As a child, I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to make my own decisions and buy whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Looking back, the biggest thrill of the holiday season was wondering what was inside those neatly wrapped presents, not the toy inside. It’s hard for me to replicate that feeling of excitement nowadays; as a working person in today’s Internet age, obtaining just about anything is becoming easier by the day. Even though the accessibility of new and exciting objects has eliminated that initial rush, I can’t help but feel a little giddy when I get to crack open the seal of a new videogame.

Unwrapping a brand new game is such a sweet feeling that never seems to get old, no matter how many times I’ve done it in my lifetime. All of those neatly wrapped boxes on the store shelves hold something special beneath their flimsy walls. Being able to get past the box art and actually take out the disc or cartridge and hold it in your hands, and know that it’s all yours to enjoy is like opening a high-priced, extremely special present.

Feeling a little disappointed in myself for not opening up a game treasure chest recently, I decided to splurge and pick up one of the most phenomenal and criminally under-purchased games currently available for the Nintendo Wii: “Zack and Wiki”. Zack and Wiki are a pirate and flying monkey, respectively, duo that go around the world searching for the golden remains of the deceased pirate Barbaros, a nefarious spirit who posthumously leads the duo on their quest to collect his bejeweled body. While this could have been easily ascertained from glancing at the game’s cover art, I couldn’t possibly skip over the game’s manual in hopes of the game’s simple tutorial, could I?

Taking one glance at the manual makes me wonder if Capcom – the developers of the game – even expected it to be seriously read by anyone. It begins with a “special message from Capcom,” thanking me for purchasing the “newest addition to [my] video game library.” Well thank you, Capcom. I’m sure this new addition to my video game library will be a welcome one, regardless of how little I can ascertain out of this 13 page picture book that you call a manual. Even though I expected to get little out of the manual, I soldiered on, hoping to find some clues to aid me in my adventure.

Opening a game and not at least looking at the manual should be some sort of cardinal sin of video gaming. It’s only truly excusable if it’s a new Mario game, or the fourth installment in some predictable series – see “Devil May Cry” – but even in these circumstances, you can’t help but want to flip through it. Manuals set the stage for a game, let you know how to proceed and open up the story for you to jump right in and get down to business. As a child, they were one of the most valuable pieces of treasure found within the game box – and the only thing that made my ride home after buying a new game remotely bearable. As games have become more and more advanced over the years, I’ve realized that the amount of information that needs to be conveyed in the manual becomes less and less.

Looking back at some of my favorite archaic games’ manuals, like “Zelda,” “Metroid” and “Kid Icarus,” it’s hard to say that they didn’t kick a little bit of ass. They fleshed out the story that was nonexistent in the game, allowed for kids to find out secret hints for destroying enemies, and even offered actual pictures of the character and enemies that made up the adventure. Through all of this, the manual translated the pixilated 8-bit squares into something greater that couldn’t be found within the games themselves. They wove a tale that could not be told quite as vividly with the inferior hardware of the day.

As gaming hardware has grown in leaps and bounds, the once invaluable manual has become a vestigial reminder of a time in which games could hardly function without it. Truth be told, manuals today are useless for 90 percent of games: stories are now visually told within the game itself, and practically every game has a tutorial that holds the hand of new players through their first experience. The player only needs the manual to look up some obscure reference or to get a little back-story on the characters.

Even though I recognize today’s manuals are little more than flawed remnants of the past, I can’t help but look over them like a pirate surveying his treasure. I refuse to let years of technological advancement detract from the joyful nostalgia I get from thumbing through the crisp manual inside every game box, even if I would begrudgingly agree that it’s a waste of time. Unwrapping games will never grow old for me, and I can only hope that there’s still something that makes you as giddy as a five-year-old on Christmas morning.