Would you, could you, RTFM?"
Simply, it's a "Tale From Customer Service": When assisting people with technological items, only about 1 out of 5 read the instructions for the item they've purchased. Fewer still read more than a page or two. Note that the trope title is a more polite version of the real phrase. Other versions are "Read the Friendly Manual", "Read the Foul Manual", "Read the Full Manual", and "Read the Fine Manual".
It's one that you've Seen A Million Times, especially in Sit Coms: "I'm great with tools; I don't need to read the instructions." Or the manual is in an entirely different language, or it was written in English by someone who can barely say "I doesn't knows speaking English".
In video games, and sometimes other software, the manual may be of no help. For most games, the manual only tells you how to play the game, not how to beat it. (For that, see Guide Dang It!.) It won't tell you how to solve any puzzles unless it's some form of Copy Protection. Even worse, the manual might have been written for a pre-release version of the game, with details such as the control scheme differing subtly from the released version. Similarly, in the tech field, the manuals may be written by different people than those who designed the product, leading to a Manual Misprint. It's also worth noting that printed manuals for video games are increasing rarity these days. If you're lucky, you might be able to find it online, or as something accessible within the game itself.
Be very careful when using this response in Real Life. Even if you mean it as an innocent suggestion, it carries an implied insult. There are also people who are asking questions when the answers are in manual not because they're stupid, but because they don't have the manual. If they bought the product used or were given it as a hand-me-down, the manual was probably lost ages ago. Some products have even shipped without a manual, or with different manuals for different releases, some of which are incomplete. A good manufacturer will post the manual for download on its website, with any updates and errata already applied, but not all manufacturers are good. Moreover, depending on the age of the item, the manufacturer may not even exist anymore. This is often why they're asking in the first place. And many items these days, particular computer-related ones, are shipped deliberately without the manual -which is to be downloaded from the company's site.
This can also lead to Scapegoat Creator, where people forget to read the credits of a work, or don't even look at the staff.
Compare All There in the Manual, when details to understand the plot of a work or even the whole plot, are told in the manual or in other material.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam, Amuro Ray finds the Gundam's manual and literally has it open in his lap when he falls into the cockpit.
- In the oddest usage of this trope, we turn to Smile Pretty Cure!. An accident turns Cure Happy into a Super Robot and, to get her to fight, one of the other Cures has to pilot her. The one to do so? Cure Beauty, who isn't even familiar with the concept of Giant Mecha and is only able to pilot and effectively win the day because resident Mecha-fangirl Yayoi handed her the manual earlier on.
- Girls und Panzer:
- Mako claims that her driving skills came just from reading the tank's operating manual. She tries to instruct some of the drivers for Oarai's other tanks, but they point out how ridiculous it is and aren't able to drive the tanks without extensive practice.
- Before Mako joined the team, the Freshman Team was trying to figure out how to drive their M3 Lee. When they decided to ask people online, "just read the manual" was one of the responses.
- Haseo in .hack//Roots stubbornly refuses to read the manual for The World: R2 for no real reason at all. Phyllo, (after politely suggesting multiple times that read it) eventually gets fed up, and recites this line almost word-for-word right in his face.
- Intentionally invoked in Ah! My Goddess. During the "Lord Of Terror" arc, Gadgeteer Genius Skuld releases Eldritch Abomination Midgard the Serpent to stop Fenrir from destroying the world, but then Midgard goes berserk. When the others confront her about it, she proudly states that she never reads the manual. Said manual anticipates everything that had happened in the fight up to that point and gave specific instructions for how to stop the Ultimate Destruction Program.
- At one point in Excel Saga, Excel and Hyatt take a job in an electronics store. Eventually, Excel is put on tech support, whereupon taking her first call she slowly comes to realize the caller did not read the f-ing manual. From that point on, she answers every single call with "Read the manual!" and then immediately hangs up.
- In an issue of G.I. Joe: Special Missions, Slipstream attempts to pilot a Russian transport plane he has never flown before. He does attempt to read the manual, only to find it is Russian and Farsi; neither of which he can read. Fortunately the illustrations were clear.
- Paperinik makes a point of reading the manual of his gadgets (as shown in the first series issue "Trauma", where his inner monologue mentions that the PKar runs on monomethylhydrazine)... But he will forget about the less-used features as there's no continual use to keep the memory fresh (as shown in a second series' story where he has to search on the manual for what the PKar runs on, something he never had to deal with before as One took care of it). At least he's Genre Savvy enough to keep it just in case...
- Apparently played straight in the classic (non-Paperinik New Adventures) stories, as the gadgets are simple enough they don't need a manual... Except they may need it for continuous use, and Paperinik read it off-screen (shown when the Beagle Boys managed to steal some of his gear and found out the worst way that his fearsome paralizing gun is single shot and needs cartridges they didn't have with them). Also played completely straight in one story, because as the manuals Gyro wrote for the latest and more complex gadgets were enormous and he just didn't have the time (in the end Gyro puts together a miniature computer that will tell Paperinik what he needs to do... Complete with its own Door Stopper-sized manual).
- The comic adaptation of Captain N: The Game Master includes one single-page story where aspiring villains are instructed to, among other things, always carefully read the manual of newly purchased super-weapons, because you don't want to be about to face a hero only to discover that batteries were not included.
- This almost used by name on two separate occasions in "Super Calvin", an episode of Calvin and Hobbes: The Series:
"He/I should have read the manul [sic]."
"Alright, Calvin! I've gone over that manul [sic], and now I'm all ready for you and your precious little powers! GIVE ME YOUR WORST!"
- This also sets up a Brick Joke: after Calvin stops making the machine that sets up the plot, Dr. Brainstorm barges in:
- In Off The Line, Cait Sith implies that Cloud should have looked at his character's equipment customization when he finds out that equipment becomes skimpy as a side-effect of being a Viera.
- In Souls Art Online, the players have to make a manual for themselves because the game doesn't come with one. However, they are strongly recommend reading it because when someone doesn't then they make a mistake of challenging Kingseeker, who is more than willing to respond.
ArsPoetica: IT'S IN THE FUCKING MANUAL! IT'S THERE. IT'S THERE! CAN YOU READ!? CAN. YOU. READ!?
