Days, if not weeks or months before the release of a game I’m looking forward to I start to get excited. Excited at the prospect of experiencing something new. Whether that be a story, a compelling game play loop or a co-op experience I will try to learn more about it before I go in. I was always the kid that would read the manual and pour over the lore and maps that were included in a boxed release; especially the Everquest and World of Warcraft manuals and more recently the Witcher 3. These days I’m more likely to discuss the game with friends or search for someone’s take on the latest trailer. I want to know more.
I want that information. I want to know what I’m getting into, who everyone is and the world I’ll encounter. What weapons, if any, will I use and who against. Can I customise my character or what racial bonuses can I obtain (especially in my beloved fantasy rpgs). I consume like no other but this doesn’t happen often. Over my gaming life perhaps 10s of games have made me feel this way. It’s mostly rpgs or story heavy games that catch my eye. I remember wracking up a rather large phone bill over my families dial up Internet searching for information on Metal Gear Solid 2. Similarly I read through the, now infamous, strategy guide for Final Fantasy 9 before even starting the game. These were just to get a taste of what I would experience. In the modern gaming world we can be bombarded with information before a release. Teasers, trailers, beta weekends and previews are so readily available I actually now limit the information I seek. I want my anticipation to build until that release, for it not to be sated by seeing too much. I’ve had the same level of excitement for two games recently in Metro Exodus and The Division 2. I have however approached each game differently to maximise my excitement. In Metro Exodus I consumed the short trailers shown in the weeks before release. I know a little about the larger world having played Metro: Last Light and wanted to know how this new instalment fits into that, nothing more. With the Division 2 I’ve steered well clear. I watched the trailer from last years E3 but I was saving myself for the beta, to experience a portion of the game. These two different strategies worked well.
Anticipation, however, can be a double edged sword. The build up to a release is exciting. Excitement that usually culminates in having a physical game in my hands (or mostly these days seeing the thumbnail after a download). This excitement should continue whilst I load and play the game but it doesn’t always. This isn’t because I’m not enjoying an anticipated game; there’s a number of reasons why I’m feeling something other than my initial anticipated thoughts. Usually that’s driven by the game itself. Metro Exodus is tense, dark and brutal, and I’m consumed by it. It does a fantastic job of drawing you in. It makes you cautious when moving into a room, scares you even if you think it’s coming and allows that moment of reprieve to congratulate yourself on surviving. That in itself is its own kind of excitement and what I was anticipating when playing. Like Metro I am still excited for The Division 2 but having experienced the game this has changed from my initial anticipation into something different. I wanted more from the Division, and it is just that. I wanted a multiplayer experience which it is. But playing it alongside a friend makes me want more. More shared experiences. More gratification from teamwork. I didn’t realise how big that pull was and it has me wondering if there are other games which I can get that from better suited to myself and my friends.
So, anticipation can also be a bane. If a game doesn’t live up to the ‘hype’ it can be a disappointment. We do need to realise though, that the initial feeling which has you excited may not be what you experience when actually playing. We need to manage our expectations. Sometimes a game will give you exactly what you expect but that shouldn’t be the measuring stick for every release. Every game is different and may throw you in ways and places unexpected. It is the success of those conveyed feelings, accomplishments and defeats which a game should be measured on. Recently Anthem has been getting a battering from those who’ve previewed it or paid for early access. Technical issues aside complaints that it doesn’t feel how people thought it would, or that it’s not the game they were expecting are common. This failure to deliver on something is both a maker and consumer issue. Sometimes a message isn’t conveyed well and misinformation is spread by a developer or a publisher. This leads to unsustainable hype that can never be realised. On the other hand that hype can build so much in someone that their levels of expectation can far outweigh what they are going to experience. We all need to check ourselves, ground our expectation in reality a little more. See what happened with No Man’s Sky for a good example of this.
I’m getting what I thought I would with Metro Exodus. My anticipation was built on a story driven, tense, considered game. A success then. I’m still a little on the fence however with The Division 2. My feelings for it have shifted slightly and have my thoughts searching for something different to gain that shared experience from. I know it’s going to be more of The Division so I’m managing my expectation rather than letting my anticipation run away with me.