Daily Illuminator

May 16, 2005: A Short Rant About Docco

Most documentation, of all kinds, is so bad that it makes my head hurt.

Game rules, in general, are full of ambiguities. They use the same word for different things and different words for the same things. And quite often they seem to assume that the reader already knows how the game works and just needs a reference for some of the details.

Computer game documentation, even for good games, seems to range from Pathetically Bad to Incomprehensible. Part of the problem is that the deadline for the printed docco is often earlier than the deadline for the game's final build. But you'd think they would go back and fix it after the first 100,000 or so copies are sold. Or at least put a comprehensible version online. Doesn't seem to happen.

Electronics equipment documentation is quite often written in a Japanese-speaker's idea of English and provides NO help in operating the device. Yet there is no mass outcry. We do not see the managers of WalMarts hanging in rows from streetlights, nor do we see U.S. Representatives set aside their frothing about steroids to mandate that imported devices have instructions that make sense. (Four different safety stickers, yes, but not instructions that make sense.)

Clearly there is idiocy at work here. But it occurred to me today that I might be blaming the wrong idiots.

Is it possible that the general level of literacy is so low that the average user does not EXPECT to be able to understand instructions . . . and doesn't even TRY to read them? Does the average user of a device or computer game just expect to poke randomly at the buttons until he gets a minimum function, and then pop a cold one and turn on the TV? If that's the case, then the purveyors of gibberish docco aren't getting many complaints about the junk they foist on us . . . which would explain why they don't think it's worth their time to do any better.

Grump, snarl, mutter.
-- Steve Jackson

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