The Circle of HypeApril 6, 2008
Oh, how I do love delicious puns and their ability to deliver me some Lion King pictures.
A few hours ago, I stumbled over the threshold of my doorway after a weekend retreat (the kind where you work to make other people have a good time, but for you it’s a huge dose of exhaustion and scheduling and decisions). It was great to get away no matter what — cutting the media umbilical cord from my brain and just experiencing nature was delightful. As much as I’m looking forward to WAR, or playing WoW, or am into Battlestar Galactica (hint: I might well be a Cylon), these things are all secondary in my life and I need to make sure they stay that way.
The weekend away helped to remind me of some fundamental truths about the waiting/hype cycle previous to the release of a much-anticipated title. When I read this thread over on WHA forums, I felt I had a little something to share.
Waiting for a game to come out is a vicious, quick-shifting, mentally draining process. It has broken thousands of would-be fans who unwittingly get caught up in a nasty little cycle that goes something like this:
1. There’s a potentially awesome, time-sucking game on the horizon and we just cannot wait to surrender large swaths of our future schedule (such as any baby christenings or necessary gall bladder surgery) to enganging with it.
2. Quickly, we realize there’s a problem. The game is not out yet. Our brow furrows as we consider this a rude gesture on the behalf of developers.
3. Barring an actual game to play, we flop and flounder like beached fish for information on said title. We are so desperate for information that we program our Google Reader to page us at any moment — even during the marital act of pleasure — one of the 137 blogs about this game updates. We immerse ourselves into the culture of a game not yet finished, not yet released, and not yet certain.
4. To be honest, this is a bit like drooling over a meal your cousin is going to make for you a week from now, and even though you’re not 100% sure he’s as great as a cook as you’ve heard, you hold out hope that this will be the most mouth-watering culinary spectacle since Thanksgiving: Meal of Reckoning (TMoR). However, the chicken is still frozen and he’s yet to procure the veggies and spices.
5. A developer makes a critical mistake of telling the community something. Anything. Could be a fact about the game’s progress, could be a mention of how bad his morning breath was today. Future Fans race to message forums to analyze, word by word, what this could mean for our beloved — yet unborn — baby girl. Before the day is over, that dev quote has been chiseled into solid rock tablets in many a gamer’s basement. Not that we’re trying to promote the stereotype of gamers in basements. This author does not even have a basement.
6. Good news and speculation goes to your head and reinforces the notion that this will be the greatest thing since sliced bread, and if God comes down tomorrow and offers you a free ticket into heaven right there and then, you will have to politely decline — at least until the first expansion pack is released.
7. Bad news and negative speculation cloud your day, and your friends and family have to forcibly restrain you from leaping off several not-so-high bridges out of depression. Maybe you’ve been following the wrong game, you tell yourself. Maybe the cake is a lie. Who knows?
8. And finally, whether it is because you just can’t be so overexcited about something without blowing through your reserves of adrenalin, or if it’s because your positive speculation has been trumped by someone else’s negative speculation, you drift away from the game’s scene.
But no matter who you are or where you are in this cycle, what matters in the end is when the game releases, you can check it out and judge it for what it is. Whatever we’re doing in the WAR community from now to release has absolutely no bearing or impact on what the game will be. We might be teasing and tearing ourselves to the point of distraction, but it’s just plain silly to live or die based on someone else’s (or even your own!) swiss-cheesed observations and opinions.
I’m not saying that talking about it is bad, or that we should just cease and desist with all this hype right now. Hype and previews can be a LOT of fun. We just need to make sure that, like a weekend retreat away, we regain the proper perspective on how much and why this is important at this moment in our lives.