Last week, the thought of a Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Direct excited me. I sat at my work desk, continually looking at Twitter for the latest updates. Tweet after tweet, I witnessed my friends and gaming industry peers slowly burn out. The Direct started strong with the introduction of Ken, but that momentum died when Incineroar entered the picture. My issue is that Nintendo announced Ken and then let us know that Incineroar rounded out the roster. My social circle quickly turned from feelings of happiness to feelings of betrayal. From leaks and the promise of a 40-minute Direct, we expected a lot. The hype pumped us up, but in the end, it got the better of us. The direct made me think — does hype set us up to be let down?
Boarding the hype train can be dangerous.
I’m a multiplatform gamer. While I play my Switch often, the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro are used every week. This year has been excellent for the medium as a whole. Octopath Traveler and Mario Tennis Aces on Switch, God of War and Spider-Man on PS4, and State of Decay 2 and Forza Horizon 4 on Xbox One were all well-received games. Since I’m a massive RPG fan, the buzz around Octopath Traveler had its hooks in me from the beginning. I couldn’t wait to experience an old-school RPG in 2018. All of my friends raved about the game. You know what? I bought Octopath Traveler, booted the game up, and it just didn’t click for me. I returned it.
God of War, a front-runner for game of the year for many journalists, is another game that didn’t vibe with me. Is it bad? Not at all. The problem is that so many people claimed it was a masterpiece. I didn’t feel that way. Like Icarus, I flew close to the sun and burned quickly. Excitement can often damper expectations. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way a few times this year.
Companies don’t help either.
Nintendo teased a 40-minute Direct for fans of the franchise. With the roster featuring almost every character from previous games as well as new fighters, the thought of even more characters was a mouth-watering treat for fans. I wanted to see Banjo, (I still think he’s going to be announced.) Geno, and Isaac. We did see Isaac, but as an assist trophy. The Direct spent a lot of time talking about “spirits,” a feature I’m still confused about. What infuriated me was that Nintendo talked about brightness settings during the presentation. That moment was shocking because it was unnecessary. Nintendo could’ve cut the mundane content from the Direct, but they put it in regardless. For a 40-minute presentation, it left a sour taste on plenty of people’s mouths.
E3 press conferences are the same. Nintendo isn’t an offender of this anymore, but Sony and Microsoft often build up hype. Every year, I watch the conferences waiting for something jaw-dropping to happen. Usually, they let me down, with the occasional exception. The problem is that the companies boast that their show will be killer. I’m an Xbox fan and follow Phil Spencer on Twitter. His enthusiasm makes me believe that Xbox will always knock it out of the park. Save for some announcements this year, that’s not always the case. The issue is that I (and others I follow) fall into the hype set before us.
Conclusion: Avoid the hype. It’ll be alright.
Hype can be disastrous. Hype can ruin an experience. Everybody has been raving about Red Dead Redemption 2 since launch. After a few hours of gameplay, I’m not digging it. The problem is that so many people gave it 10s and I was expecting a masterpiece. So far, I don’t think it will even make my shortlist for GOTY. Sometimes the opposite has an effect on me. A bunch of critics loathed the film Venom. I went into the film hearing so many scathing criticisms. I ended up having a great time. It wasn’t as bad as people had said. In a social media age, hype is prevalent in helping channels grow. Headlines, tweets, and Facebook posts help engage with the community, but they can also lead us to a false sense of hope.
Despite being a reviewer, I try not to get people too hyped for games I love. When talking about a game that deserves a 9 or 10, I try not to use sentences like, “This is the best game on the console.” Instead, I try selling the game as a masterful experience without saying someone needs to play it or they are severely missing out. Since I’ve been burned by hype so many times, I don’t want to be the person partaking in it.
I think it’s best to temper our expectations. When Nintendo announces a new Direct, get ready for fun information. Don’t set your hopes too high because that could send us crashing down hard. Instances like this make social media places of toxicity, and unwarranted hate can be sent to people who don’t deserve it. Could Nintendo have promoted the Smash Direct better? Definitely. But other fans and I are to blame as well. Through leaks and social media buzz, we let ourselves get pumped for something more than it was. Hype isn’t inherently dangerous, but when it leaves people deflated, infuriated, and wanting more, that’s not constructive. Unfortunately, I think we get people to set expectations too high. In reality, we should probably be aiming much lower.