I recently reported on leaked characters and stages for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royal. The piece was a brief if not spoiler heavy look at what is to be expected from the incoming fighter. In writing the article I realised that I was being a party to something I had grown to despise in the gaming scene. Our inquisitive nature has reached critical mass and it seems to be our goal to spoil our own gaming experiences. You don’t get told who the killer is in a murder mystery movie trailer so why should games be spoiled en mass?
Do I need to know that the ending to mass effect 3 will be unsatisfactory due to EA revealing, before the games launch, a DLC alternate ending? Do I want to know who the secret characters in a fighting game are, defeating the point of the term secret? Now I as a journalist need fuel for my fire. I sometimes have to survive on scraps when there’s no big game to write about.
But if you read a lot of games journalism you will know it’s about opinion and educated discussion. When a games company chooses to reveal in real-time every last feature of a game the opportunity for conjecture comes grinding to a halt. All that’s left is the reporting of the facts, a far more automated function. What I’m trying to say here is: keep something back, it’s starting to feel like I have beaten games I’ve never played because I know so much about them before they even go gold.
I don’t know, I’m just starting to feel there’s no excitement left in a game by the time it reaches my console. This issue started to appear on my radar when I heard about Street Fighter X Tekken. A dazzling rendered animation showing the two games protagonists facing off was a real thrill. Then months later information began to flow freely with game-play mechanics being laid bare. Before long a road-show was announced allowing fans to play in-progress versions of the game. So far so good, but as the days, weeks and months rolled on I began to realise I was overloading.
Capcom had committed to what felt like full disclosure. By the time the game was in its final run up to release I knew every stage, every character and even what I was expected to purchase as DLC once the game was released, this foreknowledge actually turned me off the game when I found out Capcom were short changing their loyal fans (but that is a whole other rant).
A big draw of interactive entertainment is that it connects with the player (you) in a way that no other medium can. The haptic nature of games makes you feel the experience is yours and yours alone. Even a Capcom fighting game used to feel personal. But with today’s trend of media blowouts every week that personal touch has faded.
Now when I see the press blitz for a new title I start to see the money train that drives it. Don’t get me wrong I understand the business and I appreciate that jobs, mine included, rely on the flow of information. I just think my experience of games was better for not knowing everything before they launched. It hasn’t done Grand Theft Auto any harm.
Rockstar print their own money when it comes to GTA games and if they went on an all-out offensive on the press bandwagon they could probably buy their own country by the time GTA5 hits. And remember Rockstar set the standard for manipulating the press when they hired PR guru Max Clifford for the original GTA. They know how to spin it, but instead they close their doors and quietly make mind blowing games that blow minds because there have been little to no spoilers beforehand.
We in the media, you as the consumer and games companies as the provider can all survive with less information. Capcom released incredible advertising trailers that amazingly didn’t appear in the game. The spirit of hyping games can still exist I just feel that full disclosure about the game itself is the wrong way to go. Instead, perhaps companies should build around the product, using other mediums to drum up interest. I’m not an expert in PR and don’t claim to be, all I know is my enjoyment of games seems less as a result of today’s hit-em-with-everything press release format. As always if you agree or disagree, let me know in the comments below.