- This is Palpatine's downfall in the aptly named Shoulda Kept the Manual: having thrown away the manual containing all the Contingency Orders for the Grand Army of the Republic, Palpatine had nothing to check when he forgot what was the one to kill the Jedi and ended up issuing Order 65. Knowing the ordernote , you can imagine how it ended when the (very confused) 501st Legion decided to execute it even if hadn't been issued by the proper authority.
- A mass example happens in the Miraculous Ladybug fanfic A Different Type of Inspiration: when holding a fashion design contest hoping to put into production the winning design, Gabriel specified he wanted nontypical fabrics... And found that over half the designs were made with newspapers, wallpaper and plastic because most contestants apparently missed the fact he did want to see unconventional fabrics. Said designers found out they weren't even in the running when an increasingly grouchy Gabriel Agreste verbally tore into them.
- Averted by Marinette, who not only was Genre Savvy enough to get her unusual fabrics in an actual fabric store but called the Gabriel designer who had been assigned to answer questions on the context to get her fabrics (leather-like cork, nylon and plastic mesh) approved, and when Agreste inspected her design and gave her some suggestions she wrote them down less she forgot them and got in trouble the next context because by then she should have known better (exactly why Agreste gave her the suggestions: to not have to tear her apart when she's more experienced). By the way she won, as not only she had read the instructions but had a rather interesting design.
- Die Another Day. When Q gives James Bond the doorstopper manual for his latest gadget car, Bond tosses it in front of the vehicle's automatic shotguns which promptly blast the manual to shreds. This doesn't affect Bond's ability to use the car later on (though given his photographic memory he probably read the manual while the car was being developed).
Q: "Here's the manual, should be able to shoot through that in a couple of hours."
Bond: "Just took a few seconds, Q."
- In Commando, Cindy successfully uses a rocket launcher (to hit the wheel of a moving truck no less) despite having absolutely no military training. When Matrix asks how she did it she just says she read the instructions. This in spite of initially holding the rocket launcher backwards.
- The Maitlands in Beetlejuice are given a "Handbook for the Recently Deceased" when they die. Adam tries to read through it but can't comprehend it. Every time they run into trouble they're admonished that the Handbook contains everything they need to know. Other ghosts scoff at them for their inexperienced mistakes.
- Larry from Night at the Museum tries to read the directions, but they're quickly destroyed and there's no other copies. Luckily, studying the various exhibits teaches him enough to get by.
- The Fifth Element
- There is a scene with a bunch of Always Chaotic Evil mooks "trading" for a crate of super smart guns with dozens of different modes. They don't think to ask what all the modes in question are, and decide to find out by just randomly pressing buttons. If they'd RTFM they'd have discovered that one of the little red buttons was in fact the self-destruct...
- This is lampshaded later on in the movie. When the good guys are trying to figure out how to get the weapon against the Ultimate Evil to work, Korben says "Every weapon comes with a manual. This one must, too." The "manual", in this case, turns out to be somewhat unhelpful hints from Leeloo.
- Gravity. The female protagonist consults a manual when trying to work out how to operate the Soyuz capsule. Fortunately the Russian manual has an English translation, as it's part of the International Space Station. Later she boards another space station, but the buttons are all labelled in Chinese characters. Oh, Crap!.
- The climactic sequence of xXx has Xander Cage driving a gadget-laden muscle car in pursuit of a submersible filled with deadly nerve gas, while his Bond Girl Expy searches through the car's handwritten, barely legible instruction manual for something they can use against it.
- The Dark Knight: Lucius Fox is showing Bruce the latest batsuit, Bruce is examining the gauntlets when he unexpectedly launches the blades in them across the room. Fox is quick to chastise him "Perhaps you should read the instructions first?" to which Bruce replies with a sheepish "Yeah". Doubles as a Chekhov's Gun, when he uses it to defeat the Joker at the end.
- Inverted on Silent Running: Freeman reads the manual on how to program the Valley Forge's onboard robots before working on the instructions they will need to follow in order to help him with Self-Surgery on his leg (especially because, in order to reprogram the robots, he has to solder completely new logic boards by hand).
- Doctor Strange (2016). Doctor Strange sneaks into Kamar-Taj's library to peak at a Tome of Eldritch Lore and attempt a Dangerous Forbidden Technique involving the manipulation of time. After getting caught and given a What the Hell, Hero? by Wong and Mordo about the possible consequences, Strange can only mutter sulkily that the book should have stated that before the instructions.
- In the Men in Black novel The Green Saliva Blues, "Jay" refuses to RTFM. Any FM, whether it be on the customs and etiquette of the species they plan to contact or a weapons manual. "Elle", who has read the freaking manual, shows him how to use the Noisy Cricket without the recoil. A probable parody, as it is lampshaded that she only knew this information from the manual, the manual was written in an alien language, and it would have shattered her wrist and probably shoulder had she been at all wrong.
- The War Against the Chtorr. The protagonist references this trope when teaching himself how to shoot a laser-sighted flechette rifle. It's just as well he does too, as the people who issued him the rifle are setting him up to be killed, thinking he won't know how to use it properly. In later books, the protagonist has become an expert on Chtorrans, and so gets annoyed if the people he's saddled with haven't read the briefing books.
- A short story in the Bolo universe, "Operation Desert Fox" by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon, details the posting of a "Desert Fox" history buff assigned to crew a Bolo called Rommel, who is similarly obsessed. After going on drills and such in their sleepy backwater planet, it is attacked by squads of AI-controlled mecha which Rommel manages to take control of. One problem — they can't control enough of the squads to win without sacrificing the tank's personality. The commander goes digging into the tank's manual, finding an untested "full backup" function. After they win and the commander gives the "restore" command, he falls asleep from exhaustion. He is woken by the tank calling his attention to the jubilant villagers outside,then asking how he managed to save the tank:
- Isaac Asimov wrote a short story where two guys are testing a Deflector Shields equipped ship on a test flight which takes them on a fly-by right next to the Sun. The shields work so well they almost freeze to death. They come to their boss, intent on beating him up for sending them on that trip... only to be informed that the manuals (which they naturally threw away without reading) contained instructions on adjusting the shield intensity so that a controlled amount of solar heat could reach the ship.
