Pre-ordering games dilemma

I’ve watched this video today and while I agree with him that this crap is ruining the games, there is another issue. He is encouraging gamers to first check the reviews, check the gameplay videos, read about the game and read opinions from others. Of course, that’s the way to learn if the game is any good or not.

And that’s the issue I’m having with this idea. I’ve been ruining my gaming experience for years by watching all the gameplay videos, previews, descriptions and reviews. Ruining gaming experience!? What are you rambling about you may say. The thing is simple. When you watch all the previews and gameplay videos prior to actually experiencing the game yourself, this takes a massive chunk of the game experience and throws it out the window. In most gameplay previews, you see nearly all weapons in the game, nearly all enemies, you learn nearly entire story, game mechanics and behavior. And trust me on this one, playing a game that you know almost everything about just isn’t as enjoyable as the game where you’re thrown into the unknown. It’s like replaying a game you’ve already finished. It can still be a good experience, but not quite the same as the first play through experience.

If I look back prior to broadband connection plugged into my home, all I could see about the games were words from friends, trailer that arrived on a gaming magazine CD and a demo at a later stage. And that was about it. Valve was pretty good at marketing their stuff even back then. Half-Life 1:Uplink was released as a demo. Of a level that wasn’t even featured in the final game. Was that intentional, I don’t know. The game was so terrifying by first encountering headcrabs in that dark hallway equipped with nothing but crowbar. And later encountering the deadly marines. Or for example System Shock 2. I’ve encountered it as a demo on a gaming magazine CD. It was a first level, the Med Sci deck of Von Braun spaceship. Being thrown into this new unknown game universe was so exciting I spent almost hours in training simulators shooting androids and stacking bottles of orange juice. I’m not even kidding. It was just so radically different compared to Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, Quake etc. that I’ve played before. And then I’ve moved forward into the actual game. Experiencing the annelid hybrids in person was so intense and scary I can still remember them like it was yesterday. Quite similar was with Deus Ex. Again, initial game level. Tossed into the unknown world of Deus Ex and experiencing it for the first time. And the experience was just amazing. The reason for it was because I knew nothing about the game and how it plays. Didn’t get much info on the story or characters. And we all know Deus Ex was one of the most epic games ever made, with breathtaking complex story, breathtaking sceneries, memorable encounters, conversations, events… And for example the Need for Speed franchise. The early games were so breathtaking and intense because I didn’t know anything about them. I was a huge fan of NFS3 Hot Pursuit back then and when NFS4 High Stakes came out, I was so into it I can’t describe it. That first moment you open up the game menu and Quantum Singularity, Cygnus Rift and Paradigm Shifter soundtracks started playing while I was browsing through the cars in the showroom admiring new additions. It still make my skin crawl when I hear the above songs, because they bring back memories to that excitement I had in those days.

Things moved on and I got broadband connection. Everything was at my fingertips. I could watch all the game trailers I’ve ever wanted, could check all the descriptions and reviews straight away. Watching gameplay was something I did all the time. And I actually needed few years to realize I’m ruining my own gaming experience with that. Games were not as engaging as they used to be years ago, because I already knew nearly everything about them before I could even click the game EXE file. For example, the above mentioned Need for Speed, I watched all the gameplay videos of the later editions and the games just weren’t the same anymore. They lost that charm because I already knew nearly everything about them. I wasn’t being amazed by the new stuff encountered in the game, because I was already informed about it in advance by the gameplay videos and previews. And watching a video of someone else playing it and yourself playing the game just isn’t the same. It just smudges the line between known and boring and unknown and exciting.

So, this year (well, last year, the 2014) I’ve decided to turn a new page in my gaming book. No more watching of game previews, no more gameplay videos, no more developer interviews, nothing. All I’ll check is who’s the developer and basic info about the game, genre, brief info on what’s it about. First test subject? Alien:Isolation. You can read my review on it here. I recommend you do that because I’ve commented this same “issue” there as well. As you can see I’ve left out a lot of details from the review intentionally not to ruin the game for others.

Anyway, I only knew the game was about the iconic alien creature and that it will be a more stealth oriented game and not the usual AvP style game and I was fine with it since I love such games. I even pre-ordered game because of the Nostromo extra levels (ok I sinned here). And I was sceptical about it the entire time till it got released. And this is the first time after so many years that I’ve again experienced that pristine sensation of dwelling into the unknown world of a particular game. It wasn’t quite the same as with System Shock 2’s annelid hybrids since we are well familiar with Aliens(TM), but still, game mechanics, levels, alien behavior, it was all absolutely unknown to me. And it brought back the good old times when every game released was this unknown new experience.

Now, lets return to the complaints of the boogie2988. Yes, I agree. Tossing money into pre-orders is stupid because it just encourages them to cut out game parts and charge for them later as DLC’s. Or even worse, not even give a damn if the game is properly tested and polished because people already paid for it in advance. If it sucks, who cares, they already got our money. But on the flip side, to avoid that, you watch all the previews and gameplay videos and you ruin the game experience.

So, what can we, the gamers even do to overcome both issues? I don’t want to buy broken and crappy games, but I also don’t want to ruin my gaming experiences by knowing everything in advance…


2 thoughts on “Pre-ordering games dilemma

  1. That is a good point 😉

    I never read game reviews or pre-order or buy into any of the hype at all, but I am an odd duck who tends to like obscure games hardly anybody else is interested in. The same could be said of books and movies, so much of it is just marketing and hype, but that’s not really what gives something it’s quality and appeal. Although I imagine it is kind of fun to to be in on the new thing and have everybody on the same page, sharing the excitement.


    1. Yeah, games are often like art. The opinions often clash and I too often like games that others say they suck badly. For example the Alien Rage I’ve reviewed not long ago. I bought it out of curiosity and I had tons of fun with it. It wasn’t made by a famous developer, it wasn’t advertised at all (considering I found it 2 years after release), but it was good fun, despite majority of reviews on Steam saying negative things about it.

      I agree that sharing excitement is interesting. I remember the time when The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion was released and we all talked about it on a local gaming forum while we were playing it. And we talked about dungeons and caves and about loot you get in a certain mission and what perks are cool and which aren’t etc. I admit it, it was fun time. But these days I often buy a game and play it half a year later. For me, it doesn’t matter when I play the game. But I do miss the chatting about the game by fellow gamers. And when I do play it, the rest has already dropped the game and went for something else. Gotta work on that I guess 😀 because talking about it while you’re already playing it doesn’t ruin the experience, it actually makes it better to a degree.

      Liked by 1 person

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