A Good Game Can Stand On Its Own Merits

In: Articles by Nick "Alsop Live" Dinicola

23 Jan 2011

expectationsI now have a new perspective on games, thanks to Need For Speed.

I hated Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit at first. I hated the handling — the fact that the cars had a sense of weight and felt slow to respond. It seemed like bad design. Why make it possible to crash into traffic, and then give me an unresponsive car? I hated how the specs for some cars were “classified.” I was afraid to use them, worried that I’d be tricked into using a slower car. I hated the shortcuts that weren’t actually shortcuts, and the lack of damage compared to Burnout games. But I kept playing.

Eventually, however, Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit won me over. Once I reset my expectations and took the game on its own merits as a Need for Speed game and not a Burnout game.

And that’s when I realized that much of my appreciation of games has to do with what I expect from them before I even open the box.

What also helped me like NFS: Hot Pursuit was unlocking faster and more responsive cars so that now the game actually does feel comparable to Burnout.

All of which raises an interesting dilemma: How do you manage your expectations for a game? Thanks to demos, previews, reviews, twitter, forums, and the like, you can get a pretty good idea of what a game offers without ever playing it, and the expectations we create thanks to all that talk plays a major role in how we respond to the game when we actually do play it.

I enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII, even the linear parts, but I knew exactly what I was getting into before I put it into my PS3. How would I have responded if I had been expecting a semi-open world? I had high hopes for Hydrophobia (based on previews and demos) and Fable 3 (based on brand name and a great opening segment), but both games failed to give me what I expected: In Hydrophobia’s case, a competent puzzle-shooter; and in Fable 3, an RPG with meaningful choices. With Hot Pursuit, I went in expecting Burnout, and was angry when I got Need for Speed.

Regardless of fair or unfair expectations, how long do you give a game before you finally stop playing? Is it a set number of hours, does it change by genre, or is it just a gut feeling? Personally, after playing Hot Pursuit, I think it’s an irrelevant question because if you have to ask it you already have an answer: If you ever ask yourself “Why am I still playing this game I hate?” then you probably don’t hate it. And if you ever ask “Why am I not playing this game I like?” then you probably don’t actually like it as much as you think you do.

In comparing the four previously mentioned games I have to dismiss Hydrophobia and Fable 3, since I played both to completion, but only for review. That leaves me with Final Fantasy XIII and Hot Pursuit, a game that I haven’t touched in five months and a game I now genuinely love. I think the dichotomy between those two proves that certain games will hook me no matter how much I hate them going in, and other games will inevitably prove to be forgettable no matter how much I like them going in. Expectations be damned.

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1 Response to A Good Game Can Stand On Its Own Merits

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Robbway

January 31st, 2011 at 6:39 am

I have had a similar experience with this game. Fans of Burnout should start with the Cop missions. I’d also like to mention the racing missions have some serious rubberband AI! It can help you as well as hurt you.

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