Writing documentation for the games industry

Flickr Creative Commons image Marco Verch

Last week, I visited Gamescom in Cologne. Gamescom is the largest exhibition and trade fair for computer games in Europe, with over 335,000 people attending this five day event. We visited for social rather than business purposes, but it led me to reflect on the work we and others have done in writing documentation for the games industry.

Firstly, the consensus seems to be that there is no consensus across the industry. It seems everyone’s doing it differently, with developers being uncertain what content is needed. A great deal of the documentation seems to be almost entirely technical in nature, aimed at other developers who might need to interact with application.

Obviously, there is a lot of focus on the UI/UX in games to make the need for users to go to classic F1 online Help midway through a game unnecessary. Help often still exists, but it’s embedded into the game. What we are seeing in mobile games is more and more use of “first user interaction screens”. These are screens that appear when you first use a game, generally providing the user with information on where to press on the screen, or showing a tour of the application.

Ascii dreams first user screen

However, a lot of people want more information so they can master a game – bend the rules even. So a great deal of user documentation for games is actually created and maintained by the users themselves. The second most popular wiki in the world, WoWWiki, comprises over 250,000 pages, and is, to all intents and purposes, a user manual.  There are also sites like Gameshub, Serebii and PlayDota.

Video based instruction is also popular. Anyone living with a teenager will know they can spend ages on websites watching ‘Let’s play‘ videos. These games walkthrough videos are extremely popular (and often very sweary).

Sometimes, developments in computer games find their way into mainstream software, so it will be interesting to see how the documentation and Help for games develop in the future.

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