Ebooks were once feared to be the harbinger of the end times for printed books. I’m not going to spend time recounting that tale; suffice it to say we now know that not to be the case. But the rise of readily available information on the internet has left its fair share of bodies in its wake. In 2012, long-established bastion of knowledge and highbrow bookshelf mainstay Encyclopedia Britannica made the decision to stop producing physical copies of its books, choosing to focus instead on the digital aspect of its platform. In that moment, a thousand children who wanted to grow up to be door-to-door encyclopedia salespeople had their hearts broken. And just like the encyclopedia, the printed strategy guide is on the verge of extinction.
Depending on your age and the relationship you had with video games when you were a child, you may or may not have fond memories of going to a game store and having your much-beleaguered parents purchase you the answer to all of your frustrations—a game guide. In the time before the internet, if you were a kid and you got stuck playing a game, you only had two options for advancing: you could rely on the intelligence and goodwill of friends who had gotten further than you (good luck), or you could nag your parents to buy you the game guide for the game they bought you (which you played on the system they bought you, using the extra accessories they bought you). And when you held that game guide in your hands and cracked it open, a few things became instantly clear: first, the Water Temple was designed by sadists; and second, now that you were holding this real, tangible thing in your hands, you simply were better than all your friends. But now, given the news that Prima Guides is ceasing production, it seems the internet has managed to make another publishing mainstay obsolete.
Yet while the internet has ruined some things completely (like dating and privacy), the transfer of gaming tips from paper to screen was not without its benefits. If you’re stuck on a game or simply want to learn a finishing move, a quick Google search will provide you with dozens of links—some of them from established gaming web publications, but most of them from individuals who want to share what they’ve learned. A constant dialogue has been opened up on subreddits and YouTube channels, so now when you embark on a new game, you’re never really alone. And while the feeling of holding a new game guide and having all your problems disappear may be gone, it’s been replaced by a sense of community and connectedness that an isolated reading could never provide. People can share their experiences like never before, and in situations where it is dangerous to go alone, it helps to have a few friends in your back pocket.