Over the years computer games have become more and more complex and they often provide gamers with a real challenge. Before the internet became popular, gamers would rely on advice in magazines or buy guides to help them unlock the secrets of a computer game. They would watch games programmes on television eager to pick up tips and hints that might help them complete that last infuriating level. They would exchange knowledge with friends about how to beat a particular boss. If they could find no other way they would simply battle deep into the night playing the same level over and over again until they achieved that magical victory.
Nowadays computer game walkthroughs are big business and you can find detailed walkthroughs for the majority of new games on the internet. There are walkthroughs for console and PC games alike and the competition between the big gaming websites will often see them rush to post the first walkthrough on the day that a new game is released.
So what exactly is a walkthrough? Well generally it is a simple step by step explanation of exactly what a player should do in order to complete each level of a game. Most walkthroughs are broken down into individual levels so that gamers can skip directly to the bit they are stuck on. The walkthrough will guide them through the level highlighting important pick ups and warning them where the enemies are likely to appear. Here is an example of a detailed walkthrough for Doom 3 on the PC.
While first-person shooter games are ideally suited to walkthroughs many other genres don’t really fit this pattern. Games are often open ended nowadays and this means that a guide is more appropriate. These are sometimes called walkthroughs but instead of a blow by blow account of what the player should do they tend to explain a specific concept or action and how to achieve it in the game. Here is an example of a guide for Mount & Blade which is an open ended third-person adventure RPG.
Computer game walkthroughs are extremely popular amongst gamers and instead of battling away for hours as they may have done in the past most people will go online and do a quick search for a walkthrough if they get stuck in a game. Modern society is increasingly impatient and so any shortcut that can save valuable time will generally be explored.
You could argue that walkthroughs take the fun or challenge out of the game and if you rely on them to play all the way through a game then that is probably a fair criticism. For the majority of gamers walkthroughs are a last resort and they are used more like reference manuals.
The player will get frustrated and look up the specific level they are stuck on and then return to the game. If they don’t get stuck again then the walkthrough is forgotten. If you get stuck on a specific level and try absolutely everything without any joy then the likelihood is that you will simply give up on the game and never return to it. Walkthroughs can help extend the life of the game by seeing you through those moments.
Game designers often make assumptions and can include puzzles which are near to impossible for gamers to solve so computer game walkthroughs provide a valuable service.
You may assume that developers don’t like walkthroughs but this isn’t really true either. Walkthroughs as a last resort are a good way to ensure that a gamer enjoys the full experience of a game. Since developers often put a lot of work into the last few levels of a game the idea that a gamer might never get there is worrying. If they can look up a walkthrough it is more likely they will play all the way to the end.