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Stop It

["Stop It" is a new editorial I am taking on which is a forum for me to express my opinions on things in the video game industry or community that need to stop. Despite the fact these things may never stop, this will, at the least, fuel discussion. In turn, discussion can fuel change. A man can pray can't he?]

Preconceived notions are something every gamer is guilty of at least once. In all honesty, it can make or break a game for one or many individuals, even before playing the game. This isn’t fair to anyone, especially yourself. It needs to stop.

One of the more common gamers that are full of preconceived notions are fanboys. If you’re too stubborn to realize you are a fanboy, just reference Jim Sterling’s Ten golden rules of videogame fanboyism. If you can identify with some of those rules, you are most likely a fanboy. In fact, if Jim burns you up with his “editorials”, odds are, you’re a fanboy.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being an avid fan of a specific console, publisher, developer, game, etc. However, when one is unable to handle valid criticism on the topic, continually creates excuses, or has nothing but complete disregard, this is a problem.

But I digress. And not because fanboyism is off topic, but instead it is an incurable disease, which is a damn shame because this article is meant to fuel discussion. And fanboys are akin to talking to an impenetrable brick wall. I hate you all with an undying passion. Enjoy some proven science below. Don’t bother commenting.

fanboy-anatomy

That felt good. Anyhow, lets get back to the issue at hand, shall we? While fanboys are at the extreme end of the spectrum, many others still find themselves making up their minds about games before having played them.

Why do opinions become so well-molded, so early? Video games are extremely unique in this regard. Why? Because they are an investment. Movies, books, television shows, and other forms of entertainment are able to lend themselves to forgiveness when disappointment occurs. Disappointment in a video game purchase, on the other hand, is an entirely different beast.

My biggest disappointment of 2009 was The Conduit. With preconceived notions of the game that would prove hardcore games can work on the Wii, I continually created excuses as to why those issues with the game weren’t issues at all. It took me a while to finally admit the game had sorely disappointed me. In fact, it was the final straw that made me put my Wii in the closet for good (not an easy thing to do at first). Let me remind you, fanboys, go away!

This was an example of preconceived notions that forced me to be stubborn about a game that was not what I had thought it would be. For some, allowing yourself to realize this is the hardest part. But once you do, you slowly realize how preconceived notions don’t do anyone any good.

It is because of this that opinions on games are something we all form the moment we hear about a game. It is then shaped as we read more about the game, see previews, commercials, etc. But for some, these opinions become fact and do not change.

Why do we do that sometimes? What purpose does it serve? When someone’s mind is made up on a game, they will continually defend it. Having a clear mind on a game is next to impossible, but being open-minded to its possibilities is not.

Stop It

Our opinions continue to build as each day passes by. Review day comes, and one of three things happen: your opinions are justified with good reviews, strongly questioned with bad reviews, or, even worse, unable to determine due to mixed reviews. While reviews should be read as nothing more than opinion pieces and not the definitive ruling on a game, the fact is that some see it as the latter, and the basis on whether to play or purchase a game.

Due to the unnecessary weight reviews have for some gamers’ decisions, it is the preconceived notions of writers, podcasters, and anyone else in the video game industry that needs to stop more so than others. For example, when I listen to a podcast and hear a person’s strong, outspoken opinion on a game that hasn’t even been released, it makes me sick. The video game industry, journalists specifically, need to be much more mindful of their preconceived notions of games that they haven’t even played. At the very least, don’t project it on others.

Biased opinions formed prior to playing a game needs to stop. As a gamer, it isn’t doing you any good. Going into a game thinking that you are going to hate it will make you find all the small things wrong with it, and it will cause you to blow it out of proportion. Going into a game thinking that you are going to love it may cause you to find every excuse as to why reviews or others’ opinions are flat out wrong. This will continue through each play-through, and it will overshadow any true appreciation you could actually have.

At the very least, those that are commonly guilty of preconceived notions, allow yourself to be open-minded. Enjoy the game for what it truly is – not what you think it is prior to playing. Allow yourself to form your own opinion of the game with a clean slate. If you are unable to do that, at least try to form your opinion after playing. And try your best to understand other people’s opinions instead of shutting them out.

