Gaming is a pastime that’s dear to most anyone who visits this website.
It’s also something that’s fun to speculate about and just outright discuss. For instance, what if there was a Dynasty Warriors game with Gundam robots? That would be damn awesome! There is and it’s not.
But why is it so easy to speculate about games? Why is it that everyone who’s played through a few titles suddenly knows outright whether a game will be spectacular or just plain sausage.
I think it has to do with the medium’s release schedule, time sink-qualities, and most of all, the wide swath that games carve through our imagination.
Games, for the most part, take a while to build. Before it reaches our store shelves, it has to pass through a QA life cycle and numerous build iterations that play with the core mechanics. Before that, there’s a vision that someone had. It’s a vision that’s also likely taken multiple revisions before coming to be a game worth producing.
During the whole production process, journalists, analysts and most importantly, gamers are freely speculating every revealed or planned feature that may only be in the design stages. Enough to the point that even new alpha builds become a point of gaming news and indistinct previews are written on every site with (or without) access.
Castle Story looks amazing right now and I can’t help but have speculative ideas swim around in my head. I am very tempted to say that the game marks the return of the god game genre, something I’ve been freely looking forward to since the failure that was Spore and the apparent end of the Black & White series. I can sit here and dream about the possibilities of attacking and defending dynamic castles but what I have in mind probably won’t ever make it to the end product. And if it does, we probably won’t even see it for a good year or so. Especially because Sauropod Studio is a two-man team working on the game part-time.
Perhaps people had the same kind of expectations for Minecraft. When first encountering the game and watching it grow in its early stages, I had grand ideas for how the game would pan out. Now it’s become a survival game filled with sparks of creativity but stuck halfway between being a truly open world game and being one with a definite end. The Ender Dragon was probably the worst thing to happen to Minecraft.
On that note, here’s a question. Was it Minecraft that failed because it didn’t live up to my expectations, or was it I that failed because I was too swept up in the idea of an infinite game?
Now, let’s remember that Minecraft’s development is still ongoing. While the credits roll after you beat the Ender Dragon, you’re never ever pushed into doing that. You can freely wander the game for ages without a care.
In effect, all my speculation did was potentially ruin my thoughts of the game. It’s never going to be wholly exciting when a game meets my expectations, because.. well.. it’s expected. But what if a game doesn’t reach the bar that I set for it?
Even if I am not in direct control of the development process myself, I still feel a sting. This game sucks. They never should have mixed Dynasty Warriors and Gundam.
Spending so much time in a game of any sort also colors your expectations of what comes next. I played World of Warcraft for quite a while. I knew of MMOs before it and I know of MMOs after it, but since I’ve spent so much time engaging myself in the (then-perceived) complexities of WoW’s systems, I never want to play an MMO that is like WoW.
It would be like a step backwards. It would be like a fresh coat of paint and nothing more. That’s why I skipped out on Aion and Rift. It’s also why I’m skipping out on Star Wars: The Old Republic. It’s going to take a lot more than NPC relationships and dialogue options to pull me in.
My hunch that I won’t enjoy SW:TOR is based on spending so much time in a similar environment. It’s the same reason why I shrink away from FPS games and 3rd person action-adventure games, too. I speculate that I won’t enjoy them much.
My speculation does nothing other than perhaps save me some money. On the other side of the coin, I could be missing out on something special.
Games afford us all the opportunity to live out someone’s fantasy in an interactive manner. Sure, we can live out the Batman fantasy by watching The Dark Knight Rises and by reading the latest comic book interpretation of the hero, but only in games can we experience the thrill of guiding Batman through close quarters combat.
By inspiring us with such freedom, they also grant us permission to use our limitless imagination on what’s to come next. When a game exceeds anything that comes before it, we’re almost given permission to expect something more grand in the next wave of games.
Grand Theft Auto III rocked everyone’s world. It allowed us a unique experience that seemed too fantastic to imagine. Now, we’re many waves into the GTA series. We’ve seen cosmetic upgrades and territorial expansion but nothing as revolutionary as GTA III was.
GTA V will never be as grand as I want it to be and I have GTA III to thank for that.
Does speculation even matter? At this point, I think not. At its best, speculation serves to entertain. At its worst, speculation ultimately ends in disappointment. From there, I sometimes find myself bitter and pessimistic, possibly forgoing otherwise great games in the process.
I learned something when I took home a used copy of MotorStorm Apocalypse from GameStop. Sometimes you find the best games without even looking. Sometimes you find your favorite games without any need for speculation.