It’s Your Fault You Get Disappointed By Games
Life has gotten busy. Busy, busy, busy.
Almost everything I do, I do fast. Speed has become necessary if you want to function in a rapidly accelerating modern world.
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There is so much content, so much to do, read, watch, see, experience, talk about, blog about, and tweet about that there is less and less time to actually savour the joy of life. Games haven’t gotten worse at entertaining us, we’ve become terrible at appreciating them. There’s a reason we remember our childhood games so fondly. We spent hours playing them, exploring their secrets and absorbing every byte of entertainment.
That was only a portion of our experience. For every game of Mortal Kombat I played, I spent hours more in wide-eyed, imagination fueled excitement, creating worlds and scenes in my head. I acted out fantasies with my brother with sticks and blankets for capes. I dreamed of the world with me in it, at the center of it, the most important part of it.
Even as a child, gaming wasn’t only about what there was – it was about all it could be.
Then I hit puberty. I grew up. I started using shaving cream to actually shave instead of spraying it into my hands and squelching it between my fingers. I matured, and with maturity sadly comes the death of innocence.
Connotations, double entendres, pop culture references, subtle inconsistencies and plot holes started to pockmark my lovely games. It’s a sad natural part being all grown up.
Noticing these things didn’t destroy my love, not at first anyway, it just sort of tainted it. My immersion started having hairline fractures, like a chipped coffee mug – just not quite what it should be.
And you know what? It’s my fault that it did.
Instead of immersing myself, accepting the worlds and their fantastical imaginations, I started looking for the holes and inconsistencies. It was like running your hand over sticky tape to find the edge.
Everything became about that fourth wall and what the developers had to do to hide it. Cut scenes became loading times. Sky boxes or invisible walls started making me angry instead of just accepting the playable space and limits of the technology.
Instead of accepting the world I started looking for ways to break it.
I used to complain about the state of games. I complained that creativity was dead and that big publishers are ruining the industry.
Don’t get me wrong, it is and they are but there is still magnificence to be had. In many ways games now are better and more complex than they ever were before and they are technologically capable of doing things that should leave us in awe.
Hundreds of hard working, passionate, talented people; millions of dollars; years of development.
Games are not small endeavors, and for almost any triple A release, there is magic to be had.
The trick lies within us. Anger is a hard thing to quash, disappointment even more so.
StarCraft 2 still makes me furious but I’ve learned my lesson.
Do not excuse laziness, blatant cash-ins or corner cutting. Definitely not. Accept, however, that perfection does not exist. It is a rhetorical goal. It is up to us to try and enjoy a game for what it is. There is always some good to be had from any product that had loving, talented, hard working creators (which is most decent games), be a wise man and learn from the fool.
In the end it comes down to expectation. Expectations are a curious thing.
At best, expectation can become anticipation which provides us with the much needed excitement and emotional rollercoasterings that makes life interesting and fun.
Expectations, equally often, are made too high, correspondingly making it harder to enjoy your anticipated pleasure because you want more from it before you are happy.
Take StarCraft 2 as an ancient example. My brother and I, sharing a room as we did, often had late night talks about our future plans, aspirations and most anticipated games. StarCraft 2 was discussed ad nauseam and naturally we began to anticipate the next “greatest thing evar!”
It arrived, and, pardon my upbringing, it was F##KING TERRIBLE! All I was hoping for was a storyline-erific action packed single player campaign. What I got was one was a watered down angsty teenagers version of melodrama with absolutely no point, purpose, fulfillment or intelligence. The story was reduced to a singular plot with meaningless waffle filling in the majority of the missions before the whole affair ended in one of gamings most mindrapingly terrible deus ex machinae that didn’t even take the story in the right direction.
Also it was a cliffhanger.
And poorly written.
And it was, despite what every whinging ass is going to tell me, one third of a full game. Giving me one third of the perspective, one third of the story, one third of the pleasure and a compounded one twenty seventh of the satisfaction.
Okay, I’m cool… I’m just going to close my eyes and think of paradise for a moment…
By comparison take Red Faction Guerrilla, I had never heard of it, knew nothing about it and tried it with a blank slate. I ended up loving it. The game is pure functionality and fun, albeit nothing special if you’re looking for the next AAA release, but fun nonetheless.
My lack of expectation led me to having fun, whatever my twisted logic. Human beings are hedonistic by nature, so I see no reason to sabotage myself with unnecessary expectations.
So here is my message for the day, expect sparingly. I don’t mean lower expectations but choose carefully when to begin making them.
A connoisseur will tell you that having your expectations fulfilled is better than being “pleasantly surprised” by a hundred experiences.
While nothing can beat the feeling of having an experience meet or exceed expectations it also means that for every one of those feelings of pure fulfillment there are many more occasions of disappointment.
Expect sparingly and have the best of both.
If BioShock Infinite and Borderlands 2 are not the single greatest contributions to culture since the Mona Lisa, I will personally find and violate its makers.
I will also be pleasantly surprised (hopefully) by Risen 2 and Assassins Creed 3.
As my grandfather always said:
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”