Well, maybe I should say too cynical. With E3 and all its racket behind us, I came to the realization that gaming cynicism is rampant and tends to be my go-to reaction whenever I see anything even remotely exciting to do with video games. Granted, this year’s E3 was not all that exciting to begin with – not too much in the way of surprises, really. Nonetheless, I still can’t help but feel disappointed in myself for how I reacted. However, the more I thought about it, the more I came to the understanding that the fault for my cynicism does not lie with me, but in how the gaming industry has decided to conduct itself. This is not all just a symptom of E3, but an ongoing problem. E3 is just the example at hand.
Cynicism and skepticism have become part of the norm in much of the gaming media world, from content producers to people posting comments. Some have even made their cynicism towards gaming a part of their persona, something they gladly put as a key part to their personality.
That’s all well and good, but I’m tired of cynicism being the go-to reaction in a large majority of cases. I wish I hadn’t rolled my eyes as often as I did during many of the presentations at E3 or thinking “yeah right.”
This all seems most poignant considering the recent debacle surrounding Watch Dogs on PC. What was shown two years ago at E3 2012, was quite frankly mind-blowing graphics-wise and many PC gamers were incredibly excited for the day they may get their hands on the game. However, the product sold looked nothing like what was shown – to the great dismay of many (the frame rate and stuttering issues aside). That is just one recent example of cynicism winning the day. A moment where many cynics thought “I knew it,” or said “I told you so.”
To the cynic, and myself included, much comes across as too good to be true. The Division looked incredibly cool when I first saw it, but considering the Watch Dogs issue, I am even more inclined to look at Ubisoft with a greater distrust – more than before.
I could write a book listing examples where companies and other games have done something similar with a game trailer, but let Watch Dogs just serve as a good example of what I’m getting at. Those kind of actions from companies like Ubisoft creates distrust, leading to far more cynical media and consumers.
It is probably unfair to call it straight out lying to the public about a game, but it is definitely not too harsh to call it manipulation. That is just one form, it comes in many others.
Game companies seem to break a cardinal rule of writing in the way they present games, they tell far more than they show. Even when we think we are getting shown what a game looks like, we don’t really see what it will be like at all. The recent look at Rainbow Six: The Siege serves as a good example of that. The so-called “gameplay” shown was noting more than a choreographed short film. Ubisoft no doubt carefully chose what was shown and how it was presented. What they presented looked like a game with heavy emphasis on teamwork, but who actually believes that when the game releases that any match will play even a fraction like what was shown? Absolutely nobody believes that, and if they do, well maybe those are the sort of people Ubisoft hopes to have as viewers.
Just as with the Watch Dogs example, here too are so many examples that it would be nearly endless. This happens a lot when what gets people’s attention is a cinematic released for a game and nothing else – which happens far too often. Here’s a list of a few games that were “shown” to be really cool, but turned out far differently: Brink, Spore, Lair, Medal of Honor (2010), Homefront, Daikatana, and many, many more.
In a similar vein, games often promise far too much than what they actually deliver – I’m talking about you Peter Molyneux. I got this feeling more than any other while watching E3 this year. Too many games were making promises they couldn’t hope to deliver on. For example, many game this year promised a lot of exploration by pointing to the mountains in the background and saying that gamers could actually reach them. Sure, that may be true, but it implies something much cooler than just reaching those mountains. It implies that exploration to the level of Skyrim, or beyond. Unnecessary hype that only has the potential for harm in the end.
I especially had this feeling while looking at No Man’s Sky. It promises far too much for it to actually live up to it. It is incredibly ambitious, and I hope that it is actually great, but it will likely be nothing to the level of what is promised. The same could be said for Assassin’s Creed Unity. At its core it has Assassin’s Creed, but what was shown promises a vibrant open world with many different things to interact with. We’ll just have to see. But, as the industry has taught me, I won’t hold my breath.
Part of all of this has to do with how the gaming society hypes up a game. However, the hype surrounding most games, is industry created and fostered. Games like Half-Life 3 are anomalies. It is through the promises mentioned above, the interesting cinematics and trailers, and the flat-out manipulations like Watch Dogs, that hype is built around a game.
Do gamers contribute to the hype? Of course. However, usually what is hyped is very ambiguous, or just flat-out lies. Fable turned out to be a pretty good game, but it was nothing like what Peter Molyneux promised. The same goes for many of the other games discussed here. It is through the lies and the vagueness of phrases like “you can actually go to those mountains” that create the unsubstantiated hype among most gamers.
Too often throughout E3 were we told what we could do in a game, and not actually shown it working. Promised that a game will be one way, hoping hype will be created for it. Games like the new Star Wars Battlefront, the new Mass Effect, and a few other new IPs without names. There is no point in telling us what a game will be like, especially at something like E3, without showing some of the game itself, unless the companies wanted to create hype through their lies, manipulation, and promises they just can’t or won’t keep.
I am really tired of having to be cynical, but if I’m not , the gaming industry will just take advantage of my gullibility. As it is now, cynicism and skepticism are many gamers most valuable tools in a time where they have to be cautious to not be taken advantage of.