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When Gaming Hype Disappoints

Fallout 4

I feel like I need to apologize to Fallout 4.

The hype leading up to Fallout 4 was immense.  My mom and I are both huge fans of the franchise, so from the day it was announced to its release, it was all the two of us could talk about.  We went through forum after forum reading theories about what the plot would entail and watched trailer breakdowns, trying to get a sense of exactly what we were getting ourselves into with Bethesda’s latest title.  When release day came, I went to pick up the title at midnight and eagerly began playing.  What followed, I can honestly say…was one of the most disappointing gaming experiences of my life.

It’s not like I hated Fallout 4 in my first playthrough.  The world was interesting, especially since Boston is one of my favorite cities to visit, and I did find the settlement building system to be engaging enough to keep me constantly chasing the elusive 100% settlement happiness score.  Even still, there was so much missing and I couldn’t help but be underwhelmed with the end product.  After about forty hours, I rolled the credits with a disappointed sigh.

For years, I have cited my time with this game as one of my greatest disappointments.  I have discussed my numerous issues with anyone who will listen about the lackluster story, characters, and gameplay for years now.  Still, after playing a few dozen hours of Fallout 76, I realized that, regardless of my issues with Fallout 4, I missed building settlements and wanted to start a new playthrough.  I am now thirty hours into my new vault dweller and I have come to a single conclusion that horrifies me:  I love this game.

This has sent me into an existential spiral about my own tastes.  Have they changed over the years?  Am I too hard on games sometimes?  What other games did I once find disappointing that wouldn’t be today and, possibly even worse, what if there are games I say I love that I wouldn’t enjoy upon replay?  For several weeks, these questions have been haunting me, but I think I have ultimately found a root cause for why my opinions on Fallout 4 have changed.  In short, it is a victim of its own hype.

I thought back to all of the games I’ve played over the years to find some titles that stuck out in my head as overly disappointing, as well as some that I found surprisingly good.  After a while, a trend began to appear.  Games that I find disappointing correlate overwhelmingly with games I had astronomical expectations for.  These are titles where I absolutely adored prior entries in the series, or saw a particularly stunning trailer and fell in love.  Persona 5Dragon Age Inquisition, and Fallout 4 all fit the bill here perfectly.  I stared at trailers, followed all of the wikis and social media threads, and went into all of them fully expecting them to be my new favorite game.  When they were anything less than that, my brain couldn’t help but register them all as disappointments, even though none of them were bad in the slightest.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have a number of games that I went into with low expectations, either because they weren’t in a genre I typically played or I hadn’t heard great things about them, and some of these titles became new favorites of mine.  Danganronpa, Horizon Zero Dawn, and Mass Effect:  Andromeda are all examples of this phenomenon.  When I don’t expect anything from a game, any pleasant surprise that I feel gets amplified, leaving me with a far more positive feeling about the title as a whole.

Now that I’ve identified my own bias when it comes to games, how do I fix it?  The hype cycle around video games has spun so far out of control that it’s nearly impossible not to get excited about every major release coming out these days.  Likewise, when games are disliked by fans upon release, it’s difficult not to see the player reactions on social media because people need to vent.  Still, if I’m trying to avoid going into a title with preconceived notions of what my playtime will feel like, I need to keep my expectations in check.

Danganronpa

I don’t have much of an answer here, apart from looking at trailers and hype through a critical lens.  No one has played the game in full yet, so there’s no way to know how good the title will be only from the trailers and small snippets of gameplay previews.  Moreover, sometimes I get excited about features that, as it turns out, were never formally confirmed or denied by the developers and don’t make it into the game.  It’s not fair to the game or its developers to be disappointed about the absence of a feature that was never intended to be there, so making sure that the hype isn’t getting so out of hand that it’s actually promoting falsehoods is also a key part of keeping expectations at the right level.

Fallout 4, I am sorry for ever doubting your quality, but I have been taught a lesson through this experience.  Hype is really fun and it’s great to theorize with other fans about what may or may not be in an upcoming title.  If I want to actually enjoy the end product, however, I need to be careful not to get my expectations up too high or create a game in my head that will be infinitely cooler than what is actually released.  Hopefully, I can avoid grossly over or underselling a game in the future.

Have you ever let the hype (or hate) for a game get to you?  Let me know in the comments below!

