Thursday, July 26, 2012

On Hype and Expectations

I've been ranting a lot lately to people about some of my design 'philosophies,' and where would it be better to spread it than here?

My proposition:

Games, much like art, are experiences or emotional rides that are only plainly understood by the person playing them, and shouldn't (and really can't) be used to describe someone else's.

So what the hell does that mean? YOU'RE SO PRETENTIOUS, TED.

Indeed. It's a pretty dramatic statement; you could even go as far to interpret it as an excuse to avoid reading any game reviews at all, and surely suggests that you should avoid getting game recommendations from a friend.

Not entirely true.

How the hell would anyone know about a good game if you couldn't recommend it?

They really wouldn't; stumbling across original links out of the blue is stupidly uncommon. Recommendations and reviews help filter out the crap from the good games; it's experience-filter 101.


I'm going to go out on a limb and describe my process of viewing movies.


CASE I: "Ted"
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I watched no trailers nor did I research anything for this movie whatsoever. I saw a poster in the movie theater that showed Marky-mark, a beer-toting teddy, and the words "MADE BY THAT CRAZY GUY WHO MADE YOU LAUGH ON A SHOW YOU MIGHT HAVE HEARD OF: Family Guy."

Hmmmm. Did I go in with some expectations then? Yeah: "Family Guy" humor. That was about it. I split my gut at virtually every joke they made (and there were a lot... don't judge me, I have a point).

I spoke with my friend who I viewed the movie with, and he explained to me that he had seen several of the jokes in the multitude of trailers they promoted the film with.

Really? Dang. Glad I never saw any of them....


CASE II: "John Carter"
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I will now quote my guilty-pleasure AAA idol, Cliff Bleszinski:

"I don't mean to pre-judge but nothing about John Carter looks compelling to me. It's like Clash of the Conan Avatars or something." (source)

"OH MY GOD. That was total CRAP." is precisely what I uttered when I finished watching the trailer for the first time.

Fast-forward to a bored, impromptu Janesville movie run with my sister and brother in law. Nothing was really out (that I remember....):

"Wow. That was actually really entertaining. It was really pretty and a good (yet bizarre) adventure flick."

I might be getting more clear to you now...


CASE III: "The Amazing Spider-Man"
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"Oh, they're rebooting Spider-Man? Hmph. I don't know how I feel about that; I really liked one and two... Three was horse-shit though."

Leaving the theater, I grumble to myself. "Did I seriously just watch the same damn origin story with a different villain? Why so many damn super-hero movies?"

Maybe I came to the new movie with high-expectations from my awkward middle-school years viewing?



"So, what are you getting at?"

Previews and trailers have a really big effect on your expectations of a film.

"Mkay, cool. What about Spider-Man? Didn' talk 'bout no trailers no how."

Much like in the case with "Ted," I had expectations of the content and makers from experiencing them beforehand. Bias is a bitch?

"Aaaaaaaand what does this have to do with games?"

It's an analogy....

There have been WAAAY too many times people (including me) have just thrashed a genre or game based on their own opinions. Trailers for games are usually shit. They show a cut-scene or something and blast Dubstep up your ass.



Then there's the other side.

I'll get myself into trouble on this one. One of THE most disappointing games I've played was.... yeah. Fez. TWO IGF trophies, a dramatic film made about the developer's struggle, and 5 years of freaking hype through the ups and downs of funding. To top it off, this epic feeling trailer. It truly made me feel like I owned the universe.

All of this 'cred' based on what I imagined I could do with a 2D game in a 3D world. Believe me; I had more than a few dreams about it.

They didn't come true.

Everyone kept blabbing about this big meta-secret game dwelling behind the scenes. Wait, what? What the hell happened to making the rotating interesting?

Rotating the world actually became a BURDEN to collecting all these damn cubes, then more secret cubes if you decoded some language and found some owl secret blah, blah, blah, blah. That little fezzed-out dude was a pain in the ass to move around in the end.

It was painted like a grand game of discovering new, interesting places that are lost in a 2D context. About an hour in, he seemed to have run out of tricks.

Then I just kind of growled to myself. "5 years? For some meta-puzzle the internet just plain spoiled in a few days?"

Already now, I'm going to expect threats and be called "someone who just doesn't get it." It feels like there's this big dome keeping me from saying poor things about the game. It's like this REALLY acclaimed thing, right?

Now that I've already dug myself a grave, I want to cut a little deeper into game interpretation stuff. I talked about this before, but I'll explain it again.

I don't think other people should have any influence on what YOU get out of a piece of art. It's there for you to interpret, with all of your own biases or preferences. Fez and the hype-machine just plain ruined it in my case. There was nothing that really said my 'dreams' about it were valid, but there wasn't anything telling me otherwise.

Writing this makes me really worried about misrepresenting my own work and giving false impressions.

If I told you all of the answers about suteF, wouldn't that ruin a lot of fun of making your own connections and conclusions? Is it BETTER because you don't give a crap what it's about, and knowing would just make you think it was shallow? Am I going to accidentally hype Chapter E up as an epic-sequel to suteF when I've already said that it plays almost NOTHING like suteF.

My goal is to keep my dirty hands out of what you think my work is about, specifically what it means to you personally. Did it make you think about good times? Bad times? The future?

And for the love of everything awesome, PLEASE don't let me over-hype my work. Such a scary prospect...


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