Why Video Game Guides Are Still Popular Today

Jonatan Parski CEO

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Girl gamer enjoying a console game

While the last few decades have seen the gaming industry grow bigger and bigger, many game guide formats that were once popular surrounding everyone’s favorite digital pastime have fallen by the wayside. Video game magazines and similar products that held all manner of secrets, cheat codes, walkthroughs, and various other helpful pieces of game knowledge have all but disappeared from the public eye. However, one form of gaming info that hasn’t gone anywhere is, of course, the online video game guide.

Have you ever wondered why gaming guides are still around to this day? Or, even more importantly, if they’ll continue to flourish? Is writing video game guides worth it?

With this article, we’ll be answering these questions and more, so buckle in as we take a look at the curious history of the online video game guide and see where its future seems to be heading. With this article, we’ll be covering the following topics:

  • How original video game guides got started.
  • Modern versions of the game guide format.
  • How gaming sites make a profit from free walkthroughs.
  • What goes into a quality video game guide.
  • Services that offer professional gaming content.

The Origins of Video Game Guides

Where did video game guides even get their start? While many would say they began with the home console, professionally-produced guides got their start all the way back in the days of the first arcade machines. Even back then, you’d be able to find the occasional Donkey Kong walkthrough, Pac-Man tip, or Space Invaders technique.

Retro arcade with neon colors. Even arcades used to have walkthroughs
Even arcades used to have printed walkthroughs and guides.

However, video game guides really got their start with the era of the at-home console. With the Nintendo Entertainment System (or the NES) came the explosion of video game magazines and articles. These were loaded with secrets, cheat codes, and walkthroughs for every game that was hot and popular that month. This could be considered the first time that video games were brought into public media, rather than being seen as a silly pastime for kids.

Modern Gaming Content and Walkthroughs

This format didn’t stick around forever, though. Eventually, as it did with most things, the internet pushed gaming magazines out of the spotlight and took its place. The rise of the web came at the same time that video games began to grow more complex.

Games took the shape of branching narratives and cinematic stories, some even trying to mimic Hollywood blockbusters. Consequently, the guides for them had to become more complex as well. Rather than a single article to walk someone through an entire game like before, online guides had to break into smaller, more focused portions of these larger games.

Walkthroughs and Tips

Despite game guides taking on new forms, the old formats didn’t go away entirely. Even as games became too grand and sprawling for a simple walkthrough guide to cover, they remained popular and are still used to cover individual levels, rooms, areas, etc.

Pages that focus on walkthroughs for specific parts of the game or tips that help with certain areas and levels became highly sought after. These thorough digital guides could focus on more specific issues.

While most games began to have some sort of tutorial to teach the basics to anyone playing, fewer and fewer people looked for guides on how to play an entire game. Instead, it was much more common for gamers to get stuck on a specific area, level, boss, or similar part of the game that was strangely harder or trickier than the rest. If enough people were having trouble with that same part, you could bet there was a walkthrough of how to complete it.

Character Build Guides

The modern era has also seen a few entirely new game genres pop up. RPGs, action RPGs, and of course MMORPGs all began to grow in popularity, and a strong majority of them tended to share one key feature: a single customizable character to serve as the player avatar, or “toon,” that could learn abilities and earn equipment.

Fallout 3 Character Build Screen. Video game guides for character building.
Character building guides can go into a lot of detail, explaining how to build the perfect avatar for your playstyle.

This added layer of complexity brought forth a new desire for gamers. Creating the most ideal and effective build for their character possible became an appealing dream for many. After all, if you’ve sunken hours into building this character and playing through their story, why wouldn’t you want them to be an unstoppable force of power?

Thus came the rise of the character build guide. Websites like Icy Veins, with builds for games like World of Warcraft and Diablo, or blogs explaining how to make the best builds in Dark Souls, exploded in popularity. As games advanced, so did the people playing them. No longer were people looking up how to play their games. They wanted to know how to play them perfectly.

Technical Guides

Not only did gameplay get more complex over time, but so too did games’ setup processes. Particularly with PC games, the video games of the modern era can be a bit tricky to get started with, especially if gamers are interested in anything like modding and file customization.

This bred a new form of game guide, the technical guide. How to install mods, how to configure a game with the most efficient settings, how to optimize your layout, etc. Every part of customization, configuration and installation now makes it necessary to have a guide all of its own.

How Gaming Websites Make Money From Free Walkthroughs

With gaming magazines, it was easy to understand how they would make money. Between sponsorships with brands and a membership fee for those who wanted to get a copy to read for themselves, a steady flow of revenue was plain to see. However, nowadays, most gaming content is available online completely free. Users can look up a guide for the game they’re playing and find YouTubers explaining it, blogs that go in-depth on the gameplay, and sites entirely dedicated to that game genre. Their sources of knowledge are plentiful, and most enticing of all, free.

