Gadget blog Boing Boing posted an interview with former Civilization IV lead designer Soren Johnson on tutorials. Asked why they are so common in games but not in hi-tech gadgets, Soren responds:
I am a bit surprised that tutorials within games are more standard than within other electronic products because game tutorials have the additional limitation that they should be fun. If you buy an MP3 player, you are going to want to use it—you aren't questioning whether you actually enjoy listening to music or not. With a game, however, you are constantly evaluating if the game is worth the time you are investing in it. An overly dull tutorial (or, even worse, an overly challenging one) can cause the player to quit before he or she even gets to the "real" game.
He goes on to describe the role of tutorials in games and how this was approached in Civilization IV. He is then asked about how he would approach adding a tutorial to a gadget, to which Soren responds that the key is that a tutorial should be offered to the user at the right time, using the load screen tips from Civilization IV as example:
One tutorial method devices could learn from the game world is "load screen tips", which appear a lot in modern games. For Civ 4, we compiled a list of about 100 interface tips and strategy hints (such as "Double clicking on a stack of units will group them together") and presented them during our loading screens. This method was a great way to teach the players advanced functionality that they were not ready to digest when they first started the game.
Finally, Soren is asked what's the best real-world example of a tutorial that he has encountered. He doesn't answer the question directly but cites the tutorial in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time as an example of a tutorial that doesn't feel like a tutorial and Google as a company that does a good job of using video demos to show off cool features.
To read the full interview, head over to Boing Boing Gadgets.