The Joys (and Sorrows) of Getting Hyped for a Video Game


#1

Open Thread is where Waypoint staff talk about games and other things we find interesting. This is where you'll see us chat about games, music, movies, TV, and even sports, and welcome you to participate in the discussion.

I’m in a slightly unique position with the new God of War. Since I cut the video review, I’ve seen a few hours of the game—a pretty big chunk of the first few hours—but I’ve not, you know, played it. After seeing Patrick’s nuanced, enthusiastic reception to the game, I’m excited for it! I don’t have much history with the series, outside of a mild interest in its general setting, as a mythology nerd. It looks fun, and his comments on the storytelling have me way more excited than I ever thought I would be to be a total dad.

But I am a little worried, too.

We touched on this a bit in yesterday’s podcast, but the game is garnering rave reviews, especially for its scope, polish, and combat. Those are cool things, but they are rarely the first elements I look for in a satisfying game experience. I worry that a little bit of me will always be a contrarian, going into well-loved, respected AAA games with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I’m not actively looking for things to dislike here, don’t get me wrong, but when the hype gets to a certain level, I can’t deny that it puts me in that place.

I don’t love what that says about me. I’d like to come at a work with context, yes, but to also give everything—large and small—a fair shake.

Am I the only one who does this? I suppose being aware is the first step, so I can consciously go into the game on Friday with a clear head. If I love it, great! If it annoys me, that’s ok. I’m just going to try hard not to let the hype train affect me on this one.

What about you, readers? Are there games where the buzz surrounding them colored the experience for you? What do you do to mitigate that? Let me know on the forums!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/vbxj7m/god-of-war-hype

#2

With most AAA releases going for $80 CAD, I don’t often get into games on day one anymore. But I did make an exception for Wolfenstein II last year, which is a game that felt like a culmination of immense hype for me. Though I adore The New Order, the hype I got from The New Colossus was very much a product of the political reality of 2016 and 2017. And when it came out, I leaned into that hype. Hard. And I don’t regret it. BJ’s bloody journey felt all the more consequential as I thought about all the right-wing assholes who all felt that the game was not for them. Better still, it was a rebuke to their worldview, their power, their influence. Sure, the game had its flaws, but it remains the best $80 I spent in a good long while.


#3

I’m like this all the time with anything that’s remotely popular. When the first Lord of the Rings movie came out, and everyone hyped it to the moon, my instinct was to roll my eyes and say “Come on, it can’t be THAT good.” Same thing with the first Spider-Man and Pirates of the Caribbean movies (they’ve aged some, but they were [and arguably still are!] fun for their time).

Coincidentally, the first God of War was like this for me too. It wasn’t until I played a demo of GoW2 at Gamestop did I realize “ok yes, this is awesome” and immediately picked up the first game. I’ve loved the series since.

Anyway, I think it all stems from the idea that no entity can be perfect, and that some flaws must exist. So when a form of media gets rave reviews across the board, it sets off warning bells because nothing in the world can be universally loved. It just ain’t natural. So we default to a state of “it can’t be THAT good…”

This was good food for thought. Thanks Danielle!


#4

The God of War review thread has a lot of good discussion concerning how critical games discussion is often limited by the perspectives we include and exclude from mainstream critisicm (ie the strong favorable focus on polish and cinematic storytelling). I’ve already (perhaps overbearingly) voiced many of my thoughts on the state of games criticism there so I’ll focus elsewhere here :grimacing:

Like Patrick stated on the podcast about his own experiences, I too like having other people’s thoughts to ponder on while I’m playing a game, other people’s experiences help me contextualize and understand my own. That is to say many of my experiences with games are colored by the buzz around them or at least other people’s thoughts, and I don’t really look to mitigate that. Whether it be a critical or someone on the forums or twitter or one of my siblings, I like taking in as many voices as I can!


#5

As I mentioned at the tail of last year, Zelda talk certainly drove up my expectations with comparisons to the systemic design of Far Cry 2 and talk of spaces with near unlimited novelty and exploration. Then, when I found a middling game with unlimited copy/paste elements and a disappointing (to outright hostile) narrative thread, I thought “well maybe Eventide Island will turn it around” (keeping spoiler-free for what it actually was other than people describing how it was revelatory to encounter it and the challenge it presented). Wow, did that not go as intended.

