When it comes to video games, there are many different ways to get a lesson across. When new players play a game for the first time they need to figure out what to do, learn the mechanics, understand the goal. There are many different ways to go about teaching any subject, for those seeking solace in the details, we shall explore three different types of tutorials in video games.
For the sake of variety, we will examine three different types of tutorials in video games: The Standard, The Prank, and The Nonverbal. Most games follow the standard path, which is the most obvious and relied upon method. This method is when the game straight up tells you information. You know when you are playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and you find an expensive Rupee, but instead of picking it up and looking at your currency increase the game stops you and says something like “You found a purple Rupee, it is worth 50” yeah, that. Even the best games get caught up doing it, but it isn’t really creative, fun, or very interesting. Isn’t there a better way to get information to the player without being so stifling?
The prank is much more rare than other types of commonly used tutorials. Here, a tutorial is still being given from the game to the player, the difference is that this time it is done comically. In Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon your character, Sergeant Rex Power Colt, is a well honed killing machine; how exactly can he be given a tutorial about doing everything he already does excellently? By acknowledging that fact. Warning, this video may contain extreme language.
Instead of having your character act dumb or curious to things already known, Blood Dragon uses the tutorial to annoy, instruct, and joke all at the same time. Being a cyborg, Rex has a built-in tutorial that is manually started by another character as a prank. As Rex trudges through each tutorial, the game offers some jokes as well as helpful information.
Less used yet more powerful, is The Nonverbal. In this tutorial the gamer learns how to play the game by playing and some games (like Mega Man X) have done this masterfully. It sounds simple, but a lot of detail is required to pull it off successfully. Take Super Metroid for example. The game opens with some background explanation but none of it relates to controls or how you actually play the game. The first time you take control of Samus you descend vertically (something you will be doing often) until you reach a door. The next few rooms have little going on yet still teach you how to handle the situations you will encounter such as: overcoming obstacles, how your map works, opening doors. This may not seem like a huge deal, but all of these lessons were given to the player nonverbally while the player was in full control. It teaches the player without breaking the flow of the game. For a more in-depth look at how Super Metroid continues to teach as the game progresses, check out what The Game Theorists have to say about Super Metorid.
Getting a specific idea or lesson to a player can be difficult, but there are more ways to go about it besides straight up telling them. The three tutorials we discussed were, The Standard, The Prank, and the Nonverbal. However, video games as a medium are of course not glued to just those three ways of teaching players, exploring new ways of teaching is how the medium expands. There are other creative and innovative ways to keep the flow of a game steady while silently instructing, what are some of your favorite ways to teach or be taught and what are some games that do it well?