Internet Killed the Strategy Guide Star

Act like you didn't love strategy guides, I dare you.
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Hey ya’ll, hackneyed title aside how rad were strategy guides? That is one of the vestiges of old school gaming I miss the most. The feeling I get when I visit a walkthrough on the web is the same feeling I get when I fire up my Kindle, like I’m cheating on something. Maybe I’m a luddite, but there is something to be said about the tactile gratification you get holding a book or strategy guide, feeling the glossy pages, smelling the ink.

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There was nothing like cracking open a fresh guide on the car ride home from EB Games or Gamestop and flipping through the pages to get a glimpse of the adventure that awaited. This was before the time of YouTube or Twitch. IGN was in its infancy. If you had internet access it came on a CD-Rom in the mail from AOL and you suffered through a dial-up tone.


You weren’t watching game trailers or an E3 demo is what I’m saying. If you were lucky, you watched a friend play a game and went to Toys-R-Us and spent that allowance. Sometimes you bought a game because the cover art looked neat. You needed that guide to give you a taste of what was to come and of course to help you out of the trouble you were bound to meet.

Part of the game buying experience was getting the new Prima or the Brady guide. I had some friends who were fiercely loyal to one or the other, not me. Like a bird attracted to shiny objects, I bought the guide with the cooler looking cover. Guides were almost a necessity for some of those old school RPG titles, especially if you wanted to leave no chest unopened and no quest unfinished. I used the Final Fantasy Tactics (my favorite all time game) guide so much that the binding fell apart and I had to hole punch the pages and put it in three-ring binders. And there was no way my ten year old self was getting through the Water Temple in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time without a full color strategy guide by my side.

A good portion of that need has gone away thanks to what I call the Fableization of gaming. The glowing trail that shows the way to the objective or the map marker on your H.U.D. has rendered a good guide nearly pointless. Games, in some ways, have become simpler and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A lot of what made games “hard” back in the day was broken game physics or limitations of technology. Well, that and hi-speed internet connections filled with game wikis.

The last guide I remember purchasing to actually use was for Prince of Persia on Xbox. My family had the shared computer so it was still too much a hassle to wait my turn if I was having trouble with a puzzle. Instead of firing up that 56k modem I flipped through the full color guide, replete with pictures and captions to find my way through the temples.  

Today, printed guides have become all but pointless. I bought the hardback Skyrim guide upon release, but it’s more a collector’s item. If my Khajiit were stuck in some Falmer cave or if I were looking for an easy way to level a skill, I went to the internet. They are still printing and selling guides. I see them sometimes when I walk through Best Buy, hidden in some nook. For a brief moment, before I pull up the walkthrough on my smart phone, I consider buying one.

What about ya’ll? Do you remember the last guide you bought to use? Are you one of the few, the proud, who still purchase the physical guide? Am I the worst? Comment below. And remember, life is an RPG. Level up, ya’ll, level up.

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Pat Rankin
Gamer, omnivore, avid retweeter, failed novelist and dog owner. Find me on PSN patfish_bengal and together we can rule the galaxy...or just play video games together, up to you really. follow me on twitter @limitbreakblog and be sure to visit my website for other gaming/pop culture articles, pictures of my dog and a podcast.