The onslaught of fall releases, the yearly cycle we've all grown accustomed to, has arrived. Even now gamers are crawling out from under their piles of screenshots, concept art and public relations ad campaigns to reserve the games they dreamed of during the long summer hibernation. Though some will succeed, many will not. It is time to throw aside our accumulation of exagerated promises and prepare ourselves for disappointment.
It is no surpise we've grown cynical. Videogame hype has grown to epic proportions. Rumors are leaked years ahead of schedule and reviews hit the interwebs well before release dates are even set. Most previews read like puff pieces, releasing the supposedly best aspects of a game that is not even released yet.
The result is a slew of promises that are hard to keep and growing suspicion of all videogame news. All of which, I argue, is a healthy outcome. There is in fact a unappreciated benefit of hype.
Publishers love getting us excited about their upcoming releases. We are that much more likely to buy the game if we've been spoon fed stylish, pre-packaged information. Some of their efforts can get pretty ridiculous. According to PR stooges, every Nintendogs clone is the most innovative piece of visual mastery of to hit the store shelves. It's hard to get excited about the another traditional genre game, hence the promised paradigm shifts for even the most mundane FPS rip-off.
Exagerated claims create high expectations for the developers to meet. If the game fails to meet these expectations, as many do, it still accomplishes some important tasks. Firstly, it promotes ingenuity because it is precisely what we are promised.
Videogame hype puts so much importance on innovation that it creates a demand for work that stretches outside the box; a demand that might not have otherwise been there. There are plenty of consumers who are satisfied with just another sequel to an existing game. The cynics with higher than normal expectations want unique and fresh experiences, and they are vocal about it.
Secondly, hype encourages the discussion of the yet unrealized potential of videogames. The releases that have the most buzz this season claim to dramatically change the status quo. If all goes according to plan, how we view certain genres and participate in storytelling will never be the same. Fable II, Mirror's Edge, Resistance II, have asked us to think about character development, non-violent FPSs, and multi-player teamwork and they haven't even come out yet.
If these games ultimately play just like their predecessors, we will still get something out of the hype surrounding their launch. Gamers and developers alike have used these games as a launching point to discuss the future of the videogame world and the place these mechanics have in it. Participants in this dialogue aren't mearly reacting to the games they play, but actively shaping how they will progress. When our expectations aren't met, developers have that much more incentive to satisfy our demands on the second time around. Hype is essential to innovation as an examination of a series of trial and error.
By all means, take your time to enjoy the games you love, but I encourage you to always be a little less than satisfied. Hop on the net, go to gametrailers, kotaku, or any other industry news source, and get excited about something; be it the next Animal Crossing or Resident Evil. If it flops, at least you can use its failure to hone in on where you would like to see videogames progress. If it succeeds? Well just think how exciting that will be.