Those Darn Tutorials

By Alex Campbell
Tutorials in video games are often the subject of criticism by reviewers and critics, as well as an intense level of mockery by the community at large. In today’s gaming world, “tutorial” is practically synonymous with “hand-holding” and “annoyance”;  players have little to no patience for explanations of the seemingly obvious.
Even when it comes to vital information, if it is presented in an annoying way, such as stopping the player dead in their tracks for information, or through a very long series of text boxes, or in several instances in a short period of time (or all three at once, as is often the case), players will regard them with contempt and as a hindrance to gameplay.
Popular examples of annoying tutorials are abundant within the “Legend of Zelda” series, specifically with the character known as Navi The Fairy. Known for her voice clips that call out to the player during the numerous occasions she has a hint to share, such as “Hey!” “Look!” “Listen!” “Watch out!” In fact, in popular culture Navi has, more or less, become the go-to meme to reference when tutorials and hints pop up repeatedly.
In recent years, game developers have taken notice of the community’s feelings toward tutorials and have begun to break the fourth wall with them in humorous acknowledgement and creative writing.
An example of the former would be in the YouTuber-inspired video game “Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures,” where in the first moments of gameplay Naggi The Patronizing Firefly appears and follows The Nerd around while spouting tutorial information, while The Nerd responds angrily to being tutorialized on seemingly obvious information.
An example of the latter appears in the immensely popular indie game “Undertale,” by Toby Fox. In the very first part of the game the player encounters the character Toriel, whose name is an actual play on the word “tutorial.” She is an anthropomorphic goat monster with a motherly personality, earning her the nickname “Goat Mom” by the fanbase. As one might expect, she acts as the tutorial character for the game’s mechanics, but her role is deliberately worked into the overall tone of the game and the theme of her character and personality. Her tutorizing very much comes off as tenderly “mothering” the player, as opposed to merely assaulting them with information.
When all is said and done though, and in spite of how much tutorials have been made the subject of ridicule, they are still necessary, at least in some small degree, as there really is no telling what might end up as someone’s first video game. Obvious information to some is not obvious to all, and a lot of games have mechanics specific to them that really need to be explained to the player. So next time you see a tutorial, give it a shot, you might learn something new. (Or at the very least find something to make fun of.)
A video game tutorial of Mario.