Ultimately, your opinion is yours and yours alone. Allow your opinions to be exchanged in an unbiased manner. Be mindful of others’ opinions, but don’t let your own opinions ruin a game for others. More importantly, don’t let it ruin a game for you.

  1. Brilliant article Kev, really enjoyed it.

    I think justifying your purchase for a game, as you say, is particularly unique to other forms of media. Movie’s and TV shows, you’re generally not stuck with, and even if you purchase them, they rarely see a consistent 60$ price tag. Games, however, you ARE stuck with, because chances are you just dropped 60 big ones on something that you damn well want to get you 10-12 hours out of. If it disappoints you, the truth is that much harder to realize.

    Again, great read, and I look forward to future entries.

  2. This was a great article. Finally an editorial not based on biased storyline opinions!!! I understand where your coming from on this Kevin and while i’m not usually the type to do so I recently have. When Fable 2 was released I held it up high on a pillar thinking it was going to be a great experience to play. I purchased the game and threw it in and was completely disappointed in the game and noticed myself making small excuses for it. This was because I had held the game so high. Luckily the game was scratched not long after and when I picked it up a few days ago, with my opinions not high in the air, I have actually been enjoying the game. Play the games for what they really are, great article.

  3. avatar Ferahtsu

    This is the exact same state of mind that drives people to defend their god to the death. That posted list precisely describes the attitudes and behavior traits of an evangelist, as well as their debate tactics.

  4. I don’t think games as an investment is a good argument for preconceived notions, and I actually hate discussing price point in a game. When I review a game, I try to explain whether or not the game is worth playing in general – not whether or not it’s worth the money.

    Partly, this is because that decision is subjective in and of itself; since a review is an opinion piece, as you mentioned, it seems strange to tell someone that a game isn’t worth their money. They can make that decision for themselves, after all, and hopefully, they will.

    The main reason, though, is that you can get a game for any price, if you think about it. If one’s enjoyment of a game teeters on the balance of price point, then I think they’re setting themselves up to have the mindset for preconceived notions in the first place.

    Felt let down because a game you were looking forward to was not worth the 50 dollars? Would you honestly like it more if had just rented it? What if you got it for 20 dollars? How about 5? Maybe if it were free? Everyone’s guilty of coming into a game with expectations now and then, you’re right. But, thinking of games as a time investment rather than a financial investment is a good start to mitigating that.

    Also, very good article, Kevin!

  5. avatar Suryat

    Why are all of the images on articles here stretched/blown out?

  6. avatar Kid+

    Jamie made a really good point but I think you have to consider time and price when making a purchase. Let’s take Mirror’s Edge. I love that game more than most but I didn’t want to pay a full $60 price tag for it so I waited for a more reasonable price. I bought, beat it 3 times and loved it. Was that experience worth full retail to me though? The answer is no. However a game like ModWar 2 which is a game I know I will get months of play out of is worth that price tag. Same thing with Dead Space vs. Uncharted 2. Both great games but Uncharted 2 is more bang for your buck. Even a single player experience like Bayonetta is worth the money to me because it’s such an awesome game.

    I’ve been burned in the past because of high expectations and media hype. I pre-ordered The Matrix: Path of Neo based on some “enthusiastic” previews I read before the game’s release. They hyped it up so much. They said the graphics were some of the best they’d seen on the ps2 and that it was shaping up to be a great game. Then after my money was already spent and the game was released those same reviewers were the same ones that gave the game mediocre reviews. I haven’t pre-ordered a game since. I made the same mistake with State of Emergency back in the day. Opinions are just that and you know what they say about opinions.

    You know what’s funny? This past year some of my favorite games were one’s that I didn’t really care about pre-release: Batman:AA, Uncharted 2 (didn’t care for the first that much), and Borderlands. I allowed myself to be pleasantly surprised by ignoring the previews, screenshots and any other media or details made available to the public.

  7. It drives me crazy as well when a games writer or podcaster makes a judgement on a game with no playtime prior to release. If you’ve played it briefly at a trade show or industry event, or even a demo over XBL/PSN, that’s at least a more informed opinion. Enjoyed this write-up!

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