Tutorial (video games)

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In the context of video game design, a tutorial is any tool that teaches players the rules and controls of the game. Some tutorials are integrated into the game, while others are completely separate and optional. Games can have both of these at once, offering a basic mandatory tutorial and optional advanced training. Tutorials have become increasingly common due to the decline of printed video game manuals as a result of cost cutting and digital distribution. Tutorials can be important since they are a player's first impression of a game, and an overly tedious tutorial or one that does not allow for player freedom can negatively affect their view of a game. However, the lack of a tutorial can also harm a game by causing the player to become frustrated, since they cannot figure out essential game mechanics.


Tutorials range from gently easing the player into the experience, to forcing them to learn via trial and error, only allowing them to proceed when they have mastered the game-play. The former type is often framed as guidance from a mentor character, such as a wise old man or elderly master, and sometimes even literally depicts the main character growing from a child into an adult as they learn their skills, as in Horizon Zero Dawn.[1] The latter type of tutorial presents the player with increasingly difficult enemies that demonstrate techniques required to overcome them.[1] Other types of tutorials include slowly giving players information over the course of the entire game, as in the Legend of Zelda series.[1]

Game designers have also pointed out ways in which a game can be designed with tutorial elements without being obvious. In the original Super Mario Bros., World 1-1 is designed so that when the player jumps over the first enemy, they are likely to accidentally hit a question mark block, which teaches the player where power-ups come from.[2] The first level in the original Half-Life is often considered a tutorial in disguise.[3] It has since become common to think of the first level of a game as a tutorial, whether or not they explicitly give players instructions.[4] In essence, an easy level can act as a tutorial.[5] In strategy games like Age of Empires, an entire single player campaign can be seen as a tutorial to prepare a player for multiplayer battle.[6]

Game designers have been critical of tutorial levels and recommend providing instructions during ordinary gameplay.[7] Playtesting usually helps define what instructions a player needs as they begin a game. A common tutorial design is to provide instructions where a mechanic might be used, such as when the player gains a new item or ability.[8] In several The Legend of Zelda games, the player has a fairy companion who provides tutorials and hints at key moments.[9] In games like Stellaris, tutorials take the form of elaborate tooltips, as well as occasional quests to nudge the player towards helpful actions.[10] Tutorials can also be achieved by giving the player natural cues with intelligent use of graphic design.[11] Some Star Wars games have re-appropriated film dialog as in-game hints about what the player needs to do.[12] Games have also increasingly made use of video tutorials and wikis for players to review on their own time.[13]

Other games have broken the fourth wall with their tutorials, using them as a source of comedy or parody. Examples include Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, in which the main character demonstrates his annoyance at being forced to undergo a tutorial,[1][14] and Undertale, in which the motherly Toriel dotes on the player character so much that she literally holds their hand through dangerous puzzles instead of allowing the player to solve them.

Tutorials vs. discoverability[edit]

Some critics believe that a good tutorial should necessarily allow the player to discover game mechanics for themselves without being told how to do them, as is the case with the original Metroid,[15] as well as Minecraft.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d Peacock, Nathanael (2017-08-27). "What Makes a Great Tutorial?". IGN. Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  2. ^ Burgun, Keith (2015-05-15). Clockwork Game Design. CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-317-63040-1.
  3. ^ III, Richard Rouse (2004-08-30). Game Design: Theory and Practice, Second Edition. Jones & Bartlett Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7637-9811-6.
  4. ^ Salmond, Michael (2017-07-06). Video Game Design: Principles and Practices from the Ground Up. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4742-5545-5.
  5. ^ Perry, David; DeMaria, Rusel (2009). David Perry on Game Design: A Brainstorming Toolbox. Charles River Media. ISBN 978-1-58450-668-3.
  6. ^ Schuytema, Paul (2007). Game Design: A Practical Approach. Charles River Media. ISBN 978-1-58450-471-9.
  7. ^ White, Matthew M. (2014-06-03). Learn to Play: Designing Tutorials for Video Games. CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-4822-2021-6.
  8. ^ Nucci, Ennio De; Kramarzewski, Adam (2018-04-19). Practical Game Design: Learn the art of game design through applicable skills and cutting-edge insights. Packt Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-78712-216-1.
  9. ^ Rollings, Andrew; Adams, Ernest (2003). Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design. New Riders. ISBN 978-1-59273-001-8.
  10. ^ "I May Never Stop Watching YouTube Tutorials And Actually Play This Strategy Game". Kotaku. 29 August 2019. Retrieved 2020-11-16.
  11. ^ Burgun, Keith (2012-08-13). Game Design Theory: A New Philosophy for Understanding Games. CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-4665-5420-7.
  12. ^ Totten, Christopher W. (2019-04-25). Architectural Approach to Level Design: Second edition. CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-351-11628-2.
  13. ^ Burgun, Keith (2015-05-15). Clockwork Game Design. CRC Press. ISBN 978-1-317-63040-1.
  14. ^ "This Is The Best/Worst Video Game Tutorial I Have Ever Had To Play". Kotaku Australia. 2013-05-03. Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  15. ^ Teti, John (14 March 2014). "What's the worst game tutorial you've played?". Games. Retrieved 2019-05-10.
  16. ^ "Gaming Tutorials Can Tread A Thin Line Between Instructive & Patronizing". Game Rant. 2015-08-08. Retrieved 2019-05-10.