How to mitigate that? I guess I generally don’t. Sometimes games are a huge hit for me and other times they’re not. But when everyone else was going gaga for Doom after really lowered expectations pushed it right up there, I was enjoying the technically impressive feat while middling on the actual game. But other games considered basically unplayable today like the original X-COM (UFO: Enemy Unknown) are something I can go back to and still dive into (action points is still the best way to do this stuff). You know that DriveClub game that every critic hated and cited things like on-rails AI as the reason why? Turns out that actually, that’s not something that ever happens and the game is an interesting semi-sim that boosts braking performance to give it a slightly more arcade feel. Also the dynamic conditions with days that only last minutes and those visuals lead to a fresh and exciting drive on every lap. It’s not the best game ever but it’s pretty good.

Thinking to the recent discussion of No Man’s Sky: I basically mirror Austin on that, totally expecting it to be the game it ultimately was and generally had an ok time with that (which doesn’t match the hype or the backlash that seemed to be the major thrusts of reaction to that game).

I think that I’ve come away from enough games being far enough away from the general buzz around them for it to no longer guide my expectations. I’ve got some friends who I’ve shared excited talk of games with for long enough (things like when Assassin’s Creed very first arrived and we got excited for what a sequel might be like the moment we realised this was a proof of concept game) we can generally get an idea where we are likely to have the same views but as far as the major criticism, I’ve not found someone who consistently has similar tastes and reacts to the seemingly small stuff the same way (which often defines what I find delightful vs just an ok game).


#6

I used to buy into hype cycles way more than I do now. I would get REALLY excited for upcoming games and consume all the promotional materials again and again and again until I got my hands on the game. What broke me from this was Brink. I don’t think I’ve ever been more exited for a game than I was for Brink, and man was that game disappointing. After that letdown I just found it a lot harder to get excited for upcoming games.

I’m happy about this, I find myself spending less time counting the seconds till a game is out. I feel it’s also made me better at managing my disappointment with media.


#7

I invent my own hype cycles for shit that nobody cares about, like a Stellaris patch or Vic Davis releasing a new game.


#8

Sort of a derail, but I thought it was interesting that you guys were talking about game criticism in a White Elephant sort of way, where prestige production sort of skates on the level of screen polish, rather than some more substantive, yet subtler areas of interaction.

I think there’s limits to a Termite art v. White Elephant art frame of criticism, because representation on the screen matters, and the sort of aimless prestige stuff that takes responsibility in who it puts on the screen still deserves some kind of recognition. Call it neoliberal or whatever, but a better kind of spectacle is a decent goal.


#9

My weekly hype cycle is the reveal of what new DLC is coming for Rocksmith. Usually disappointing, but man, the week where they dropped a compilation of songs from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater soundtracks…


#10

My most recent hype-to-dissapointment (and back to hype) experience is probably XCOM 2 in 2016. I love love love Enemy Unknown. It was everything I thought a reboot should be, streamlining what needed to be streamlined and retaining the core of the structure of XCOM: UFO Defense: a tactics layer wrapped in a base building/management metagame.

XCOM 2 promised further streamlining and new features in a setting that intrigued me. Deciding to make the bad ending of EU the canon ending was a great choice, I think. Putting XCOM on the offensive, making them a sort of scrappy resistance group. It works really well tonally and was a better baseline than just “more EU”.

But… The game didn’t really make good on making you feel like a resistance group. The base building metagame was very similar to EU, making it just feel like you were doing the same thing again, and a resistance group feeling the same as a highly organized global shadow organization with a blank cheque was a little weird to me. The soldier customization was expanded but they didn’t do a lot to make each soldier feel like an individual, which I feel is sort of key to XCOM as a whole. There wasn’t a lot done outside of a baseline premise to actually make XCOM feel like a rebellion where real soldiers and scientists and engineers were working to stop the aliens.

The one great thing about the game was the tactics layer, which felt as good as ever. The classes were different, the new enemies offered a significant challenge, the mission timers made the game more fast paced and frenetic in a way I really enjoyed. Despite feeling satisfied with the tactics, though, I couldn’t deny that I was deeply disapointed in XCOM 2.

