The Less You Know
Information overload and hype are ruining games before we even play themon June 27, 2013 at 8:00 am
E3 has just come and gone, and like every year, it leaves us frothing at the mouth like a kid with five packs of Pop-Rocks into his gullet. We get all jacked up from the sugar, run around and shout about stuff, then come crashing down from our high. A constant stream of trailers, preview articles, hands-on articles, hands-off videos, teasers, hints, winks, and nods are all shoved into our brain at an alarming rate. We go in hungry, order everything on the menu, then become over-stuffed like Mr. Creosote.
Would monsieur like a wafer thin mint?
In this day and age, information overload isn’t uncommon. Instead of having to wait, we get our news slowly trickled to us as the day moves on, instead of in great big lumps like in the past. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but with how easy it is to communicate, getting monthly, weekly, even daily updates on an upcoming game’s progress is what we’ve all come to expect.
Most people would consider that a good thing. It helps keep gamers interested in what’s coming out by keeping them constantly informed and never giving any game a chance to leave a gamer’s sight. Hype has never been as ever-present in the game industry as it is now.
And you know what? I kind of hate it.
Games used to just be magical little pieces of plastic that would whisk you away to different worlds. You used to be able to walk into a store and have no clue what would await you when you went inside. There was rarely ever any knowledge of release dates and no one was ever pushing you to pre-order anything. If you knew about a game coming out, it was because you saw it in a magazine and that magazine only came out once a month. I liked that. I liked having to WAIT.
You had time to actually imagine what a game would be like. You would pick up a box off a shelf and think, “This looks cool. I wonder if it’s any good.” With no expectations of what would be in the store, you would want to look at everything, to make sure you weren’t passing something up.
This transferred over into renting games, too. Renting games was always a much more common experience, since games are expensive, and you knew you could take bigger risks. Your decisions didn’t always pan out and sometimes they resulted in a wasted weekend, but the experience stuck with you. I have some of my best gaming memories based solely off rentals, good and bad.
Games were bought through chance or word of mouth. If you went over a friend’s house to play, they would have a completely different selection of games than you. Seeing what games they bought and seeing if those were fun, was something really special. It was a time in gaming when ignorance truly was bliss and we were all walking around hungry, but given just enough to be satisfied.
Of course, gaming doesn’t need to go back to the way it was. I’m not suggesting that. It can’t. However, I think there are lessons we can take back when we look at the past. Ways to preserve a bit of that wonder, without completely forgoing modern streams of information.
When we boil it down to a syrupy concentrate, it simply means we have to stop over-indulging. Like everything in life, we need moderation and this applies to learning about upcoming games, as well. We get so excited and so pumped, that we don’t realize that it’s actually GOOD for us to know less. It’s GOOD for us to let ourselves forget about a game for a little while.
When we cut ourselves some slack or just apply some willpower and stop looking at the blogs and Twitter feeds, I think we can actually become MORE excited about the games we want.
You may ask, “How can that be? How do you keep the hype train a-rollin’ when you’re not constantly thinking about a game? HOW DO YOU SLEEP?!”
For me, being able to forget means it’s off my mind and if it’s off my mind, I can let it settle into the deep recesses of my brain and remember it later. When I’m reminded about a game I had a prior interest in but then forgot about, it’s like Christmas all over again. “Oh yeah, I remember this game looking pretty cool!” I do it with indie games on PC all the time.
I’ll see something pop up on Steam that I remember thinking looked cool months back and get a little giddy because I can download a new game that was a legitimate surprise for me.
Give me the genre, a few screenshots or a short video, and a brief explanation of the core mechanics, and that will almost always be enough to sell me. I don’t NEED the extra information, but I often find it anyways because it’s always just… there. Ready for my eyeballs to gawk at like a fat kid staring hungrily at a cheeseburger.