Cooling anticipation: Do I still look forward to games like I used to?

It seems like it’s been some time since I was meticulously checking my games magazine of choice for the latest news and previews, pouring over the release dates, marking off the games I most anticipated on the calendar and planned my finances accordingly. My gaming heyday, or at least the era of videogames which I look back at most fondly, was a time where monthly magazines ruled as the delivery method for games news, previews, and reviews and that was supplemented by the coming of the Internet on which I’d load up the latest screenshots on the school computers, time permitting. My console of choice was the N64, and whilst I was keeping abreast of all of the upcoming releases I would mostly be looking out for the big Nintendo releases, but especially any Rare game or the odd gem like Snowboard Kids or Space Station Silicon Valley.

Image result for N64 magazine

Back then I would be heavily anticipating a lot of games. Aside from summer in which we endured release droughts sometimes compounded by hose pipe bans, every season would have at least one, but most probably multiple games that I was obsessing over. If you asked me back then in late September or early October what games I was really looking forward to before Christmas I could have given you a list of at least five. Although scraping enough birthday and Christmas money together to get them all would be a problem, there was no lack of yearning.Image result

Fast forward to the present day and I’m an avid follower of games news, albeit via news sites, friends, and YouTube. I could rattle off a list of games coming out before the end of the year that interest me like The Walking Dead Season 3, Gravity Rush 2, The Last Guardian, Watch Dogs 2, Mafia 3 and maybe even Final Fantasy XV, but my general anticipation level is just not what it used to be.

Have videogames changed that much in my time as a gamer or is it just me? I think it is a little from column A and a little from column B. Whilst a lot has remained the same in the gaming industry, a lot has changed. More significant than any perceived shift to generic graphics focused modern era games, my anticipation for games in general has been most affected by the way we consume news and previews which has altered drastically. I personally lament that one-time monthly drop of gaming goodness that was the gaming ‘zine. I’d even have an anticipation window of when the thing would likely be delivered, rushing home and checking the post straight after school for my gaming bible.

In contrast, now we are drip fed stub articles of news and hear various titbits from all sorts of sources and it just isn’t the same. Sadly time moves on and with progress sometimes we lose what should have been cherished. If it weren’t for weekly podcasts I don’t what I would do. Of course we also have the conferences that are slicker and more of a spectacle than ever. So although we have lost things in some respects, we have gained in other areas. I’m not usually one for boarding the hype train, and I do try to temper my excitement to avoid disappointment, but when E3 or PSX rolls around I can’t help myself from jumping on.

Another factor is games take a lot longer and a lot more money to produce as they get ever more complex. Inevitably we are getting fewer games less often from the same developers who would pump out titles in the past. Going back to my earlier example of Rare, they released 11 games from 1996 to 2001 for N64. In the same length of time from 2011 to 2016 Naughty Dog only released three games. So it isn’t such a surprise that the increasing gap between games was filled with hype and speculation, so much so that we have grown so sick of hearing about some games that we lose interest in them.

I don’t know if we have shorter attention spans or if we are just that bit more demanding as consumers, but even games that were marketed well like Uncharted 4 had people wanting them to go dark and come back when the game was finally ready. Fallout 4 was hailed as being revolutionary, not for the game itself, but in terms of its marketing approach of E3 reveal and November release. Many felt that this was optimal timing to allow for some hype without allowing it to get overblown.

Image resultEvidently there are still people who allow themselves to have their anticipation whipped up in a frenzy of excitement, so it’s not like anticipation is a thing of a bygone age. Personally I never get myself so invested in a game that I need it to be good, and I certainly won’t preorder a game if I don’t know I’ll like it. For example, No Man’s Sky betrayed a lot of people’s anticipation, but at the same time those same people allowed themselves to get carried away with the hype. There are always lessons like this that teach us not to get too excited, and we do tend to get more cynical as we get older. Still, I’m probably not the only person thinking that the games coming up until the end of the year are less exciting than in years past. This is the second year in a row that there doesn’t seem to be much coming from first party developers, and there are few third party games to get the heart racing.

There’s only one game that I’m truly excited for and both figuratively and literally invested in. That game is Yooka Laylee. I have taken part in the Kickstarter and become a backer based on nostalgia and anxiousness to see what the team at Playtonic can produce. I feel like my enthusiasm is well founded considering these former Rare developers were responsible for many of the best experiences of my gaming life. I loved Banjo Kazooie so much and Yooka Laylee taps into that affinity I felt with that game and also promises a modern reimagining of a much loved classic set to hit all the right notes of nostalgia.

So does it take a trip down memory lane to rekindle my enthusiasm for upcoming games? Not exactly but it does help. E3 2016 re-enthused me, and many of the games set for release in 2017 and beyond have piqued my interest. Among them are God of War, Days Gone, Detroit Become Human, Yakuza 6, and Horizon Zero Dawn, but those can wait because right now I only have room for one game to occupy my heart.

Charlie Milroy is a writer for The Game Bolt who lives life without continues savouring every moment of his gaming life and most of his real one.

  • Jordan J. Jones

    I think about this all the time. Being 31, I feel a bit more jaded as a consumer. A bit of the imagination and youthful energy has gone away now, when I think about an upcoming release. Now, I think about the actual development of a game, sales, etc. Before, I used to think about the story itself. The characters, etc. I really got into it.

    … Also, there really was something magical about a magazine with all of the cool adverts. Being starved for news and having it all arrive in one issue. We have so much access to everything now.