So then, how do those sites even make money?

Websites use subscriptions to make money from video game guides. This is the subscription screenshot from Icy Veins.
Websites use subscriptions as one way to make money from video game guides. This is the subscription screenshot from Icy Veins.

Well, this is through a number of different sources. When new games come out, they’ll often sponsor many of these journalists and blog sites to review them. Or, if a site would rather not rely on sponsorships, other forms of revenue such as subscriptions from recurring visitors, ads running on the page, or even appealing merchandise can begin to build up a pretty considerable profit for a service that is entirely free to its visitors. That is the core reason why video game guides have managed to become, and remain, as massive of a market as they are today.

What Makes Video Game Guides Good?

There are a few factors that go into a great and relevant video game guide. While there’s no one-size-fits-all recipe between all genres, here’s a few things that are absolutely vital to a game guide’s success:

The Question

You want the guide’s primary question front and center. Have the question asked near the top of the guide, written out, and maybe even worded a few different ways. Remember that when gamers are stuck in an area, they’ll rarely search for “Video game guides for (game name),” but instead, they’ll tend to look for their specific issue. Something like “How to get past the swamp area in (game name).

Sometimes, in their haze of frustration, they might even forget to put the game’s name entirely and just hope that the context of their question will be enough to lead to the right resources. That is exactly why the question is so important. The more you can be certain that your guide will come up for that specific issue, the better.

A Good Layout

Make important points bold, and make them easy to skim through. Someone who’s stuck in the game they’re enjoying might not want to read through a thousand-word guide just to figure out that they missed an important item one room ago and that they need to go back. Instead, they’ll want to skim through it, their eyes darting around the page to find the answer to the exact part they’re on.

“Get this item in this room” will be a phrase that they’ll latch onto if they’re stuck. “Focus on this stat if you want to use this weapon” if it’s something like a character build guide. You’re probably getting the idea by now. Make it easy for your visitor to find exactly what they’re looking for. The less time and attention that you take away from their experience with the game, the more positively they’ll remember your site for being helpful with issues like this. And the more likely they are to look to your site for further issues down the line.

Authority and Confidence

This one’s an obvious one, and yet so many guides fail to deliver on this point. If someone is having an issue in a game or just wants to learn how to improve at it, who do they want to learn from? Someone with knowledge of the game, of course. Present yourself as confident, wise in the game’s systems, and try not to come across as belittling. Remember, you don’t want a visitor to feel dumb for having to look up a solution to their issue.

IGN is an authority on video game guides and walkthroughs.
IGN is an authority on video game guides and walkthroughs.

If you’re learning from someone, you want them to know precisely what they’re talking about. Show confidence in every point you make. Whether it’s a walkthrough or a guide, avoid uncertain wording like, “Well, this is what my stats look like, but you can do whatever you want and this will still work for this build, I think”. Instead, go with something like, “While your character might vary slightly, stats like this are ideal for this build.”

The Benefits of Professional Gaming Content Services

If you’re planning on writing video game guides, you may be wondering if you need a professional gaming content service. While it’s perfectly possible to write guides on your own, it’s critical to understand that they take time, effort, and experience in both playing games and writing about them.

All of the topics that we’ve covered so far fall into the expertise of these professional services, such as search engine optimization (or SEO for short). Services like Captain Words have skilled writers that know how to efficiently answer questions that visitors have in games that they have played themselves and have expertise in.

Our expert writers are encouraged to dig deep into the game in order to have a complete understanding of issues that users would have. This way, they can answer the question in-depth and with all the necessary details. Instead of telling a reader that they need a particular sword, they tell the reader why they need that sword and how it’ll affect the game for them down the line.

Services like Captain Words specialize in these sorts of walkthroughs, as well as numerous other forms of gaming content. In-depth build guides, game reviews, mod spotlights, and affiliated content are all specialties as well. The expert writers have all ingrained themselves within the world of freely available gaming content, and they are prepared to deliver high-quality writing to grab your readers’ attention and give them exactly what they’re looking for.

In Conclusion

While many formats have fallen by the wayside, video game guides are still alive and as popular as ever. As more and more games are released every year, more and more guides will be needed to go with them. And services like Captain Words are at the forefront, ready to take up their pen and help you get content to your audience.

Are you looking to create gaming content like this? Reach out to us and let us know how we can help!

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Chantelle started her career in IT before eventually finding her way into Marketing. This eventually became her passion, along with Digital Marketing, SEO, and Brand and Web Development. Today, she helps businesses find their voice and grow online.

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