Tuesday, September 3, 2013

When Expectations & Results Don't Match

Perhaps I'm speaking only for myself, but sometimes I'll play a game that I have no interest in. The reason is simple: everyone said it was AWESOME! Sometimes I'm surprised about how I feel once I start playing said 'AWESOME' game. The examples I'll use are Sleeping Dogs and Saints Row the Third, both of which I played for the first time within the last few months. If you place the two side-by-side and asked me which one I expected to enjoy and which one I thought I would hate, the results would have been completely different than how it actually played out.

A gritty, open-world, undercover cop story set in Hong Kong, which was originally a sequel in a series of previous generation games that I didn't like? SNORE! An open-world game where you play a leader of a gang in the middle of their Beatlemania, with over-the-top humor, the ability to perform wrestling moves on pedestrians, and features Hulk Hogan, Rob Van Dam, and Burt Reynolds as voice actors? Are you kidding me? Grind it into a liquid and stick it in my veins!

However, Sleeping Dogs went on to be my favorite open-world game of this generation (partly due to the fact that I got to listen to Machine Head and Fear Factory while wastin' fools), and I stopped playing Saints Row after about 6 hours. I really tried to love it, it just didn't resonate with me. Due to the high praise SR3 received from pretty much every gaming outlet on the planet, I felt like I must have been doing something wrong. I continued to play long after I realized I didn't like it, because by all accounts, it's amazing, and eventually I'm going to get to that point where it clicks. It has good controls, it's got the type of humor that I love, fun characters, and so on, so what gives?

Not to say that Sleeping Dogs isn't without its humor.

I started trying to rationalize why I didn't enjoy it, analyzing my own psyche hoping to stumble across an answer. Then I had a revelation: I didn't enjoy it because.....because I just freaking didn't. Why did I need a reason? Why did I need an excuse?

Perhaps part of it was because of the Internet's tendency to fly off the handle when you don't love something the same way they do. "You don't love this thing that I love? Where's my torch and pitchfork?!?" I don't say that in an uptight, snooty way, because I'm totally guilty of the same thing. I love the Metal Gear series, and I understand that it's not for everyone, but if someone tells me that they don't enjoy Metal Gear Solid 4, I'll write a freaking dissertation stating all the reasons I'm right and they're wrong. It's the same with music and movies.

Look out, Internet, I'm about to denounce your Holy Grail.

I'll compare my experience with Saints Row to what happened to me with the movie The Big Lebowski and the metal band, Mastodon. I didn't see The Big Lebowski until about two years ago, and don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it and thought it was very funny, but after 10 years of people saying it's the best movie ever, it didn't quite live up to expectations. I kid you not, as I was watching it, I received a message on Xbox Live that said "Best movie ever." Moving on, as a lifelong heavy metal fan, everyone always tells me how great Mastodon is, and I've tried on several occasions to like them. Every time they release a new album, I'll listen to it, and then an hour later I'll be sitting there thinking "Well, that sucked."

When something is built up as one of the best in its medium, we inflate our expectations to the point that there's no way it can possibly live up to them. Part of this may be because I tend to wait on playing big titles until after they've dropped in price (thank you PlayStation Plus), and if I had played Saints Row upon release, my thoughts may have been completely different.

I will, however, never get sick of this.

Of course, as someone who desires to one day turn writing into a paying gig, giving a game a bad score and writing "I just didn't like it" wouldn't fly, but sometimes I feel like there's no legitimate reason other than that. Like I said, by all accounts it should have been one of my favorite games of all-time, but for reasons unknown even to me at this time, it wasn't my cup of tea.

But I think the lesson I learned from this was that it's alright to not like something that's universally loved, and I don't need to force myself to continue playing a game once I've come to the conclusion that it's just not for me.

Thanks for reading,


1 comment:

  1. i played saints row the third recently and absolutely loved it, i couldn't put it down and i had no idea it was so well received. also the fact that you dont love mastodon is still a mystery to me to this day. but i've loved them since before they were well known. i've grown with them as they've grown as a band. moral of the story is, my opinion is correct, yours is not. lol