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Is It Wrong To Expect Gamers To Read A Game's Instructions?

Do players have an obligation to self educate themselves on your game before they criticize it?

So you created this really cool game that is a ton of fun to play, but being clever you have added several unique gameplay elements, rules, controls, etc.

Then you unleash this cool game onto testers and friends, expecting accolades and affection from them for giving them this great entertainment experience.

To your dismay, you find many are confused and frustrated because they do not know what to do or how to do it.  They have stopped playing!

You ask them; did you read the manual/help/instructions?

They answer with a commonplace refrain: “Nope, I never read the instructions!”

On many of my recent projects, frankly casual games with straightforward mechanics, the very gamer that should read the instructions is not conditioned to do this.  

Now let’s assume that your game has the instructions readily available for reference but foregoes a detailed hand-holding interactive tutorial.  The reason this tutorial omission is a lack of funding (your cool game has a miniscule budget) or schedule.    

So is the player to blame in this case for not doing a modicum of gaming due diligence before abandonment?  If they are not, and you are to blame because you do not explicitly guide them through every element of the game, why should games even have written manuals or instructions?  Although, even the most simple consumer goods have at least a quick start guide…even for a can opener.

I believe in manuals and instructions in games as an invaluable resource (however, I am finding myself gravitating more toward user forums for communal help).  I think that at some level, the player needs to do their part by checking the instructions if they have a gameplay question/concern.   Do their part before they criticize a game and abandon it for not understanding how to play.

Is this age of a million forms of digital entertainment, is this ‘user empower thyself’ opinion archaic?

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