Hey everybody welcome back to LegalSpeak a ColdNorth Production. I'm TheLawMorris and this is the video essay series in which I get to talk about the games I've been playing and what I think of the video game industry as a whole. You can find everything we do including both of our podcast's over at ColdNorthPro.com. This week we are going to be talking about the role expectations play in video games.
Expectations are something we all have and sometimes can play a critical role in our level of enjoyment of pretty much anything. Setting realistic expectations can go a long way in helping to mold an opinion and also can help you not look like a moron in front of all your friends. Both my parents really enjoy good food. I love great food but I have also been knowns to get down on some taco bell alone in my car as I cry into a burrito and my steering wheel. So anytime my parents fly all the way across the country to visit me and they ask which restaurant we should go to I always make sure to tell them that this is what I like but it's just okay. Then if they don’t like it its no problem but if they do they really love it because they went in with low expectations! The same principal can easily be applied to video games.
There were a lot of all time great games that came out in 2018. God of War, Red Dead Redemption 2, Celeste, Monster Hunter World, Smash Ultimate, the list goes on. But one of the games I enjoyed the most of last year was Far Cry 5. Far Cry has always been a series that is good but has arguably only reached greatness once and that was Far Cry 3. I went into Far Cry 5 with very low expectations and while the game is undeniably not as good as pretty much any of the games I listed earlier I would say my low expectations for it are what made it one of my favorite games of the year. I went in expecting first person shooting and what I got was…well it was first person shooting but it was really good first person shooting! The movement, the story telling, the stellar gunplay, the open air adventure, all of it was quality that I would expect from a game like Uncharted or Halo but never from Far Cry. I ripped through Far Cry 5 and loved every minute of it and when I went back to it to record the intro for this video I found myself wondering if I can fit a new game plus play through of Far Cry 5 into my schedule all because it was so good and I expected so little. Far Cry 5 was a good game that was turned into an awesome game because Ubisoft set the correct expectations.
There have been plenty of games that for whatever reason fell victim to false expectations being set. Halo 2 is the one that springs to mind first. I'm not sure I have ever been more hyped for a video game than the summer of 2004 when I was 13 years old and I had downloaded the E3 demo and would watch in several times a day between playing Halo Combat Evolved. My hype for Halo 2 was through the roof and whether it was Bungie driving that hype or Microsoft they were doing both me and themselves a disservice by setting expectations that would be impossible to reach. The day the game came out my friends dad picked us up from school and drove us to the mall where we both bought our own copies of Halo 2 collectors edition in that stupid aluminum case. We went back to my house and waited two and half hours for the game to install on my xbox…im just kidding shit didn’t work like that back then we put that disc in and played immediately! And I distinctly remember at the beginning of the first Arbiter level thinking to myself that this wasn’t great but I didn’t want to say that out loud because that would be admitting it to myself. Of course in the 14 years since that day I've played through the Halo 2 campaign dozens of times and now it's one of my favorite of the series. My point is is that Microsoft and or Bungie set my expectations way to high for Halo 2 and when I was a punk ass 14 year old that thought he knew everything I didn’t like it.
A more recent and more positive example of how setting expectations can change the way we consume video games is Recore. Recore is a relatively low budget action adventure game that was released on the PC and Xbox one in 2016 and you might not have known that because there wasn’t a ton of effort put into marketing that game and as a result I went in with almost no expectations. What that game is is an awesome 3D platformer adventure game that feels like a fine tuned evolution of the games we were so used to getting during the sixth generation of consoles like Ratchet and Clank, Sly Cooper, Jak and Daxter, and of course the best of the bunch Blinx the Time Sweeper. Granted Recore doesn’t have nearly as much personality as those games but the gameplay was sweet and I'm glad I bought and played that game! Recore is an excellent example of a developer and publisher playing the expectations game a bit on the safe side and over delivering which is always better than the other way around, I'm lookin at you Anthem.
Speaking of games that haven't come out yet one game that seems to have been struggling with the expectations game is Days Gone. Now I'm no games journalist nor am I some sort of mind reader but I don’t think you have to be either of those things to read between the lines every time the dev's do an interview and are practically begging their audience to control their expectations and not anticipate a masterpiece on par with other Sony Computer Entertainment properties like The Last of Us and God of War. My prediction is that Days Gone will be a good game in the same way Far Cry 5 is a good game; everything about it will be well thought out and executed on but when push comes to shove it simply wont be able to trade blows with the titans of the industry. The problem Days Gone is currently facing is that by simply being an SCE game the expectations are through the roof and no matter how hard they try Bend Studio just cant seem to get those expectations under control.
Now I'm not saying that we should lower our standards and expect less from game developers because oftentimes our assessment's of games end up being valid criticism rather than expectation driven disappointment. Sometimes we come around to games like I did with Halo 2 but then there are games that disappoint because they were genuinely disappointing. I'm a huge Uncharted fan and when the announcement trailer for Uncharted 4 came at the end of the PlayStation event the night before the PS4 was released I literally jumped out of my seat to cheer like Sting was making his WWE debut. I was crazy excited for Uncharted 4 and my expectations were high. But when the game came out I found that I of the four main line Uncharted games it was my least favorite. Now this wasn’t because it failed to live up but because I didn’t like the direction Naughty Dog took the story in focusing on Sam rather than Nate, Elena, and Sully. My opinion on Uncharted 4 is exactly that, an opinion. It's subjective but then again most things are and while expectations have the potential to get out of control that doesn’t mean that just because you have high expectations any criticism you have for game is invalid.
All of this nonsense about expectations can be blamed in part on the audience because they feel the need to get so hyped, and in many cases like with basically any Peter Molyneux game, the developers are partially to blame for making promises they knew they couldn’t fulfill. But who or more so what I think is to blame is social media. Everyone constantly sharing every thought they have, picture they take, or profound quote they read on social media has turned that entire aspect of our society into one massive dick measuring competition. Extreme opinions are the ones that get the clicks therefore there is a constant stress on everyone to consider everything they consume to be either the greatest thing of all time or an absolute crime against humanity tantamount to the Armenian genocide. We very rarely play games or watch a movie or TV and walk away with a lukewarm impression then share that on social media and because the conversation is not happening around those things they are easily forgotten. Don’t let social media pressure you into thinking that you need to make hyperbolic declarations that you will soon be replacing in 2-6 months. The expectations game has poisoned social media or maybe it's the other way around but either way don’t feel bad about tweeting that you thought Far Cry 5 was good but not great and that you really enjoyed it. Not everything has to be the best of all time or the worst of all time and that’s okay.
Expectations have come to play a significant role in how we approach not only video games but almost everything in life. My goal is not to tell you what to do but to simply share with you how I want to live my life with regards to expectations of course. Take everything at face value, don’t constantly compare everything to everything else, and don’t let what someone else thinks impact your opinion. Cynicism and hyperbole got us to where we are today and if we can just approach games with a bit less gravitas then we will have more experiences like Far Cry 5.
What are your thoughts on expectations and how they effect how we play games? Is there any particular game that burned you or was a pleasant surprise because of expectations? Let me know in the comments down below!
Thanks for watching my video, If you liked what you heard don’t forget to subscribe for a new video every week. If you want more free form discussion on video games you can check out our gaming podcast HardReset or our movies podcast NoRefunds the podcast that watches bad movies so you don’t have to! Don’t forget that you can find everything we do all in one spot over at ColdNorthPro.com, Ill be back next week talking about difficulty in video games but until then just go play some games.
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