Great Expectations

When i get a new game, my excitement ranges from “cool, this should be fun” to “holy ****, I can’t wait to play, get me home to play and leave me alone for 24 hours or I’ll snap!” The latter has become rarer as I’ve aged and developed that thing called patience, but I still know what its like to be absolutely dying to play a game. And sadly, as I’m sure most gamer’s have, I’ve been burned by my expectations. Sometimes a “holy ****” game, that you’ve counted down the days for, that looks like the coolest new idea you’ve ever seen, or perhaps the best sequel to your favorite series, just doesn’t live up to personal hype. I pop the game in, shaking with excitement as it starts and I begin the game, maybe the story starts with a bang and for a brief moment everything is right with the world, and then suddenly or not, the game lets me down. Other times, I hear briefly of a game from a friend, or read about a game online but don’t get caught in the hype, and then I buy it late, perhaps on sale, and my mind gets blown. It’s become apparent that my personal expectations and excitement for a game can drastically effect my experience and enjoyment when playing.

In 1991 the original Sonic the Hedgehog was release for the Sega Genesis. It was loved by many, including myself, and became a commercial success. Over the three years following Sega released Sonic 2, Sonic CD, Sonic 3, and Sonic & Knuckles, all of them generally well received. When 3D games became the norm Sega brought Sonic to 3D on the Dreamcast with relative success in Sonic Adventure and it’s sequel. Fans of Sonic games (like me) could trust Sega to bring them great high speed experiences through Sonic games. And this is where gamers got burned. Not to say that every Sonic game since the Dreamcast has been a failure, many of them hit or miss with various gamers and some have been generally accepted. But after the Dreamcast the average quality of sonic games took a downturn, and the series has become a symbol for what happens when a good character is badly taken care of. When I first played Sonic the Hedgehog, the 2006 want-to-be-reboot for the Xbox 360, I had fallen for the advertisements and hoped that the experience would be at least on par with Sonic Adventure. The game started well, and in the end I don’t regret playing it, but I felt like a kid who was told he was going to Disney Land, but instead was taken to a county fair.

It is a far more positive experience to be surprised by a game I haven’t heard much about. In November 2001 Halo: Combat Evolved, the first of the Halo series, was released for the original Xbox. I had minimal interest in the Xbox at the time, and had never been a huge fan of first person shooters so I ignored Halo. Aside from hearing some recommendations from friends and playing a very short stint at a party the game stayed out of my reach until my parents purchased an Xbox sometime in late 2002. From word of mouth I had reached the “cool, this should be fun” stage of expectation for Halo, but nothing more. Long story short, I’ve since become not only a Halo fan, but an avid FPS player. Another memory: In 2001 I was in a Target store’s games section and they had a PS2 demo kiosk running some game I’d never heard of. I hopped on and played around for 5 minutes, expecting nothing special as it was just a kiosk game, and I got hooked. When I later bought a Playstation 2 I bought myself a copy as soon as I could. That game was Ico. When I played through it, having only played 5 minutes, I was excited, but still hesitant to expect too much from it since I didn’t know anyone who had played it. Again, my expectations were blown out of the water and I had one of my most memorable gaming experiences.

I don’t think anyone can completely forget what they think they know about a game when they play it, but perhaps we, as gamers, should try to temper our preconceived excitement. It would be bad to go into a game with a negative outlook, but perhaps for the sake of the game we shouldn’t allow ourselves to have unattainable expectations. Or, for the sake of improving games as a media, should we always go into games with the highest expectations, and allow ourselves to nit-pick about the smallest flaws? I propose that all gamers should begin a new game with only the expectation of a fun experience and allow the game to provide the rest. If we can simplify our expectations to this point as much as possible, hopefully we can objectively view a game for its strengths and weaknesses regardless of what we thought the game was before we played it. Holding on to objectivity is always a challenge, but if we are self-aware about our expectations, it may allow us to enjoy games for what they are, not what we wish them to be.


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