What's so bad about disappointment?


Something that I hear an awful lot of when talking about games is what reads to me like a really strong aversion to disappointment.

We’re told that lowering our expectations and ignoring all hype surrounding a game is the only way to avoid disappointment, and perhaps that’s the case.

But increaingly I’ve found myself thinking: is disappointment really such a bad thing that we ought to take all these steps to avoid it?

Disappointment, at least for me, tends to fade quite quickly, especially because there are so many games now that there’s always the next thing to be excited by. It’s not like if The Big Game had been bad then there’d be nothing to look forward to for the rest of the year.

Indeed, I’ve been delighted for hours so far this year by games that weren’t even on my radar: Yakuza 0, NieR: Automata, Breath of the Wild (which I knew about but had no idea just how different it would be from recent Zelda) are just a few of those, and that’s not even mentioning the smaller games.

By contrast, being excited for a game can last for months, and years sometimes, and it can be a very lovely feeling that I don’t think is completely negated when the game turns out disappointing.

Of course, I’m not advocating for completely naively accepting all hype and uncritically drinking in everything that’s said about a game. I think it’s possible to be excited for a game without being fooled into thinking that it’s more than it is: very early on into the No Man’s Sky announcement I said to myself ‘Y’know what, if all this is is a game where you go around and visit pretty planets and look at stuff then I’m into that, and it’d be lovely if it was more, too.’

I feel like as a result I enjoyed the anticipation for the game far more than people who immediately and cynically wrote it off as a game that would obviously disappoint, or the people who decided that the game would be the Last Game You’ll Ever Need.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think there’s a sweet spot between naivety and cynicism that still allows us to enjoy a game’s pre-release period - and sure, sometimes be disappointed.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot when looking at the Twitter response to Anthem which has really run the gamut of responses.

So what about you? Do you consciously avoid disappointment, and if so, how come?

(One thing I think is fair that I’ve previously heard said to me is that if you have a pretty limited amount of money to spend on games then it becomes more important to temper enthusiasm since the choice of what to buy becomes much more of a factor. No use becoming super-excited about 10 releases this year if you can only afford 3 of them.)


So what about you? Do you consciously avoid disappointment, and if so, how come?

Indirectly. I consciously avoid the reliably unrealistic excitement surrounding video game releases, and if that leads to less disappointment, that’s just gravy. I don’t mind the emotion, but I live my life according to a few principles, one of which is this: Be as little like an entitled gamer shithead as is possible.

Not that disappointing me provokes that all too familiar response, but even being in an area adjacent to it gives me chills.

(I’m not at all casting aspersions on anyone who keeps a relatively calm head in the face of disappointment, just those who totally don’t.)

Maybe there’s something to be said for doing one’s part in keeping the general expectation closer to the ground, if it helps avoid–or even mitigate somewhat–shitstorms like No Man’s Sky, where devs have their lives threatened. Like you said, a healthy balance is the ideal, but given the prototypical gamer’s relationship with reality, that ship might done already sailed.


I make a habit of resetting expectations as I experience stuff. I’ll expect something is what I’m watching/playing indicates that I should, not because the marketing material said so, or because I’d let my imagination run wild with possibilities. If you can adjust expectations based what’s actually thrown at you, trust me: you can enjoy a hell of a lot more stuff for all it’s weird and wonderful quirks.

A part of that is knowing when to get off the marketing bandwagon and just stop watching trailers, and when to just disregard huge chunks of what the marketing is throwing at you. Because most of the time, marketing departments are so far removed from what the developers want to convey with a game that it’s hard to trust what they show won’t misrepresent the game in some way that will set you up for disappointment. I feel like this is better in movies, but it still applies.

There’s a great Hidetaka Miyazaki quote about making a good game requiring you to lie through your teeth to everyone higher-up than you. I don’t agree with it per-se, on a grant term, but in his position? With the Dark Souls’ marketing department as legendarily out of touch with the game as it is? I think he’s 100% right about his own position. God I wish he didn’t have to deal with Capcom deliberately marketing his stuff to the kind of assholes that people now associate with that series. And I know this sounds like a tangent, but really the Dark Souls situation is what happens when the marketing goes for the wrong kind of people altogether, so it’s a pretty good example to me of why, at the very least, you can’t just approach how you consume marketing material thoughtlessly.


years of emotional conditioning I guess. disappointment is my single least favourite experience because it is sad and also you are left with memories of you pre disappointment as a naive chump. I dunno, it will probably take years of therapy to really root it out.


Ultimately, I think disappointment can be a useful tool for broadening your language/being more critical about what you consume. With disappointment, you have a frame of what you thought could have been better or more interesting about something, and where it fell short.

But it does sting! The worst part about it is the feeling that you wasted so much time on something that didn’t pay off. But I think you can turn it into something useful! You just kind of have to push to connect your experience with your expectations and churn them into words. It can help you find more things you WON’T be as disappointed by, I feel!


I’ll remember a good game. I’ll remember a bad game and laugh (hopefully). A game that skirts on disappointment will generally just have thoughts that frustrate me (doing this and that could improve it but it won’t happen)

Or just be forgettable. It feels like were entering this time where being like a 5/10 is worse than 1 or 2/10


I like the thought-experiment of asking what we can appreciate about being disappointed. I tend to think of these types of things too generally and then hyperbolically. So I now find myself wondering “Is my car breaking down on the way to a concert I’ve been looking forward to and spent too much on something I can appreciate?” It is, but I think I’d be cheating myself not to fully experience the disappointment in that moment and feel the pings of it when I remember back.


I agree that hype is it’s own, separate phenomenon that can be enjoyed. I think there are a few reasons people avoid disappointment. The first is the monetary issue you touched on. Games tend to be expensive, and long, so getting less than what you expect hurts that way. Another is just sheer optimism: people want things to be good, generally speaking. When a game disappoints, there’s also a sense of loss for what it could’ve been. I think cultivating an attitude that appreciates the games that do exist, and not mourning the ones that don’t, is healthy, but ultimately it’s more effort and mental acrobatics than simply rejecting anticipation.


I’m Scottish, so disappointment is a natural state.



I am a fan of the hype cycle. I don’t mind being disappointed (when it comes to entertainment, anyway!), because there’s always something else around the corner, or some gem I missed because I wasn’t paying attention. I adore that BG&E2 trailer, and it made me super excited. I remain unconvinced it’ll ever be released, but that doesn’t stop my excitement.

Bring on the hype. Let me drown in it. Mmmm. That good good hype.