Which Would You Rather: Read A Manual Or Be An Apprentice?

I apologise now if you were looking for insights from either Alan Sugar or Donald Trump… that kind of apprentice has no place in this blog post. If you recognise the man in the photo above, you are one of a select group, who I might have one or two things in common… Tomohiro Nishikado is known as the father of Space Invaders.

If you’re around my age, then you probably have memories of various computer games – simple ones like Pac Man, Space Invaders, Rocket Roger and Tetris. Me, I’d nip down to the local shops on my bike, pay £3.99 or £4.99 for the cassette that had the coolest picture on the front. Then, when the telly was free, I’d boot up the machine and “press play on tape”.

Loading the game into the memory would take a few minutes. This would give you the opportunity to devour the instructions, impatiently reading about how you would control your character / spacecraft / jetpack / earwig once it finally appeared on the screen. Of course, the teenage me only really read the instructions to pass the time between pressing play on the tape, and playing the game. Indeed, sometimes it was a game borrowed from a mate and the instructions had been lost, in this case I would have to resort to hitting keys semi-randomly to work out which key was up/down/left/right/fire. I seem to recall that some unofficial “standards” had evolved in how to control your x-wing fighter / mermaid / jackalopes. Usually hitting combinations of A, D, W, X and the space bar would enable me to work out what was what and get going. I’d stare goggle-eyed at the TV until everyone else returned from shopping and wanted the TV to watch Big Daddy wrestling or the Grand Prix.

My kids are now getting to the age when they are starting to get interested in playing games. They will never read a game instruction manual. They will never have to hunt for the correct key, or wait for a game to load up. For better or for worse, content is expected and is delivered immediately. Games load in seconds, and in-game tutorials are standard, which talk you through how to play, patiently introduce you to each of the controls in turn, not allowing you to move on until you have demonstrated at least a basic level of mastery. Often these “tutorials” blur the lines between teaching and playing, to the extent that it’s barely noticeable where learning ends and fun begins.

Wouldn’t it be great if all learning was like this?

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