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TV Tropes Monday: All There in the Manual

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When video games took off, they had severe limitations when it came to storage media. Cartridges, floppy disks, and tapes could only hold data measured in the kilobytes, maybe a megabyte or two if you were lucky. There was no space for fully voiced characters, orchestral music scores and minute long cutscenes. Games either had a lot of color and sound, or lots of text, but not both. Hence the trope of All There In the Manual. Back then manuals not only covered how to play the game, since in-game tutorials would not become a staple of video games until the early 2000’s, but also gave a wealth of background information about the setting, characters and plot of the game. Some companies, like MicroProse became famous for the lavishly decorated, thick as novellas manuals loaded with with so much useful information that they became works of art unto themselves.

Today this should not be a problem, however, cynical marketing has led game distributors to deliberately leave key pieces of information from their core product, in order to entice them to buy supplemental materials DLC (downloadable content), tie-in works such as novels or comic books, or subscribe to online websites to get the missing information. Sadly this is not unique to video games. Comic books have been doing this for years, as have some television and movie franchises and even a few book authors.

Remember that the important element of this trope is that the information in the manual is crucial to the understanding or playing of the media involved. In other words good luck in understanding what the hell is going on without the manual.


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