But then War of the Chosen came out. And boy. XCOM 2 is probably one of my favourite tactics games at this point. They really revamped the metagame/customization layer. Adding the resistance factions and the Assassins Creed Brotherhood style Covert Ops missions makes the effort feel more global and layered. The poster making (which is completely ridiculous and amazing) and the soldier bonds system make me feel like I’m actually part of something, and surrounded by the people making it happen. Losing those people feels like it has impact where it didn’t before (RIP Seamus O’Connor, my beautiful twin pigtails sniper). The Chosen themselves fill a gap that game needed badly: a villainous force to fight from the start that feels as dynamic as some of the later game enemies. New mission types and proc-gen environments add new things to the already great tactics layer and makes that aspect of the game a more surprising experience. I’m really impressed with Firaxis for taking a game I was very disappointed in a making it into one of my favourite gaming experiences in a long time.


#11

I do this with mostly with wrestling and hadn’t thought about how it applies to Games. While there is still a rather focused idea of what makes a good game, there are some notable voices that might not fit into the norm that while maybe don’t provide a “counter take” they provide a different perspective. For wrestling, most critics come from similar backgrounds. Most diverse voices don’t have a platform. It is bad out there.

This means matches that are considered great are AMPLIFIED to GOAT status by the day after. Honestly, I shelve those for later viewing because it is so difficult to come at them without a preconceived idea of what the match should be. Whether that means buying into the hype or looking for the seams.

For games, I’ve gotten better at this because I don’t have this overabundance of games in my life. There is a lot out there but there isn’t a service I can subscribe to that is affordable, works great, and has good content that makes it easy. So I want to be able to throw myself into something and while I may see the seams, might even look for them, I don’t typically find myself displeased. More like “Hey, this thing has some problems here and here. Guess I’ll keep going”


#12

I have an annoyingly STRONG hipster streak when it comes to media, and often popularity alone can keep me away from something once it reaches fever pitch. I still haven’t read or seen any Game of Thrones stuff for example, and if I hadn’t fallen into Harry Potter and League of Legends “before they were cool”, I might never have discovered certain mainstream things I really like.

My solution for this hispterism seems to be to jump on bandwagons early and form opinions prior to the chorus of praise making me feel like sheeple just for trying something on for size. I’ll admit it’s not ideal, and if I payed a little less attention to things like reviews I might have an easier, (and less expensive/early adopter-esque) time of it, heh.

Still, stoked to play “God of War 2018”, (man, it’s not even a reboot guys c’mon) and hopefully form some opinions of my own before having them warped TOO badly by all the hyperbolic praise gets in my head.


#13

I’m a non-conformist at heart but for God of War specifically it’s more about the ‘dadification’ which is putting me off.

I don’t have a particularly good or deep relationship with my father and I also have no intention of being one myself. So I’m more annoyed that my viewpoint isn’t being represented in the criticism I’ve seen so far.


#14

The last game I got super, utterly ridiculously hyped about was Marvel Vs Capcom 3. And who wouldn’t. It was essentially the Half-Life 3 of fighting games and every single bit of footage was showing that even though they simplified the buttons, they were totally nailing what made MvC2 “Mahvel” along with lashings of comic book and gaming fan service. I remember shaking as I held the box in my hand and boy oh boy It delivered (I will put on my last will and testament that “When’s Mahvel?” will be on my tombstone). I don’t think I’ve had that ever since.

I think the currently overly cynical tone of the “Core Gamer” bubble has had a huge effect over the past five years in particular. There’s only certain titles you are allowed get frothingly hype over while others must be dunked on remorselessly to send companies a “lesson” (and I emphasize those quote marks). Shockingly enough (Or not), Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite was one of those. There was a very good fighting game in there with abysmal business decisions but the minute the “Leaked Roster” was revealed. It just turned into a constant slamming of the game. Unwarranted in some cases where the constant state of mean dunking on the game to people who were looking forward to it was intolerable.

