The Collective Anticipation

29 Oct

[Cross-posted on Destructoid]

Assassin’s Creed was built up to be a period piece, a historical thriller and a look inside the mind of ancient assassin.  Gamers were preparing to gear up and step into those medieval shoes.  With such a lack of actual information gamers were clinging to a premise.  And when that premise turned out to be a lie when they slid the disk into their machine, a crowd of spiteful gamers let everyone know that they thought the game was complete garbage.  Ubisoft had wasted their time and money on a failure of a game.

But you don’t really believe that, do you?  As someone who read about the leaked premise, I wasn’t surprised by the game taking a turn into sci-fi territory within the first five minutes.  What I witnessed was a simple but well executed action game, that in fact benefitted from its simple nature and leant itself to real free roaming.

Did the marketing team at Ubisoft fail catastrophically, or were gamers living in two different realities?  Well the game was in fact critically hailed (even Zero Punctuation liked it) and sold extremely well, so it should be safe to say that the game is not objectively as poor as some gamers made it out to be.  Prospective players had built their own idea of the experience over the game’s long road to release, and when they saw that the actual game ran counter to their previously held beliefs, they exploded.  Call it cognitive dissonance — they couldn’t accept that Assassin’s Creed was not the game they thought they would love, and so they just had to hate it.

And now it’s happening again with Dead Space.  Reviewers have been kind to it so far, and it has an 89 on Metacritic — so expect a sequel.  Yet the gaming audience is divided again.  Some people love it, and some people fervently hate it.  Some people find it scary, and some people don’t.  But how can that be?  Games are a relatively subjective medium, but there’s something fishy going on here.

Most of the complaints railed against the game are easily dismissible — it copies mechanics from other games, but what game doesn’t?  It isn’t scary, it’s just tense; but the same can be said about Resident Evil.  They seem more like invented dislikes than genuine flaws.  People have chosen to not enjoy Dead Space, perhaps before they have even laid hands on it — and maybe they never will.

And because I’m a professional unprofessional psychologist, I’m going to label this the ‘collective anticipation’.  People who see eye to eye have a tendency to congregate and bounce their beliefs off one another for affirmation.  “Dead Space sucks because it’s derivative” says one gamer, and another answers back “Yeah, it’s shit”.  And so for those two gamers, Dead Space is going to be shit.  But it isn’t just two gamers who share the same opinion, it’s hundreds and thousands, maybe more.  Obviously it isn’t enough to negatively impact a game’s sales, but they are a loud minority.

So next time you’re yapping about a game, ask yourself if you’ve placed yourself in an echo chamber — because you might be missing out on a good time.

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2 Responses to “The Collective Anticipation”

  1. A. Justice October 29, 2008 at 6:00 pm #

    Who didn’t like DeadSpace?

    HALO 3 BEST GAME EVAR.

  2. nickhalme October 29, 2008 at 7:05 pm #

    Well, you’re not playing it so…you? 😛

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