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22 replies »

  1. When Fallout 4 came out my boyfriends played it before me and was really into the story. When it was my turn the story was the thing I enjoyed the least. Too short and with a lot of plot holes. However, I did enjoy the game because to me Fallout is mostly about exploring the world. I also enjoyed the companions (Hancock and Nick were my favourites). I never got the hate about settlement buildings, though I’m not into it. I still have DLCs to finish and would probably make another run if I hadn’t other games to finish. This all to say that it depends on what the hype makes you expect from the game. If you’re too focused on having fun that you can’t experience the game or get a bit too critical is a thing. But I found some people to expect unrealistic things from game developers, which is bound to make you angry about the title you play (I’d give some Overwatch examples, but this comment is already long enough lol).

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    • I think a lot of people, myself included, sometimes hype up a game to the point that the developers will never be able to deliver a title that is good enough. What I wanted Fallout 4 to be because of how much I love the franchise is way more than this would ever be able to deliver.

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  2. This was a super interesting read, and it made me realize why I’ve come to avoid reading too much about any game I’m super excited about. Like you, I found myself being disappointed in great games, and it was so frustrating. I knew they were good, but they weren’t what I hoped and dreamed for after drowning myself in pre-release media. I still hype myself up, which sometimes leads to disappointments, but I think it happens a lot less than when I used to be the first in line for a ticket on the hype train. Thanks for the great blog!

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    • I’m definitely trying to avoid too much hype for gaming these days. I actually don’t follow most of the big developers and publishers on social media now, so if I want to see trailers, I have to seek them out myself. That way, I have more control over how much I hype myself up.

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  3. I, too, was extremely disappointed with Fallout 4, but Watch Dogs takes the cake as my biggest gaming disappointment.

    Being a born-and-raised Chicagoan, I was thrilled to finally get a virtual open world version of the city I know and love. Unfortunately, Ubisoft’s idea of Chicago is stale and souless.

    The gameplay and story were equally as disappointing. The shooting mechanics were clunky and hacking was really dumbed down. The main character was also super boring, which made it hard to care about the narrative.

    I can go on about how much I hate this game for days. The E3 demo and all of the press leading up to its release made it look like a much better game than the finished product ended up being. Thankfully I got it for free, so there wasn’t any buyer’s remorse.

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    • I’ve never played Watch Dogs, but I do know that a lot of people were disappointed with it. I suspect that if I played it, I’d probably enjoy it given that the reaction to it has been pretty negative and I would go in with really low expectations.

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  4. Hmmm…. maybe I should give it another chance…. I was much like you; I completed it, but more out of a sense of duty than enjoyment. I really didn’t enjoy the settlement crafting stuff – just not my thing, but I can see why some find it appealing. TBH though, I found an ingame companion who was just as apathetic as me so me reveled together in just causing mayhem across the wasteland! 😛

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    • I’m a huge fan of basically any sort of idle, clicking, light simulation sort of title, and settlement building sort of reminds me of that, as I’m trying to idly gain more resources, money, and happiness. I’m pretty sure that part of my brain that enjoys stuff like cookie clicker is the reason that I enjoy settlement building so much.

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  5. I’ve definitely been burned a few times by hype, mostly in the “pre-ordered before reviews” department, but I have FINALLY learned my lesson. That unfortunately means I get less excited about games, but as you’ve discovered, it’s better to go in with a lowered bar and have it blown out of the water.

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    • Horizon Zero Dawn is my best example. I knew very little about the game going in beyond robot dinosaurs, and it turned out to be one of my favorite games that year. If I had stayed glued to the social media content for the game leading up to its release, I highly doubt I would have found the end product nearly as addicting.

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  6. So true. We are often the victims of our own expectations. I’ve managed to avoid a lot of disappointment because I never had a dedicated gaming PC. I didn’t want to get too excited about games that wouldn’t even run on my computer… LOL never thought I’d be thankful for my lil rinky dink MacBook, but I do think it’s saved me from falling for the hype on countless occasions!

    Also it’s so cool your mom games as well!

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    • I know! My mom and I have a fair amount of games in common. I know we both played Fallout 4 and The Talos Principle around the same time, which led to a lot of conversations as we swapped theories and advice.

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      • I am huge mass effect fan, and I mostly blame EA for the launch problems. They are pushing huge “live service” games thinking that’s what we all want. But really we are begging for polished fun games

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  7. Most of the time, I’m way behind the releases on what I play. So, I’ve not got burnt – yet. AC Odyssey was the only game I pre-ordered – but I wasn’t disappointed. Okay, Shadow of the Tomb Raider stumped – but that was me and the mechanics not clicking with my slow reactions.

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    • I got really hyped for AC Odyssey, but only for about two days before the game’s release. Some of the titles I was most excited for were games I was looking at for years before they came out. Persona 5 is a great example, I was following that game from the very first hints of a next-gen sequel coming out, so of course the end product wasn’t going to live to what I had built up in my head.

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