- In Otherland Jongleur is annoyed at having to explain their own Evil Plan to one of his co-conspirators due to his chronic failure to do this, and when the man expresses concerns that their scheme to become immortal via Brain Uploading will fail because they can't upload the soul, he curtly tells him he should have been spending his money on something else if that's a concern to him. Indeed, after investing billions of dollars in illegal research and development, it's a bit late to be questioning the fundamental mechanism everything else was based on.
- It's a Running Gag in the City Watch Discworld novels that Sam Vimes never reads the manuals of the imp-powered organisers Lady Sybil keeps buying him, resulting in mutual exasperation; Vimes gets annoyed that the imp isn't doing what he wants (which is usually just being quiet) and the imp gets annoyed that Vimes can't be bothered to find out how to tell it what he wants.
- In The Witches of Karres, space trader Pausert's troubles begin when he rescues three children from slavery and takes them back to their home planet of Karres. When he returns to his own home planet, he finds that he's now considered a criminal for breaking a strong prohibition against having any dealings with Karres; when he protests that he was unaware of the prohibition, it's pointed out that the prohibition was clearly stated in the enormous manual of procedures he was given when he registered as a space trader, and which he's never bothered to read.
- Black Lightning (a 2009 Russian superhero film) involves a prototype Flying Car from the Cold War being bequeathed to a young man on his birthday. He obviously thinks that the old Volga that the flying equipment was built on is "What a Piece of Junk"... until he reads the freaking manual. And because he reads the freaking manual (plus having more experience in using the flying controls) he's able to save the day when the Corrupt Corporate Executive Big Bad comes gunning for him using an upgraded, armed version of the project.
- In The Amazing Race, many teams have been eliminated because they misread a clue, or didn't notice that all they needed to know was right there. Frequently overlaps with Failed a Spot Check.
- In Married... with Children, Al spent an entire episode trying to construct a carpentry workbench, but proves ridiculously inept at it as a result of his apparent inability to follow the the instructions in the manual provided. In a Throw the Dog a Bone moment, his daughter Kelly (who had been flanderized over time to be the resident moron) not only fixes the bench and makes it look exactly like it should, she does so in seconds.
- The main character of The Greatest American Hero loses the manual for the super suit and has to learn by trial and error. Hilarity Ensues. (At the start of the third season, he is given another copy of the manual, and immediately loses that one, too.)
- In one episode of NewsRadio, Mr. James tests his new shredder by shredding the instructions. ("Talk about your mind-blowing irony!") He then wonders how to change the speed settings.
- In the Swedish comedy series En ängels tålamod, one of the characters is a devil living on Earth with a mission to cause sin and misery. His mortal day job is writing instruction manuals, making them as obtuse as possible...
- Doctor Who:
- The Doctor threw the TARDIS manual in a supernova because he disagreed with it. This must have taken some time, as the Eighth Doctor claimed there was a volume 21...to the quickstart guide.
- In the original series, in one episode, the Fourth Doctor sees Romana reading it, and when she suggests a control that she notices to be essential in operating the TARDIS (and one that The Doctor has heretofore never used), he says "Hmm... Interesting," and then proceeds to rip the page out of the manual and throw it away.
- According to River, refusing to read the manual is part of the reason why TARDIS makes the iconic Vworp noise when it dematerialises. The Doctor forgets to turn the brakes off, so when this is pointed out to him, he claims that it's actually because he refuses to do so, as he loves the noise. Word of God is that River was just teasing the Doctor (why else would every other TARDIS make that same noise?) and it's the normal sound of the engines. There is a mute button, though, of which the Doctor was never aware.
- In the midst of one of his sulks, the Sixth Doctor said that he tried reading the manual once. He obviously didn't get very far.
- Clara Oswald's TARDIS still has its manual, which helps explain how she can fly the thing without centuries of experience. Still can't fix a glitchy chameleon circuit, though.
- Played for laughs when Idris (an avatar of the Tardis) gets angry at the Doctor for (among other transgressions) not reading the instructions. Turns out she's referring to the sign on the Tardis door saying Pull To Open. The Doctor always pushes.
- In The Young Ones episode Nasty, Vyvyan and Mike are trying to set up their new VHS player and after a discussion about why it isn't working, It turns out that Vyvyan has been reading the manual for a toaster by mistake and (despite making some toast with the VHS player) it still fails to work.
Mike: Maybe you shouldn't have poured all of that washing―up liquid in it.
Vyvyan: But it says here, Michael, look, Ensure machine is clean, and free from dust!
Mike: Yeah, but it dont say, Ensure the machine is full of washing―up liquid.
Vyvyan: Yeah, but it dont say, Ensure the machine isnt full of washing―up liquid.
Mike: Of course not, I mean, it doesnt say, Ensure you dont chop up your video machine with an axe, put all the bits in a plastic bag, and bung em down the lavatory!
Vyvyan: Doesnt it? Well, maybe thats where were going wrong!
Neil: Well, its not plugged―in [to any power source].
- The problem:
- In Man Stroke Woman a recurring sketch is of a man who refuses to read instructions his wife offers him. This always ends in something quite bizarre happening, such as their dog exploding because he was given the wrong food.
- In one episode of Home Improvement, Tim doesn't think he needs to read the instructions for his new entertainment system because "this is just the manufacturer's opinion of how to put this together." Hilarity Ensues.
- Tim could be the posterboy for Did Not Read the Manual.
- Catch-Phrase of Canada's Worst Handyman. The host specific states the Achilles heel of bad handyman is failing to take some time to read instructions.
- Warehouse13 has Myka saying this to Pete often enough. The series finale can't help but make you sympathize with him—the manual is an entire library of books.
- In the Babylon 5 episode "Eyes", Garibaldi has the parts to a Kawasaki Ninja ZX motorcycle and is trying to put them together. Good news, Garibaldi has a manual for it. Better news, he's actually trying to read it. Bad news... it's in Japanese, which Garibaldi doesn't understand.
