As I sit at my computer desk, I look to my right and see a small bookcase of happiness. My photo printer is there. A collection of various LEGO things rest on the shelf below the printer. Then I have two shelves of strategy guides, video game art books, and a few harmonicas just because. It’s a small collection of things that make me happy.
As the Internet has grown, I’ve read several discussions over the years asking if strategy guides are even relevant anymore. Let’s face it, back in the 8-bit and 16-bit eras, we depended on strategy guides to help us get through big games like Final Fantasy and Super Metroid. I remember having envy over the Nintendo Power collection that my best friend had. Those days of waiting on a new map to show up in our favorite video game magazine are still something I fondly remember.
Yet, the Internet is a thing now. I’ve watched a lot of gaming magazines close up shop. Nintendo Power is now a thing for collectors. Now we have YouTube, GameFAQs, and Google to help us when we get stuck in a game. If it had not been for me pestering Keri so long ago, I’d have never rekindled my love of holding a strategy guide while I played a game.
In this world of a quick Google search, are strategy guides even worth your money now? Well, yeah, they are. While Prima is pretty much the only player left standing in this world of how-to videos and streamers showing you how to play, Prima has found a way to remain relevant.
First, let’s get the easy stuff out of the way. Maps and screenshots in a strategy guide are so much easier to read than what some random person typed up as a description on that random guide on GameFAQs. Strategy guides also include a section dedicated on teaching you the general basics of the game, thus making it a great starting point for new gamers. Some strategy guides include artwork from the game while other might include an interview with developers. Some strategy guides are just beautiful works of art that you want to proudly display…I’m looking at you, StarCraft and Dark Souls guides.
Outside of those factors, strategy guides now give you more than just a book to flip through. For instance, Prima includes codes for their digital guides with their physical guide. This means they can easily update the digital guide as patches come out that change various game mechanics. *cough Diablo 3* Some guides include codes for PS4 themes that are exclusive to that guide. Heck, the Fallout 4 guide included artwork worthy of being framed. So yeah, strategy guide companies are learning they need to include more niceties to compete in a world dominated by videos and search engines.
Yet, there is one thing a strategy guide can provide that the Internet can’t. That feature is an always on feature. It might seem trivial, but it’s come to my aid a time or two. I have a data cap, so I have to watch how much Internet I consume or pay a stupid fee. I also live in an area where my Internet goes away from time to time thanks to the amount of users on my trunk. When I lose my connection to the hate filled world of the Nets, I can always trust my strategy guide to be right there. Willing to help me and get me from point a to point b. It might not always be the best directions, but it’s often enough information for me to do what needs doing.
Strategy guides also don’t really troll you. I’ve watched some videos where the person playing just totally trolls their viewers into killing a valuable NPC, or they don’t even accomplish the task you’re needing help with. On the flipside, some strategy guides include great tips and tricks right from the professional players of the game you’re playing. I’d rather have the pro tips than some troll messing up my game.
Yes, in a digital world, there is something nice about having a physical book to get you through a game. It’s lovely to sit down at breakfast and flip through pages full of charts, graphs, and numbers so that when I return to the game, I am more prepared to battle that next boss. I admit that it is even nice to feel like a kid again when a new guide arrives at my door for review. Yeah, strategy guides still have a role to play in our ever connected world. At least until VR can prove it is a thing that is going to stay. Then yeah, guides might be a bit of a buzz kill.