The age of the internet has provided us with ubiquitous access to gaming guides and detailed walkthroughs that provide the expert knowhow to overcome vexing areas.  The debate remains whether or not gamers should use guides.  After all, a video game is a digital world entirely constructed by human hands.  Each animation, environmental object, switch and character model is built into the game as a conscious decision.  Therefore, all the clues we need to progress are available, if only we can follow the developer's logic.   But games are meant to be fun and searching environments for obtusely hidden objects is definitely not fun.  To use or not to use guides remains paramount in a time when information is only a click away on the internet and is accessible wherever your smartphone gets service.  In the mid to late 1990's when my brother and I sunk our time in a Playstation, Google did not even exist. 

This level results in a lava filled death, every time, but I always have a fun time trying. 

My very first console and cheat code was with the Sega Genesis.  In fact, I have a Sega Genesis currently set up in the guest room.  My games were limited but I enjoyed each one.  In my Disney Adventures magazine, now defunct, I spied a level skipping cheat code for the Aladdin licensed game.  I was floored at the concept of bypassing levels that I did not complete and I guiltily memorized the code despite my worries that I was cheating.  Pressing A, B, B, A, A, B, B, A I amazingly bypassed previously unseen levels able to only play for a few minutes until my curiosity compelled me on.  I sped through levels abruptly stopping when I discovered the magic carpet level.  To this day, I cannot beat the magic carpet level after Genie's helpful hand instructing me up or down turns into a question mark despite repeated attempts. 

In the mid-1990's, for every holiday we received the latest Oregon Trail with its accompanying guide.  The books became well-worn with folded corners on the pages detailing how to treat dysentery or overcome being mauled by a bear.  We played a myriad of PC games but without guides the only information available was from the accompanying instruction booklet that was inevitably lost.  My summer spent in the original Stronghold conquering all of modern day England is an achievement I continue to quote as a gaming accomplishment and occurred on a computer that did not even have internet access because the time period's home internet connection was screechy dial-up that was only for the living room's computer.      

Numemon, I worked so hard for...googly eyes attached to neon green goo and a slobbery tongue?  

My brother and I eventually branched off into the Playstation era and we devoted our time to Digimon World.  We trained our critters obsessively for cool, not lame, transformations.  Embroiled in friendly sibling rivalry I, as the oldest, dominated our arena battles.  Naturally, I was having a great time.  My brother's friends played video games but mine did not.  My brother spoke of game guides that charted what was needed in order to attain the exact Digimon desired.  I scoffed at the notion of "cheating" by consulting a guide.  In actuality, my conscience was still guilty from my Aladdin cheat code.  Instead, I forced my critter into the gym, worked hard to train the creature in a variety of useful skills up to the last second before it evolved.  Eventually, no matter what I did, all of my creatures became Numemon, a pitiful champion level Digimon who resembled green goo with eyeballs.  I stopped playing.  

An unexpected purchase that proudly sits and awaits the next guide I deem worthy of residing next to it.

I am not against guides and nowadays RPGs practically require guide use in order to maximize a playthrough.  In January 2012, after I continuously returned to my smartphone while playing Skyrim I finally bought the guide which now sits proudly amongst my gaming swag.  The large and detailed tome reminds me of poring over video game instruction booklets.  I read the booklets during my non-gaming as preparation in order to maximize every second of actual gameplay.  Reading about the Skyrim quest that I am currently engulfed in or recently completed ensures that I do not miss rare loot or an optional storyline and became a fun novelization of my Skyrim adventures.

Every weekday, I ride two buses on my travels to and from work which is a lot of time to search the internet on my smartphone. During my time so far with The Witcher 2 I obsessively checked guides to plan ahead for branching storylines.  The same with Fallout 3, after I became embroiled in a quest I checked online guides for anything I may have missed.  In Fallout 3's The Pitt DLC, I absurdly committed to collecting all 100 steel ingots.  After I found about 70 on my own I pulled up a walkthrough but in order to ensure that I obtained all of the ingots I was forced to check all 100 locations individually.  This is not a recommended strategy for collecting the ingots.  Also, I was forced to master jumping in a Bethesda game which is a skillset that I had pointedly avoided.  I am the player who circles the mountain's base for the path, not the polygon mountainside jumping player.

Four leopards versus me and my currently equipped flamethrower or four leopards versus me and a bow?  The bow seems like the fairest fight. 

Most recently, in Far Cry 3 I was unexpectedly playing a brand new release with little to no previous knowledge of the game or of its franchise.  I delved into the game conquering pirate outposts, climbing radio towers, and frantically running away from the island's native wildlife.  The hunting component requires tracking, killing and skinning the wildlife for skins used for upgrading equipment such as wallets, quivers, and munitions pouches.  In fact, the island's map includes animal icons for the general vicinity of each species' locations and hunting syringes provide bonuses such as preventing bears and the like from attacking.  An early focus on hunting and the equipment upgrades results in maxing out the upgrades fairly early.  Except for the "Leopards killed a villager's wife.  Hunt them with a bow provided at the site of the attack" mission which translated into "Kill four leopards with a bow and regular arrows." Four leopards and only a bow resulted in a hunting mission that was simply an exercise in sadism.  However, the overall gameplay is clear.  See the boar icon on the map, fast travel to the nearest liberated outpost, wander the land in pursuit of boar, kill and skin the boar, equipment upgrade now available.  

The legendary tapir!  Far Cry 3, aka, The Animal Planet in disguise.  

Quickly I progressed through the upgrades and suddenly I needed 4 tapir skins.  As per my strategy, I viewed the island's map, looked at the icons, and stated out loud, "What the hell is a tapir?"  I was not sure which icon was even a rough approximation of a tapir.  The game features a handbook of explanations but entries are only unlocked upon discovering an item or location. 

Naturally, my smartphone sat next to me and as I considered looking up a picture of a tapir, I stopped.  Despite my best intentions not to overly read about my most anticipated titles I still watch gameplay footage, read previews, and peruse other players' thoughts on the games.  When I cannot afford a title before a price drop I inevitably encounter small and big spoilers before I can play the game even when exercising the upmost caution. 

While exploring the island I particularly enjoyed the discovery of the glider crashing upon use.  

In Far Cry 3 I was given the surprising privilege of discovering the game's secrets in real time as I played.  Each new mechanic and narrative twist was a revelation.  This rare opportunity to peel back a game only with playtime was a treat that reminded me of the pre information age.  Nostalgia is fun for a moment in remembrance of the sense of discovery and satisfaction that gaming provided.  However, back in my Digimon World era I was stuck with Numemon and my refusal to check a guide resulted in me not returning to the game after the letdown of my highly anticipated digivolution.  A moment in this current gaming age of gaming without a wealth of pre-knowledge was precious and I will continue my playthrough of my most recent purchase, Hydrophobia, without a guide lookup.  However, as I countdown to Tuesday's Tomb Raider release, I will keep combing through the reviews grateful for the opportunity to read reviews and watch gameplay as evidence of a good preorder decision  and to spur my anticipation for the moment that it is my turn to play.   

What is your favorite cheat code?

What is your memorable moment that compelled you to pick up or put down a game guide?

Have you or anyone you know beaten Sega Genesis' Aladdin's magic carpet level?

Did you know what a tapir was prior to reading this blog?  If yes, did you learn your tapir knowledge from Far Cry 3?

Thank you all for stopping by during your time on the internet.  Have a good week and as always make sure to include game time in your busy schedule.