- Considering Garibaldi eventually learns Narn in order to read the Book of G'Quan (all Narn holy texts must be reproduced exactly; no translations are allowed), he shouldn't have as much trouble with a human language. Then again, what we see of the Narn alphabet suggests it might actually be closer to the English alphabet, in that it's based off letters rather than logographic characters, which might have worked in Garibaldi's favor there.
- Kamen Rider OOO's Second Rider, Akira Date, didn't bother reading the manual for the Kamen Rider Birth suit because he has a "learn through experience" attitude (and is a debatable Expy of MCU!Tony Stark. His protegee Shintaro Gotou, who eventually becomes the second Birth, did read the manual and thus knows about suit functions that Date never used...as well as the Self-Destruct Mechanism its inventor installed, which Gotou had the foresight to remove after said inventor turned evil.
- Subverted in Blackadder. It's no good reading the manual moments before a Duel to the Death with cannons.
Blackadder: (reading) Congratulations on choosing the Armstrong Whitworth four-pounder cannonette. Please read the instructions carefully and it should give years of trouble-free maiming.
- Inverted in Bottom when they get a VCR and Eddie carefully reads the instructions...starting from the German section. It takes him an entire year to set it up.
- The Bible: King Uzziah seemed to be a good man, he really wanted to give thanks to God but he did so in a way that brought God's wrath. The priests tried to tell him he should read the instructions because he was in the wrong but he refused, and got an infectious skin disease for it. It's telling that the Kings of Judah were not only required to read the Torah, but to make their own personal copy, making this more a case of Ignored The Freaking Manual.
- In a Dilbert strip, Dogbert is working tech support and receives a call from a guy asking how to make a pie chart. Dogbert orders the guy to hack the computer into tiny pieces, mix them with flour and water and bake the mix in the oven. Dogbert then suggested that while the caller waited, he could read "the novel included with [his] software. It is the story of a Spaniard named 'Manual'." The caller then remarks how the book "lost a lot in the translation."
- In another strip, he tells a caller, "Take all the parts and arrange them in neat piles. Now stand on your chair so you can see above your cubicle wall... Now shout, 'Does anybody know how to read a manual?'" That was popular with tech support workers.
- From another perspective, someone talks about the manual and says that "You must really hate your customers", describing how poorly-written the manual was.
- After Tina the Tech Writer became a recurring character, it became a recurring gag that most of the company's manuals were complete fiction because the boss made her write them so early in the development process that she was guessing randomly. Plus nobody wants to work with her thanks to her constant drama.
- In Calvin and Hobbes, there's a strip where the two try to put together a model airplane. They (or, at least Calvin) ignore the instructions completely, and end up with the newspaper glued to the floor, and a wrecked airplane.
- In a Sunday strip, said airplane was, "hit by anti-aircraft guns," to which Hobbes replies, "Your planes seem to encounter a lot of those."
- However, there is another strip where Hobbes is surprised because the instructions apparently start in English, but then go into Spanish and French.
- In Janes World, she says she can't live in a dumpy rental trailer with her friend, explaining that it says so in the Gay and Lesbian Handbook, which she has in the Jeep she bought (it was tucked under the owner's manual). Her friends, a couple of straight guys, leaf through it, muttering "so that's how that's done...wow..." before she peevishly pulls it away.
- A standard joke in the game is for players to receive a highly-advanced weapon that is dangerous or unusable without proper training, but the user's manual that comes with it is either heavily redacted or completely above the characters' security clearance, making it a crime to read it.
- Played with in a meta sense as well: the game manual expressly forbids players from reading the actual rules section, but also admits that it would be entirely in the spirit of the game for players to read the rules and then deny it. By the same token, the GM can accuse and punish players of doing so without proof.
- In one Technical Readout for BattleTech, the Black Knight Battlemech is noted in-universe as a failure by its manufacturer to leave well enough alone to the point that it's a Running Gag with mechwarriors that in order to figure out what version of the mech you've got, you need to check the manual.
- Magic: The Gathering has an equivalent saying: "Read the Freaking Card", and the more professional translation "Reading the card explains the card"
- In a general sense, this trope is probably the reason why most modern games don't even come with a manual (or at least a physical one), and instead have an in-game tutorial explaining how to play; because the company knows that barely anyone is going to ever read the damn thing, so why bother? This is also probably why many of these tutorials are unskippable, because anyone who refuses to read a manual will probably also refuse to play a tutorial. Especially if they are a Small Name, Big Ego who considers themselves "too good" to need to be taught how to play, and would subsequently get their ass handed to them, blame the game instead of their own hubris, and return it to the store and/or dissuade others from buying it.
- Related, as more and more games become digital (even rereleases), some actually have an electronic manual. However, it's highly possible to never even know that it's there.
- In Hotel Mario, Fat Mario and Gay Luigi specifically tell you to "check out the enclosed instruction book" if you need any help (and even pauses itself mid-cutscene to allow the player time to go and locate it). You probably do, because the CD-I is mind-numbingly hard to control.
- Chris Bores, The Irate Gamer, was in such a rush to play Contra that he refused to read the instruction manual for the storyline, so he believes the game takes place in a straight modern war setting in the likes of Rambo. He is then caught by surprise once the aliens start showing up later in the game.
- James Rolfe, The Angry Video Game Nerd, declared the uselessness the speed and altitude readings in his review of Top Gun for the NES. Naturally, he couldn't figure out how to land later on, even though the game lists the desired speed and altitude for landing RIGHT THERE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SCREEN. Rather, he tried to land purely based on prompts like "Speed up!!" "Speed down!!" and "left left!!"
- He later did a follow-up video explaining his mistake. To be fair, a lot of other gamers had the same problem, as the "left left!!" commands really grab your attention.
- It's also justified that he probably did not have the manual as he buys a lot of his games secondhand, and with buying older cartridge based games, you're lucky if they do come with a manual.
- In his review of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, he points out this trope, saying that while the game is bad, it's not as bad as people say, and much of the hate it gets is from people picking up the game and expecting they can just play it instantly like other Atari 2600 games, and never finding out how to play the game, see the quote page.
