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Avoiding the Hype Train


Hype is, without any doubt, among the scourges that I loathe the most in gaming. Whenever a game becomes the subject of ludicrous hyping, I lose all interest or desire to play it. People who fall for its honeyed words turn into frothy mouthed, walking billboards. Hype campaigns are basically paper tigers, where marketers pour their efforts into getting the audience riled up for no good reason. Unfortunately, these seem to work all too well.

For this reason, I wanted to write up some golden rules for dealing with the nasty hype monster. Thereís nothing too complicated. Itís just a few things for people to keep in mind really.

If a trailer doesnít show any significant game-play, you should probably disregard it entirely.

Very common among the AAA industry is the notion generating hype through the use of a cinematic trailer. Most of these are pretty worthless. Either theyíre just flashy CGI spectacles, or they show only the tiniest bits of play. Itís just enough to impress, but not enough to make viewers realise the gimmick is exactly that. If a trailer doesnít demonstrate anything significant about what the game is actually like, you might as well have been staring a two year oldís macaroni art instead. Itís just like fireworks, only more sinister rather than colourful. So, much worse.

A trailer showing plenty of game-play will win over the audience itís looking for. A sensible gamer wants to see the game in action. When I saw the Kickstarter video for Hyper Light Drifter, I was sold on the concept by the end. There was nothing fancy or elaborate, just a few minutes of watching the character exploring and fighting. Thatís all I needed to see though. Thatís not the say the video wasnít trying to sell itself, but it felt more honest and genuine.

Remember that developers/publishers are going to say what they think will sell the game.

That sounds obvious, but itís vital to remember. For an example, I was recently reading an piece on Rock Paper Shotgun with Mike Laidlaw, the lead designer for Dragon Age Inquisition. In short, he claimed that one of the big influences for the next Dragon Age was that classic gem of RPGs, Planescape Torment.

Now I donít want to flat out say that Laidlaw was lying. Who knows, maybe Dragon Age Inquisition really will take cues from Planescape. The issue isnít whether he was being truthful, but rather what motivated him to say it. There are obviously a lot of people out there whoíd kill for another game like Planescape Torment. A quick look at some of Kickstarterís most highly backed games is clear evidence. If those people honestly believe Bioware were capable of making such a game, they would go out and buy it in a heartbeat.

Of course, you have to look at the likely reality. Can a game with voice acting in this day and age possibly be as verbose as Planescape Torment was? Forgive me for not being a believer in Bioware, but I highly doubt it. Itís pretty obvious heís just trying to generate hype. and not much else.

To get back to the point, developers and publishers are always trying to sell their game. Even if theyíre being honest, theyíre going to try and frame things in a positive light. Everything they say needs to be taken with the understanding that they have that agenda.

Read multiple reviews, and donít ignore the more critical ones.

Thanks to the internet, we have access to a range a varying opinions on whatever game is soon to be released. Itís a shame that most people donít seem to have quite grasped this idea yet.

Weíve seen all too much what happens when a review has the audacity to suggest that whatever hyped up game theyíre writing about might not be pure perfection. These people are pretty much in one of two camps. The first is selective exposure; they only want to read reviews that confirm their opinion, and they become angry when a review they thought would agree with them doesnít. The second is what most people would call ďbuyers remorseĒ. Theyíve rushed out on day one to buy the game, or pre-ordered it, and donít like it when a review implies they may have made a bad decision.

Letís establish a few rules. Firstly, if you care about the reviews might say about a game, then read them before buying said game, not after. Secondly, if someone writes something critical about a game, they might have done so for reasons other than because theyíre absolute gobshites. Lastly, scores below ten of ten are still considered good by sane people.

Just about every extra you get by pre-ordering is shit.

Allow me to join the voices of those telling you to stop pre-ordering games. There are almost no benefits to doing it, and more often than not has become just another engine for marketing. The common practice nowadays is to offer something ďspecialĒ to those who pre-order. In most cases these range from unique cosmetics, or weapons that are more power than almost everything else in the game. Shiny skins are nice and all, but theyíre hardly worth throwing money blindly at. Special items can wind up being detrimental to your experience of a game, because they always break the balance of progression.

What if a pre-order deal offers something more substantial? If itís a piece of day one DLC you could just buy later then Iíd still suggest not going for it. After all, the fact that the publishers are happy to cut out content to sell back to people should say enough about their attitude towards the customers.

People who havenít played the game probably donít know jack.

Of course, the writhing nest of hype are places like Reddit and forums. In their giddy excitement they tend to become overeager about getting the next big thing. Theyíll talk about how itíll be the greatest game ever, and theyíll rip apart anyone who tries to imply otherwise. Itís important to remember that their attitudes about a game have likely been formed by the marketing hype. In reality, these people have not played the game themselves, so they donít actually know how good it is.

Well, thatís one rant over and done with. I get the guilty feeling that all anti-hype stuff is obvious to most people. I hope that youíll remember these points next time youíre being confronted by the next hype. Getting overexcited for a game is the easiest way to ensure disappointment. Iíve found that having more realistic expectations vastly improved my appreciation of games.

The most important thing I want to say is that immunising yourself to hype does not mean becoming a downer about everything. I donít believe that being overly cynical is any better than eating out of the hands of corporations, unless your goal is to look as hip as possible. It certainly doesnít mean you canít anticipate new games. Immunising oneself from hype is not a matter of expecting disappointment or hating everything, but learning not to get excited for no good reason. You should grow excited about games on your own terms, rather than because someone jangled a bunch of shiny keys in front of you.

You can also read this on my personal blog.
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About Shuudaone of us since 5:34 PM on 03.27.2012

Online I go by the alias of Shuuda. I am currently living North Yorkshire, England. In 2011 I graduated from the University of Hull with a first class degree in Design for Digital Media, where I studied both the creative and theoretical sides of the digital technology and the internet.

As someone who is passionate about about video games than the fantasy genre, I am highly interested in how stories can be told through interactive media. I concern myself with how the genre is portrayed within the medium and its implications. I give it both criticism and praise, but mostly criticism. Writing fiction has been my hobby for many years, and I feel that video games have influenced and inspired the content of my work in recent times.


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