In: Articles by Nick "Alsop Live" Dinicola23 Jan 2011
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.