- In Ōkami, one of the most common brushstrokes (the Power Slash) is a simple straight line, which can be hard to pull off with a control stick or the Wiimote. It can be simply and easily overcome by pressing another button, which allows you to paint straight lines. This is mentioned multiple times in both manuals, but some people have played the game numerous times without ever knowing this. All the techniques are also described down to the smallest detail in a section on the pause menu.
- Ōkamiden prevents this issue. In a more positive example of Viewers Are Morons, whenever you get a new brush technique you are taken to the pause menu to read up on it. This is vital for the Magnetism technique, as there are two ways to draw it that do slightly different things (one attracts, the other repels), and the obligatory tutorial was extremely vague on how the effects were different. Understanding these differences is vital.
- People who went to GameFAQs for the transfer codes for Golden Sun discovered that every FAQ covered this subject with "Read The Freaking Manual, because we're not copying it". Many were looking because they had lost the manual, or bought it used (since used game stores usually sell just the cartridge). Moral of the story? Some people don't have the manual. That's why they're asking you in the first place.
- Mech Commander features the ability to target specific points for massive damage on enemies, possibly the most useful ability in the game. It's not mentioned anywhere in game, and only mentioned on one page of the manual. Most GameFAQs assumed that people without the manual were playing pirated versions of the game and refused to relist the command, saying RTFM!
- Related to the above lists on GameFAQs, if you had gone to the boards before the questions section was put up, chances are you've seen threads asking stuff about the games, only for the FAQ writers and other members to say read the bloody FAQ. This even happened if the FAQ wasn't a very good one (like, say, it was based off of a Prima or Bradygames strategy guide that's half-completed or omits details) or lists information that is incorrect in the games. Especially if there was a difference between regions, or, in the case of some PC games, was not updated for a patch.
- On a similar note, the most commonly asked questions about City of Heroes Valentine's Day missions is "How do I destroy the Cauldron/Girdle?", despite the fact that the contact specifically tells you that you must get someone from the opposite side to do it for you.
- Also the endless questions in World of Warcraft about how to do a quest when the quest description clearly states exactly what they need to do. Incredibly common in the Death Knight starting quests. Though occasionally, the quest text won't be of any help, such as in the infamous quest to find Mankrik's wife in the Barrens.
- This will also happen quite often in cities, with people asking where certain NPCs and services are. You can find all of that info by asking a guard in the city, of which there are several dozen.
- In Mass Effect, either Ashley or Kaidan can drop the line "Always a good idea to RTFM, ma'am," in a moment of snark during the Noveria mission after Liara says it would be a good idea to look for directions before touching anything.
- The One Must Fall 2097 manual thanks those who have decided to read it before installing/playing the game and chastises those who have not.
- In F.E.A.R. the character Norton Mapes, a computer worker you have to rescue, has a belt buckle that reads "RTFM".
- Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit! provides perhaps the ultimate aversion possible: In true Tim Taylor fashion, its "manual" is just a single folded sheet that opens up to show a huge sign covering up most of the text, declaring that "REAL MEN DON'T NEED INSTRUCTIONS".
- In NetHack, this is yet another thing the Dev Team thought of. From their Windows binary download page:
Step 0: Promise to read Step 2 before telling us the game will not start.
- The manual for The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall is based off an alpha version of the game and incorrectly describes the game in numerous places. Some of the more startling examples are that the manual tells you that you can drop gold in your wagon (dropped gold is lost for good), it lists skills which don't exist ("Climate Survival", "Acute Hearing"), has a section about climbing ropes (there are no ropes in the game), it incorrectly classes weapons as being one or two-handed when they are actually the opposite (like the battleaxe), and it even incorrectly lists the key mapped to casting spells. These examples just scratch the surface...
- The third installment of Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness references and parodies this with an attack that Tycho can learn that is titled "RTFM", in which he basically throws a book at an enemy. This is later upgraded to "RTMFM" which doesn't cost MP to cast, and both of these attacks share the same sprite as Tycho's ultimate attack, the 4MP "Master's Thesis".
- Dynasty Warriors Online suffers from this. Most people assume it's just like normal Dynasty Warriors (though they're not too far off), and will blaze through the first tutorial. Doing this prevents people from going through the flasking tutorial, which teaches players how to upgrade stats in battle. It doesn't help that everyone insists on recreating your character until you S rank the first mission.
- The General Owner Intro for Penn and Teller's Smoke and Mirrors stresses that the game's how-to modes are not a substitute for the instruction manual.
- The manual for Resonance of Fate is accurate, but poorly organized. It's not a problem for the most part, the in-game tutorials and control references pick up the slack. Except for telling you to use the right stick to move the gun base around on the attachments menu, that is. This is critical to getting all your attachments right, but isn't even alluded to in-game, and only referenced once in the manual, as a single-sentence afterthought at the end of a paragraph.
- The Might and Magic VI manual contains several letters written by the king to his wife, one of which tells them where the "Third Eye" is located. However there's nothing in game to tell the player where this item is located. So if you don't read the manual you can't complete the game without searching everywhere after getting the quest to find the "Third Eye" (this item doesn't appear before this quest is triggered).
- Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine has a background scene where Guardsmen are trying to fix their Basilisk, and one tells the other to pass him the manual.
- In Company of Heroes gives us this hilarious inversion.
I KNOW it's technically impossible to shoot a Panzerschreck from an enclosed position. DON'T READ THE FUCKING MANUAL NEXT TIME, and you wouldn't care so much!
- At the beginning of Zoda's Revenge, the main character directly asks the player if you remember his Uncle and the general events from the previous game in the series, Startropics. If you reply no, Mike says "Oh... well maybe you should read the instructions."
- Startropics itself, meanwhile, plays with this trope: Inside the manual is a slip of paper that, when dunked in water, reveals a password required to get past a certain point in the game. This would become a problem for people who threw away the manual or obtained it secondhand (or through pirated means) which won't have the manual. When Startropics was added to the Wii's Virtual Console, the digital manual has a virtual version of this slip of paper to allow the player to advance without having to turn to outside help.
- Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is an entire game based around this trope. The game involes one person having to go through a highly technical and complicated manual (with its own website, even) and having to give directions to the person in-game, who is attempting to disarm complicated bombs. The difficulty relies on the fact that it's up to the reader to make sense of the manual, understand the various components and give clear directions to the defuser within the 5-minute time limit.
