Why Aren’t The Beginnings of Games Treated As Spoilers?
Posted on Friday, September 20 @ 15:00:00 Eastern by Paul_Tamburro
To me as someone who grew up with the likes of GamesMaster and CVG, the elongated death of video game magazines at the hands of gaming websites such as the one you’re reading right now hasn’t exactly been a joy to witness.
I understand that just as CDs made way for iTunes, so too did paper have to make way for pixels, but as we’ve found ourselves inundated with instantly obtainable news on all of the latest video game releases, our sense of entitlement has led game publishers to fight among themselves to keep their upcoming releases in the public eye. There is so much information being circulated on the internet by GameRevolution, Kotaku, IGN and every other gaming site worth a grain of salt, that to keep us interested in their games, publishers need to keep peddling new information to us.
Take Grand Theft Auto V. Rockstar has been releasing a steady stream of information regarding their latest life-affirming sandbox game for as long as I can remember. As another day goes by where I find an image of joint protagonists Michael, Franklin, and Trevor slapped on the homepages of all my favorite websites, I begin to forget what the pre-GTA V world was like. Was there ever such a thing? Or was I conceived and then nine months later prompted to crawl from out of my mother’s womb to my computer desk, open Google Chrome, and proceed to gorge on every preview, trailer, and snippet of leaked gameplay footage I could find? I can’t remember a time when GTA V wasn’t ubiquitous, and I’m starting to wonder whether such a time even existed.
You can’t get this kind of coverage with video game magazines, because it isn’t physically possible for them to do so. The editors can’t update them in real-time. Back when they were our only option, if you wanted to read more news regarding your most anticipated upcoming game, you simply had to wait until next month for more information regarding it, or buy another magazine and hope that it told you something different. I remember reading one news story on Animal Crossing for the Gamecube at least twenty times in one week—such was the intensity of my excitement for it to make its way into my clammy paws. Nowadays I can find myself already bored with a game before it’s even been released.
But I get that some people prefer having gaming news fed to them constantly rather than having to wait 30 days for it. Games are an expensive hobby to maintain, and by knowing more about each new release, you can more accurately judge whether or not you will regret forking out your hard-earned cash for it. However, I feel that our eagerness to know more and more about our most heavily anticipated upcoming titles has led to publishers feeding us an unnecessarily large amount of information, gameplay footage and the like, which is all contributing to the gaming community’s general impatience. This is then in turn leading publishers to pander to our impatience by revealing more and more of their games to us, with the latest and saddest trend being to reveal their entire opening segments.
You can often tell whether or not you are going to fall in love with a game in its opening 10 minutes, but rather than having to buy the game to experience this, many publishers seem to have come to the conclusion that it’s more logical for those 10 minutes to be uploaded to YouTube, so that those who were perhaps on the fence about purchasing it will be convinced into doing so. With hundreds of thousands of playthroughs of games being uploaded to the video-sharing website every second, what difference does it really make if BioShock Infinite’s creative director Ken Levine walks you through Booker’s first moments in Columbia a week prior to the game’s release, when the likes of PewDiePie and co. will be doing the same just a few days later?
But regardless of how successful this business practice is when it comes to maintaining the public’s interest in an upcoming title, I find it unfortunate that the openings of video games are now being used as promotional material. Oftentimes the most memorable part of a video game is when you’re thrust into its world for the first time. Galloping towards the first Colossus in Shadow of the Colossus, hopping on a motorbike with ‘Billie Jean’ playing on the radio in Vice City, getting your first glimpse of Rapture in the original BioShock—the excitement the player feels when experiencing these moments cannot be replicated by watching them in a YouTube video, but somewhere along the line someone decided that anything that happens in a game’s first 15 minutes isn’t important enough that it should be left for the player to experience themselves.
I now try to avoid as much pre-release hype as I possibly can (which is rather difficult when you’re a gaming journalist). I even steer clear of reviews, as reviewers tend to “set the scene” by detailing the first 30-60 minutes of a game, something which I try tremendously hard not to do in my own writing. However, the majority of you are likely more curious than me and will follow all the latest news regarding the games you’re most excited for, only to find yourself unwittingly spoiling some of that game’s best moments. As such, I think we’d all be better off if publishers kept as tight-lipped about their game’s openings as they do their finales.