God Of War seems the opposite, heavily hyped with a ravenous console fanbase that will mercilessly hype it to the point where if you say “I’m not really interested” then you just open yourself to trolling or as I’ve seen some particularly nuclear takes on twitter, you are “Mentally Ill” if you find fault with it or the PS4. Any criticism will likely be met with the same. I had a friend rightly point out that the “fridging” of Kratos’ wife as a trope to kick off the plot hasn’t really been talked about and that kinda sucks because you’d hope a “mature” story would avoid it. I can also understand “No spoilers” if that actually goes somewhere but bringing that up also seems like an invitation to get the nastiest nerds in the universe in your inbox because its a criticism.

No Man’s Sky is also a good place to discuss where the community has been outright crap (Ditto Sea Of Thieves while I’m at it) because after the relentless hype train and the let down of release. “Hardcore” gamers are so busy sniffing their own farts and dunking on the game that they go out of their way to attack the people playing and enjoying it even with its flaws (Its an Elite Like. Elite has one of the greatest gameplay loops of all time and I’m not surprised people stuck with it even with flaws). It’s a credit to Hello Games they stuck at it and supported their community against the wave of hostility but I would have completely understood if they wanted to duck out and had enough.

You add in that “Hardcore” fart sniffing for dunking on for COD, EA, Ubisoft or lately “Games as a Service” games and you “have to support single player” (even though y’all cowards didn’t buy Prey or Wolf 2 last year). Generally the “Unliked” publishers. And it’s dire just watching people just constantly attack people for liking something they don’t like. I don’t like the Battle Royale trend and can understand why people might dislike some of the more cynical attempts at the genre. But the outright hostility on something like Fortnite is a borderline case of mass insecurity from people who you would expect to know better. But it’s not the case, in fact they are probably worse because they outwardly gatekeep the hobby and refuse to admit it.

The whole Hype Train culture was a blessing when it felt fun back around 10 years ago when it felt inclusive. Smash Bros Brawl was an insane trip. But now it feels like a curse. Telling people they are “Mentally ill” for not being hyped for a game that is not even out yet signifies a huge cultural problem for the hobby and one that is going to be very hard to fix. Especially as it feels like the bubble of well intentioned and passionate “Hardcore” gamers is shrinking and being replaced with a new insufferable, elitist “Hardcore” culture where you are only allowed like the correct genres and brands or else you are unwelcome. And that is not a train, as a hobby and as a culture, we want to be on.


#15

The biggest two games I got hyped for were probably Smash 4 (Brawl too but that was ages ago) and Overwatch.

In Smash 4’s case I was itching to spend a lot of time in ranked matches, since I probably spent hundreds of hours just doing 1v1 fights with my brother in Melee back when we were kids. I ended up being really disappointed since, while the game was never as brazenly anti-competitive as Brawl was in design, they still kept around that game’s central problem with defensive/evasive moves being too low-risk and encouraging online players to adopt really lame, cheesy strategies that were infuriating to deal with.

And for Overwatch, I was looking forward to it mainly because we were starting to see TF2 languishing due to Valve’s internal company structure issues, and thought “oh hell yeah, Blizzard are way better at long-term game support, this’ll be a great replacement for TF2 now that it’s reaching the end of its cultural significance”.

It…really wasn’t because the overbearing formal structure of the game means that the sort of freewheeling self-expression in TF2 just wasn’t possible. I still play it as like an “appointment game”, but it’s never provided the same level of enjoyment that I got from TF2.

Those are only the big examples of when I got super-hyped for games (and subsequently let down). I’ll still routinely get excited for most big new releases.


#16

I was really hyped for Super Smash Bros. Brawl. One of the main reasons I bought a Wii was for that game. I went to the “Launch Party” at the local game store. I was really disappointed. Same thing happened a few months later with Star Wars: Force Unleashed.
It’s not that either of these were really bad games, they just didn’t meet my crazy expectations, especially based on what I had been reading in Nintendo Power.
Now days I generally avoid getting hyped at all, and even if I do get a little hyped about a game, I generally won’t play any games that aren’t 2-3 years old. Once they get to that point they are usually less expensive, and the dust cloud of marketing has settled, allowing me to more accurately judge whether or not it is a good game.
The drawback there is that if there is a new game I want to play, I generally won’t be able to play it. I’d like to play the new DOOM game, but I don’t have a console or PC that can run it, and I don’t really have a reason to upgrade beyond that one game.