- pannenkoek2012's memetic Super Mario 64 video of collecting Watch for Rolling Rocks in 0.5 A presses opens with an explanation of what exactly "half" a button press meansnote , somewhat exasperatedly pointing out that he always gets comments about that, despite having a full explanation of the concept in the description of every video that relies on it.
- TIS-100 is a game about writing in mock assembly language, and has an extensive manual in the style of a hand-me-down user guide explaining how the language works. You will need to have this on hand if you want to progress, since there's no proper tutorial or explanation in the game at all. Having to read the maual is even listed as a selling point.
- Shenzen I/O is much the same, using a similar faux-assembly to TIS-100. It also has an extensive manual explaining the language, and the circuits you'll be writing the code onto, that you are expected to keep on hand and encouraged to print out and stick in a binder. One of your co-workers even sends you an e-mail before you can do your first assignment simply telling you that you should be reading that manual. Although there is some slight guidance given in-game, like the first assignment having some lines of code written by the last person that was in your position, who got fired for refusing to read said manual.
- Aside from a few Guide Dang It! moments, Final Fantasy XIV goes out of its way to explain everything to you from what your skill does to what a status effect does. Despite the game holding your hand, there's a high number of players that, despite reaching the level cap, still have no idea what some of their skills do that they learned at low levels or how players can easily die if they are not cured of poison or the like simply because they never read what was given to them. This frustrates experienced players to no end.
- In Super Mario Galaxy, the Long Jump is a technique not mentioned in-game at all but is in the manual. Downplayed in that it is not required to complete the game, but it does make the game easier and faster. Naturally, many people playing this game went through it without ever knowing the Long Jump exists. Come Super Mario Galaxy 2, and there is a point early into the Supermassive Galaxy that requires the Long Jump—despite there being a tutorial nearby that introduces the move, many people got stuck there not knowing Mario has a jump that allows him to cross the gap with ease. People who put up footage of the Mario Galaxy games onto YouTube in which they use the Long Jump are often accused as cheaters or hackers—such people making these comments can't even recognize that they're seeing a different technique than the standard jump!
- Many people who play Super Princess Peach aren't aware that rescuing Toads is not a Collection Sidequest, leading to a rude awakening upon learning that they can't access the final boss until they save all the Toads. While this isn't stated ingame until you reach the final boss's level, the enclosed instruction booklet openly states that "If you don't save all the Toads, you won't be able to get to Bowser's Castle" on page 14.
- In Nocturne: Rebirth, half of the manual is in the "Manual" option in the main menu while the other half is provided by three mercenary NPCs in the village. The few Forced Tutorial events in the first dungeon don't cover nearly as much as the manual and NPCs, meaning players will struggle with the mechanics or be completely unaware of them if they don't consult these sources.
- Seraphic Blue has a manual in the form of several HTM files included in the game folder. The game itself has few if any tutorials and expects the player to read the files to learn complex mechanics like the element system.
- In-universe example in Splatoon 2: In Salmon Run, if you and your team fail to collect even one Golden Egg, Mr. Grizz will talk about how he's thinking about making the employee handbook mandatory. Not like Pearl isn't pushing him that way already...
Pearl: I cook Salmonids all day, but Mr. Grizz keeps crying about eggs or whatever.
Marina: Pearl, did you even read the Grizzco training manual?
- In Super Mario Odyssey, there's always a local in any given kingdom that will ask you if you know about the Action Guide (the in-game manual). If you don't, they helpfully bring it up for you, and if you do, they send you on your way.
- Schlock Mercenary:
- Sergeant Schlock (then a corporal) discovers in mid fall that he doesn't know the exact difference between a plasma rocket and a plasma cannon. Solution — start reading the freaking manual: "No problem we're in no hurry down here".
- Elf initially appears to be a savant at the fabber, but it turns out that, while still incredibly advanced and far beyond the level one would expect from a grunt who hadn't completed high school... she'd been using the fabber's manual and assist options, which Kevyn calls cheating.
- When Andy's new girlfriend wants to join the company, Chelle and Tagon are shocked that she read the operations manual beforehand.
Chelle: I like her, sir. She reads.
Tagon: She might be overqualified for infantry.
- When an engineer, a doctor, and a quartermaster are trying to design field medical equipment, they run into this problem. If you skip one step, it won't cause any problems until a later step, but if you then go back and do that step, it will cause much bigger problems that you won't notice until a later step, and then everything is too screwed up to fix. The engineer suggests emphasizing the importance of following the instructions, but the quartermaster points out that this doesn't actually solve the problem of people not reading the instructions.
- As shown above, xkcd has covered this topic.
- Truck Bearing Kibble points out how certain Fahrenheit 451 characters may experience problems of this sort.
- User Friendly: The techs hate people who don't do this.
- The Whiteboard gives us two. In an early strip a customer comes in and tells Doc that he can't get the paintball gun to work no matter what buttons he tries pressing. Doc's response is to duct tape the owner's manual to the guy's face. A much later one occurs during a Christmas strip; Pirta is surprised to see Doc reading the instructions since that is a violation of man rules. Doc agrees that this is normally the case but he tends to be more careful whenever he is building anything involving explosives and rocket fuel.
- El Goonish Shive:
- Spellcasters (including the magical members of the main cast) are given spellbooks when they earn their first spell which are bound to them and which update automatically with new information every time they earn a new spell. Apparently no one (except Nanase) reads them regularly, so they're always surprised when they instinctively pull out their new spells in danger. It says something that these books are such a slog that kids won't read them to learn about their awesome new magical powers.
Elliot: I swear this thing makes up words to pad its own length.
- Susan runs into a different problem: She read the entirety of her spellbook when she first got it, but after that she was under the mistaken impression that she'd get some sort of notification when it updated, so she ignored it. She became much better about keeping up with it once she realized she needed to check it every day.
- When the Will of Magic calls a council of seers to change how magic works, Tedd mentions that spellbooks are complicated and hard to understand. The next day, everyone discovers that their spellbooks have shrunk and reduced themselves to extremely simple (but easy to understand) descriptions. The Will of Magic isn't good at subtle.
