A player needs to be taught in the simplest terms not because they are incapable of grasping complicated concepts but because they have no time for it, they’d rather be playing the game! We must use Tell, Show, Do… to teach the player appropriately very quickly! In case you don’t know the method, it goes something like this, first you Tell them, then you Show them, and finally you let them Do!!!
Most of us were subjected to this early in life because it is a perfect way to teach a 5 year old in kindergarden. You might think I am comparing player's to kindergardeners and well you would be right but it's really only in terms of attention span. We have to capture the imagination of the player so this is a good way to do it and teach while building up to a moment of fun, when we let the player "Do" the action we have built up!
Here are a few great examples of this in games that I love :)
Ratchet and Clank:
The new game uses short cute animated spots to inform the player of the new weapon they have just spent their hard earned bolts on. Player also has the option to preview before purchase!
When the video is over and the player exits the store the new weapon is already in hand, armed and ready to dispatch any foes in sight. The best part is the player already knows how to wield the weapon from the "advertising video" so it eliminates almost all trial and error. Not only is the weapon now intuitive but it also has set the player expectations which will be fulfilled when the weapon is fired. This is much better than the player inferring something from the title of the gun and then it not living up to the expectations the player has created in their mind.
Here we have a montage of the plasmid tutorial videos from Ryan Industries!
Oddly enough this technique seems to dominate the dentist world which makes a lot of sense after you think about it. "Trust" is the key to doctor / patient relationship and must be established otherwise there are going to be a lot of tears during a simply teeth cleaning. Teaching players about mechanics should be handled the same way, build "Trust" by being honest with the player about how things are going to work so they are not dying all the time.
So be honest with the player and when you can try to Tell, Show, Do!!!