Published on April 15th, 2014 | by Dan Stringer1
Buying Games? Judge By The Cover
Before the influx of the internet in gaming culture and opinion, our best judgement of our next software investment came from nothing more than carefully placed screenshots and convincingly worded scriptures on the back of the box. We’d spend hours browsing Electronics Boutique (RIP) for inspiration – effectively trusting the advertisements written by the publishers of the game to entice us into paying our hard-earned money for it. We were suckers, for sure, and they knew it. However, strip it back a little and compare it to the state of the industry today.
Nowadays, every positive review comes with no small amount of skepticism that the media has been ‘paid off’ by the publisher. Despite the possible absurdity (or potential validity) of such claims, we are now outraged that our decisions are being based on advertising money and the deep coffers of publishers. Notice the hypocrisy here?
Perhaps the biggest difference is that it isn’t us making the decision anymore. As the prominence of online gaming media increased, we surrendered our purchasing power to the minds of other people. We mourn the loss of innovation in the industry yet reserve our purchases for the same highly-rated annual sequels, year on year, because it’s what we played last year and well, that was alright wasn’t it? On the occasion that a new IP is released and scores well, we question the integrity of the publication and assume that the review has been somehow ‘bought’ by someone trying to buck the trend of monotony.
The overriding concern of this cycle is that we are limiting our own discovery of new ideas and unexpected highlights. Back in the days pre-internet, there were countless games that we owned and enjoyed immensely. We didn’t care that this piece of entertainment hadn’t been preapproved by the press – to me, we’d made the monetary investment based on our own sense of appeal, and in return we invested our time and commitment to the game. We all have positive gaming experiences based on our investment in a so-called ‘poor’ game. We told our friends about these games, we shared them between each other, and we all experienced this hidden gem. It was ours. The latest new creation stood as much chance of being noticed and the big-hitting behemoth – the industry moved in the ways we forced it to using the power of our own decisions.
The positive aspect of this shift is that the cream rises to the top – to a large extent, the best games are the biggest sellers. This has the double-edged effect of pushing the quality of gaming by increasing the importance of media reception, whilst simultaneously restricting the creativity that developers have free reign to use as a result of wanting to cash in on the latest trend. A big seller will produce countless offshoots of the same type, same genre and same ideas. The cyclical nature of gaming means that one success breeds multiple clones – or ‘influences’ if you want to tow the marketing line. We’ve stopped browsing. We’ve stopped shopping. We know what we are going to buy before we’ve left the house… and that’s if we haven’t pre-ordered it months in advance.
Perhaps the kindest thing we as part of the industry can do is to turn off the computer, put down the tablet, and make our own minds up on which games appeal to us personally. Experience the unexpected and simply open ourselves up to opportunities we hadn’t experienced before.
Then again, doing that would mean you wouldn’t read this. So sod it – keep the internet on and buy Call of Duty 46 when it’s released.
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