- Spellcasters (including the magical members of the main cast) are given spellbooks when they earn their first spell which are bound to them and which update automatically with new information every time they earn a new spell. Apparently no one (except Nanase) reads them regularly, so they're always surprised when they instinctively pull out their new spells in danger. It says something that these books are such a slog that kids won't read them to learn about their awesome new magical powers.
- Excessively snarky news aggregator fark.com frequently features comments that are derived from the famous RTFM acronym: posters will advertise when posting that they DNRTFA ("Did Not Read The Farking Article") they are commenting on, or be told to RTFA ("Read The..." Eh, you can guess the rest.) when making a comment that is obviously addressed by the article in question.
- A common saying on sites like YouTube is "Read the freaking [video] description!" yet no one seems to bother anyways. Some users don't write a description at all for this reason. And some others started watching videos without much interest in the descriptions, so they'd put up videos with bare-bones or no descriptions.
- Gaia Online has a whole forum dedicated to being able to ask questions about the site and get answers from other users. That forum would be utterly dead if people would just read stickied threads or the information in the Help Center.
- Also afflicted is their MMORPG, zOMG! The forum for said MMO is filled with threads by users asking how to sell their rings... even though the item description for said rings ends with a note that "all rings are soulbound and cannot be traded or sold, with certain grandfathered exceptionsnote ". Those who did read the freaking manual then spam the forum asking how to grandfather their rings so they can sell them.
- Step-1- Read -all- the steps before continuing. Seriously.
- Used in the Joueur du Grenier's review of the game based on Airwolf, at the end of his "guide on how to get angry at your computer" skit:
JdG: But if you want to avoid all that, just read the fucking manual!
- In Game Grumps, it's common for Arin and Jon/Danny to ignore tutorials (sometimes intentionally) and then complain about not knowing what to do.
- The most infamous moment of this was during their playthrough of Milky Way Wishes, where they skip the tutorial and fail to learn the core gameplay mechanic. This leads to them insulting the game for the better part of a half hour and calling it many synonyms for shitty, only discovering the main gameplay mechanic by accident.
- The second most egregious example was when playing Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). After defeating Egg Genesis as Sonic, you are automatically warped to a lake. The entrance to Tropical Jungle is in the middle of the lake, and a Hint Mark reminds you of an underused gameplay mechanic that would let you cross it. The Grumps completely ignore the hint mark, walk away from the level entrance, and proceed to wander around the (at the time unnecessary) ruins for about twenty minutes, only realizing their mistake once they decide to read the strategy guide.
- Later, the Grumps spent the entire first Naughty Bear video complaining about not knowing what to do because they talked over the narration telling them to burn the present. They addressed it in the 2nd video.
- Steam Train has this problem as well, with the Doctor Who episode in particular drawing comparisons to DarkSydePhil.
- This has cropped up again in the Steam Train playthrough of They Bleed Pixels. Even worse, they spend a lot of time complaining about the game forcing a tutorial and control instructions on them (which are written on the game's walls throughout the first level), only to then forget certain actions that they can perform, most notably completely forgetting they can duck to avoid enemy attacks, and Ross completely ignoring the instructions written on the walls on how to open certain doors.
- Achievement Hunter tends to do the same thing as the Game Grumps as they'll start a video on a new game and screw around for a video or two before either stumbling around and finding how the games work or they get fed up and look up instructions.
- Ultra Fast Pony:
Twilight: Nothing's illegal if it's for science!
Spike: Isn't that what you said when you tried to clone that burrito?
Twilight: How was I supposed to know they'd turn into super-intelligent evil mutants that haunt us to this very day?
Spike: Because that's what it said in the instruction book.
Twilight: Shut up, Spike.
- It is strongly advised that new players read the OP before posting in the Enter the Arena... As Your Avatar!, and possibly tell the other players and the moderator that the new player has read it.
- In one episode of The Simpsons, Homer attempts to build a barbecue grill, but he drops the English-language instructions into the pool of cement he had started, and is forced to follow the French instructions ("Le grille?! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!") After a few minutes of frustration, he gives up and tries to do it by himself, predictably leaving behind a jumbled mess (which, incidentally, becomes a critically-acclaimed piece of modern art among the Springfield art community).
- One episode of The Fairly OddParents! had the use of the computer delayed by over 150 years because no one would read the manual (or anything else). Timmy hid the deed to a town in the old computer manual, where it remained undiscovered until he came to pick it up.
Doug Dimmadome: It was in an old computer manual? Dag nabbit, no one ever reads the manual!
- When Wubbzy gets a pet Fleegle, he throws away the manual because he thinks he won't need it. If he'd read the manual, he would have known that feeding a Fleegle candy causes it to grow exponentially.
- Or that feeding it a sandwich causes it to multiply.
- One episode of Kim Possible begins with Dr. Drakken stealing a Weather-Control Machine for his latest evil plan, only to discover that he has no idea how to operate it. His sidekick Shego eventually convinces him to go back and steal the manual as well.
- Averted in Avatar: The Last Airbender, by manly-man (but The Smart Guy) Sokka: when attempting to sabotage an enemy siege weapon, the very first thing he tries to find is a schematic diagram.
- In the TV movie Phineas and Ferb The Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension, after Perry's cover is blown and the boys find out their pet platypus is actually a secret agent, he gives them a pamphlet which an upset Phineas immediately throws away. Had he read it, he would have found out that Perry kept his identity a secret because he would have to be relocated otherwise. It says a lot that Phineas and Ferb forgave and fought alongside Perry even without knowing. Once they do find out, they agree to have their memories wiped in order to keep Perry.
- Goof Troop uses both the unwilling and unable variations of this trope. If Goofy is involved, you can bet he will read the manual wrong, which usually but not always brings along a "How To" Narrator who will berate Goofy for making mistakes. Sometimes we get to see the results of his manual-reading gone wrong. On the other hand, if PJ is involved, whoever he's talking to (Max or Pete) will dismiss his sound advice to read the manuals (or similar things like gauges) which invariably leads to disaster.
- A Private Snafu cartoon, "Snafuperman," as this as An Aesop with Snafu becoming a Super Hero, only to be the world's dumbest one because he won't read his military field manuals like he is supposed to.
