Sunday, 28 February 2010

Stick that in your hype.

There's a lot to be said for hype. It can - unfairly, developers would argue - turn a game into an utter disappointment when really it is deserving of praise and positive recognition. But let's get one thing straight: 'hype' isn't something that happens in magazine previews, sneak-peek podcast discussions or screenshot releases. Hype is internal. Hype is all created by us, the people who want to play the game. Whether it's through playing a demo and being convinced the game can live up to it, or through reading other people's impressions and coming to our own conclusions. We make our own beds, and we can't be too upset when they turn out to be lumpy. Or something.

So what's my hype this week? Well, unsurprisingly, it's Heavy Rain. The game is currently installing and I've been sat in front of my PS3 getting far too giddy for my own good. So much so that I started to ask myself why. I think overall it's because I'm expecting a game that I will at least regard as "very good indeed", but surely there's more to it than that? I knew Modern Warfare 2 would be "very good indeed" in a lot of ways, but frankly didn't give a fuck when it was released. And I enjoyed the first one.

I'm starting to think we attach a bit more than just the expectation of a good game to our internal hype engines. Heavy Rain, for example, is the spiritual successor to a game that I and my new group of university friends gathered around for over a week as we took turns playing it, occasionally mocking the acting or story, but always enjoying the experience. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 is another game that I'm excited about; not because the shooting feels really natural and rewarding, not because the levelling-up and system and classes are expertly balanced, and not because it's a teamwork-based shooter on large maps. It is all of those things, but that's not why I personally am looking forward to it.

Forcing myself to really meditate what it is that's getting me all in a kerfuffle reveals that it's the social experiences I've enjoyed in previous Battlefield games that add such weight to the games on a personal, emotional level. Yes, I may have only been discussing the latest superhero movie or the hilarity of Man United's most recent defeat, but they were experiences I enjoyed thoroughly. Here I was, doing something that I list as probably my favourite hobby (when the right game is involved), and I was sharing that experience with other people whose only reason to feel any connection to me whatsoever was our mutual enjoyment of something and our ability to have pleasant conversations with strangers.

So the next time one of your friends tells you something was "too overhyped" or "didn't live up to the excitement", give them a swift kick in their friendly parts and scream "You're overhyped!" at a socially unacceptable volume. After all, there's an absolute shit-ton of hype to be found about any game in existence, and it's usually the hypee choosing to filter information about their particular game from the noise of the internet age, that causes this "hype" we speak of.

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