Using video game guides is generally a horrible idea

Photo by Daniil Silantev on Unsplash.

Guides and walkthroughs for video games are ubiquitous across YouTube and websites like VG247. While guides can be a big help when trying to find the solution to a tricky puzzle, they also sometimes offer advice on how to get the best outcome to a quest or the best ending to the game. It’s certainly tempting to just look up the “right” choices, but it also completely ruins the entire purpose of role-playing games, or RPGs. Making your own choices and living with the consequences is half the fun.

I’m certainly guilty of using guides to get the best outcomes to quests. This is a plea to not make the same mistake that I did which almost ruined one of my favorite games of all time.

During my first playthrough of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, I constantly looked up guides to quests because I was afraid of making the wrong choice. The Witcher 3 is an RPG all about the blurry line between man and monster, good and bad. However, whenever I came upon a decision that wasn’t as clear as sparing or killing a sentient monster that wasn’t doing any harm, I would race to the wiki and read all the outcomes before making a choice in the game.

Not only did this completely drain all the weight of the situation and my choices, but it also completely took me out of the game. I couldn’t become immersed in the world and my experience felt very artificial. That’s a real shame, because it’s very easy to get lost in the world of The Witcher 3. The lesson to be gleaned from my mistake is to not be afraid to make the wrong choice. At least for a first playthrough, a walkthrough, is just about the best way to ruin your experience. Then on a second playthrough, you can do whatever is necessary to get the best outcomes.

One of the major factors when deciding to use a guide is the fear of making the “wrong” choice. It’s a monumental mental obstacle to overcome for sure, but leads to a more engaging experience overall. For example, if one of the side characters dies because of a decision you made, their death is going to stick with you and now you have a great story to tell about the game.

Another poignant example is in the turn-based strategy game XCOM. The player commands a squad of soldiers and takes on missions fighting against alien invaders. If a soldier dies in a mission, they’re gone for good and a new one will have to be recruited. That loss can really hurt especially if that soldier had been with you from the beginning of the game and you had invested a lot of time into them. However, the same principle from the first example still applies. You now have a compelling story that is unique to your time with the game. The loss of that soldier isn’t really going to hurt you that much in the long run either, assuming you train up another.

Aside from additional playthroughs, the only time using a guide would be advisable is after giving up when attempting to figure out a puzzle. If you’ve been stuck at the same point for 10 or more minutes and you’re not any closer to a solution, then the guide is fair game. Why waste time on a side attraction, when all you want to do is progress the story and see what’s next?

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Before you look up a guide for a game consider this: If you like the game enough, and even if you don’t, you owe it to yourself to not ruin the story by looking up the outcomes ahead of time.