If you’re an Elder Scrolls fan you were probably excited about the announcement of Skyrim and when you played it for the first time. It’s a game that somehow received the kind of mass attention that other games dream of getting. Why is this? Is it the quality of the Elder Scrolls series? Is it the nature of the kind of people the series attracts? Was it because of how over-saturated mainstream gaming had become with cover based shooters? No one can say for sure what the secret is to getting tons of hype for what seems like a niche game. The real question is did the game receive more hype than it deserved?
Personally I’d say yes and so would many others. Skyrim didn’t fail to entertain or impress but it was also broken in several ways upon launch and the way some people were hyping it you’d think it was heaven sent. The kind of hype surrounding this game before launch raised peoples standards for it to a level no feasible game can reach. When you haven’t played a game yet it’s easy to fill in the blanks with your imagination so hardcore TES fans created an internal image of the flawless game they wanted Skyrim to be and Bethesda, not being one to miss a good chance to make money, took the opportunity to promise them that perfect game. They even went as far as releasing a live action trailer of the game which only let people’s imaginations run even wilder with possibilities for the game.
Of course, this is nothing new and all blockbuster games receive a considerable amount of hype, but after playing Skyrim for some time now can we really say that this game met our expectations and fulfilled us the same way that ideal game in our heads would have? Not really, no. Instead the flaws of the game were more noticeable than they would have been if we had no prior knowledge of Skyrim’s existence before it’s release date. Imagine how much more we would have enjoyed Skyrim if it had been developed and launched in secret without anyone being the wiser.
On the opposite side of the gaming biome you have a game like Minecraft which in many ways received ‘anti-hype’. Many who looked at the game initially were unimpressed or thought the game looked stupid overall. We’ve all had to convince at least one of our friends to give it a shot despite their protests. This lead to more people being pleasantly surprised by the addictive gameplay even in its incomplete stages of development when they finally tried it out because they weren’t expecting to enjoy the game at all initially. It isn’t hard to consider that this enhanced the amount of entertainment people got out of Minecraft overall since they weren’t given a chance to build an imaginary game in their heads that was more ideal than what they were playing before they actually played it.
Was Battlefield 3 the epic shooter that many gamers were expecting based on the trailers and previews? In some ways, yes but in other ways it wasn’t even close. Anyone who knew what to actually expect from the game received just that. A new Battlefield with the same core gameplay, a shiny coat of paint and some flashy explosions. Overall it was still a vast departure from realistic front lines combat unlike what the trailers would have had you believe. You could argue that the amount of hype actually damaged the reputation of this game along with Skyrim and others with a similar amount of hype surrounding them prior to launch. Halo 3 for some certainly wasn’t as good as what they had been expecting and waiting for. Diablo 3 will likely suffer the same fate when it’s finally released. This won’t cause the game to bomb or make people hate it, but at the end of the day if Diablo 3 were released as a new IP today without any Diablo titles before it then it would receive more praise than criticism and as it stands now the game will likely be ground into dust by players and reviewers because of the bar that has been set for it by the community.
There are two important things gamers must keep in mind when evaluating a game before its launch. What our imaginations can come up with will always be superior to any experience a game can throw at us so we shouldn’t hold games to that standard. Secondly, game trailers and advertising will always promise that a game will live up to that unreachable standard, but they never actually will. If there was ever a time when people need to learn to not evaluate the quality of a game based off of a trailer or the marketing of it, it’s today.
So should we lower our standards a bit when we get excited about upcoming games? It couldn’t hurt in the long run since we’ll likely enjoy the game more that way. The fact is that the gamers of today are spoiled by the quality of games they receive but they don’t appreciate them as much as they could because of their impossibly high standards. Lowering your expectations isn’t the same as settling for a less than satisfactory game because Skyrim was definitely satisfactory. Yes, there are ways it could have been better but overall those things shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying a game.