowledge is much much easier to lose. Guides can be easily mirrored and shared.

It’d be cool to have that monospace text guide formatting, combined with a wiki-like system, so people could contribute together, or suggest corrections.

That’s an excellent point, I hadn’t even thought of that kind of knowledge degradation. A text-doc-wiki-thing does sound cool, though I worry about that becoming less accessible. People will read that and think “Google sheets!” and then you’ll have a hard time finding a guide if you’re not in the right Discord and it’s just a new set of problems.

I for one am sick of eurogamer guides with pop up ads and awful videos. However it is tricky for service games (I mainly play destiny 2) to have relevant printed guides due to seasonal content. I wonder if I am 8 bit and other folks might start doing them for indie games if enough people ask. My favourite printed guides also double as art books.

Yeah absolutely, the time taken to write a guide vs make a vide must be heavily skewed in the favour of videos. I also adore printed guides full of wonderful art – I actually own the Prima strategy guide for Skyrim because it is very pretty.

Am I witnessing the birth of ‘GameFAQs guide as-an-artform’?

I hope so.

As an impatient person who gets stuck on certain moves or puzzles guides and walkthroughs are an invaluable resource to me. Further to that it’s so much easier to find the exact place the solution ior hint is placed when I come back to the game and have already forgotten what I’d read previously.
Thankfully the internet has come on leaps and bounds since my children were young and they found it necessary to print hundreds of pages of Pokemon walkthrough..

Hey now, it was never Pokemon walkthroughs we printed. It was other stuff, we had the Official Prima Strategy Guides for the Pokemon games (thank goodness for doting grandparents).

Good luck! I started work on a CK2 guide once, and it quickly became clear the amount of work that goes into a (good) written guide, which as you say is probably one of the reasons video took off. It’s much easier to just record your gameplay and chat over the top than it is to describe the same thing in words.

Still, for the extra work, written guides are often more accessible and easier to use, so well worth it. Finding relevant information quickly and engaging with it at your own pace is so important, especially when you’re frustrated/lost enough to desire a guide in the first place

Thanks, I feel like I’ll need the luck 😀 I’m finding it hard to determine what needs to be addressed in detail in each segment and what can be left for other guides or not focused on, and it’s hard work, even for something as basic as “this is how you access the first shop in Hollow Knight.”

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