- In "Nanou to the Rescue" from Balinote , Bali's father is having trouble fixing up a bookshelf in Bali's room. Bali notices a piece of paper in the trashcan, which happens to have the instructions depicted on it, suggesting "Maybe you need this to show you how to fix it properly?" His father, however, says, "No thanks, Bali. Instruction manuals confuse me." Bali heads off for a day in the park, but at the end of the story, the bookshelf is assembled. However, the placement of a single book causes it to fall apart. Bali runs back over to the trashcan with the instructions, suggesting that maybe his dad really does need them. He agrees and they decide to both put the bookshelf together with each other the next day.
- In the Teen Titans episode "Overdrive" Cyborg gets a new microchip to enhance his cybernetic parts. While he had checked to see if the chip was compatible with his systems, if he had read the manual, he would have learned shutting down said systems to boost the chip's power would nearly cause an overload. However, he got impatient.
Cyborg: Just take a second to read the instructions...and this warning, a few disclaimers, another warning, something in German-Oh, man! I don't have time for this!
- Computer hardware manufacturer MSI announced the addition of an RTFM-chip to their products designed to analyze what the user did after a problem, then send the information back to MSI, with the intention of reducing the number of tech support queries and RMA's over problems detailed in the manual.
- Some tests are actually tests to see if you read and follow all instructions completely:
- A common example used in school. A worksheet will read "Read all instructions before completing," and start off with relatively benign instructions. Later on, instructions start becoming bizarre with commands like "Cluck like a chicken," or whatever. If you read to the bottom, the last instruction will tell you to disregard all the other instructions, revealing to the rest of the class who actually read the entire sheet before completing it.
- A similar example is a long step-by-step computation with the legend, "read completely before attempting", for which the very last computation is "× 0". note
- This type of test is also used to measure a how good a soldier can follow orders. They are told to read through the entire sheet before they start to answer the questions. Because of a time limit many will start to panic and start filling in the answers. Those that don't panic will finally read that they don't need to answer any questions at all.
- There is a manual for Photoshop CS5 that actually is called "The missing manual: The book that should have been in the box" specifically because the manual written by the people at Adobe was of almost no help. It's part of an entire series of books that serve as manuals for programs that either didn't come with one, or came with a really crappy manual.
- Reading the Freaking Manual can even help computers! See this news story about how an MIT AI research group's machine-learning system actually read the manual for Freeciv (a Civilization II clone) and used it to improve its victory rate from 46% up to 79%.
- RTFM is commonly used by engineering lecturers/advisers when asked a particularly stupid question. Also common is ATFQ, used in longer reports.
- Ask anyone in the tech field - especially tech support or customer service. A lot of people are guilty of this. Not only do the customers not read the manual, but oftentimes, the staff doesn't either. Many people assume that because they already know how to use it that they don't need to read the manual.
- Often inverted nowadays. Most complex technical devices (which now includes TV sets) come with manuals that are thick only because they contain 30 languages, some of which you've never heard of before. The actual content is usually trivial. Without internet fora and similar user-driven information sources, you're sunk trying to even remotely exploit, for example, a smartphone's capabilities.
- In some internet discussions groups, posters go overboard telling people who are asking any question to RTFM (anything Unix-related for example), even if the manuals comprise 1000 pages or more just for the overview. Regardless of being helpful or smug, it often translates as 'I don't know either'.
- Various websites in the Stack Exchange Q&A network are particularly notorious for closing valid questions with a link to another question which clearly doesn't solve the problem the poster asked help with.
- During the War on Terror, American artillerymen assigned to train Afghan soldiers in the effective use of artillery found that the Afghans were using Russian artillery pieces which the Americans were not familiar with. Fortunately, the Afghan soldiers had the manuals that went with the artillery... except that the manuals were, of course, written in Russian.
- Amazon customer review pages are loaded with angry 1-star reviews from customers complaining that a bought product didn't work as expected, even though the very thing they're complaining about is already addressed in the Amazon item's description!
- Amazon sells spears. Some even are good enough quality to be used as a weapon. But there are a record number of users who wreck their weapon by using it as a javelin, even though a basic internet read on the distinction between the two tells you that while certain spears can be thrown, a only specific types are designed to be thrown, you should probably practice with a spear before throwing it against solid objects, and definitely shouldn't throw it against thick objects like a tree. Many one-star reviews say, "I threw this spear against a tree and it broke the first time."
- Many software companies have stopped including manuals at all in the interests of 'going green' (read: an excuse to save money on printing costs). Physical copies of video games and computer software will often be packaged with nothing more than a 2-page leaflet telling you that the manual is either located on the software disc itself or downloadable from the company's website. This substantially lowers the rate of the people who RTFM.
- A Hoops and Yoyo Administrative Professionals Day e-card has this line when you ask Hoops about fixing the copier:
"Allow me to introduce you to Mr. Manual. Read him. Love him. Fix it, you got that? Chop chop!"
- Pinball both plays this trope straight and averts it, depending on what you're doing with the machines:
- If you are an owner or operator, the manual is very important in ensuring the machine is set up and maintained correctly. However, with a few exceptions, pinball manuals do not explain how to play the game, containing only information about initial setup, the mechanical aspects, and contact information, like the manual for an appliance like a TV or VCR. Nevertheless, it has been distressingly common through pinball's entire history for someone to have a machine in public and not have it set up correctly, such as uneven legs, improperly installed lights, or incomplete software. For this reason, pinball manufacturers in later decades would have the machines shipped as fully assembled as possible, knowing there would be too many incompetent or lazy operators who'd put a badly-working machine in public.
- For the player however, the people who make these machines expect the player to learn all of the rules by playing a lot or from another player. In some communities, this trope is actually inverted, with discussions of rules treated as spoilers. Among pinball fans, this is known as "discovery," in which you are to feel pleasantly surprised when a pinball game demonstrates a new rule you hadn't seen before. Comprehensive guides do exist online for those who would prefer to know all of the rules in advance, however, but they are written by fans, not the manufacturers, and may not be available if there isn't enough interest for anyone to write one.
Now just shut up, sit down and Read the Freaking Manual!