Opinion Other

Are high gamer expectations ruining gaming?

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Can we, as gamers, expect certain things from a game and its developer, or is it always a case of wrongful entitlement? Should game developers always and without question have the licence to do whatever they want? Does anyone even have any rights in this debate?

We daily buy one product over the other because of our preferences, because we expect specific things from the manufacturer because there is a history behind a certain product and so on. Does the same apply to video games? Or is it exempt from customer expectations because it is art and art should always be free of such demands and expectations?

There are no definite lines dividing the arguments into neat categories that we can safely navigate through without offending customer or creator, but there can always be mutual respect and understanding.

For me, it's almost a case by case decision that at time favours the expectations of gamers, and other times, the right of the developer. Let's take a look at some examples that might give perspective on these two scenarios.

Can we expect specifics things from a video game?

The first game that comes to mind is No Man's Sky. The GameZone team has sometimes been very vocal about our stance on not pre-ordering games until the review embargo lifted, and we can assess the global opinion about a game. We were not always praised for our firm stance on this, and at times received a lot of flack from developers and fans. However, I noticed a clear shift in sentiment after the release of No Man Sky. Suddenly, everyone was raising the "never pre-order" banner. What caused this shift?

Expectations fueled by hype (from media and publishers) and the subsequent under-delivery. So, was it "right" for us to expect certain things from No Man's Sky? I believe it was. Sean Murray promised specific things that were not included in the game when it launched in August 2016. In a way, we can thank those 'launch expectations' for the features that Hello Games finally did release in the game almost two years later.

Another example is Mass Effect: Andromeda. It was one of the rare times when I did pre-order a game because I am a huge fan of the series, and because, you guessed it, I had very specific expectations for the game. Where did these expectations come from? From replaying every previous game multiple times. From becoming so invested in the characters and story that it became "mine." Is that wrong? I don't believe it is.

A series like Mass Effect has very strong trademarks, things its fans depend on. Let me be very clear - this does not mean the developer cannot make changes, or even take the series in a new direction - but it does mean those core elements must remain present. For Mass Effect, those non-negotiables were layered storytelling, compelling and diverse characters with strong back stories, captivating dialogue, meaningful relationships, clear purpose, and the sense that the whole universe responded to the choices you made. These are just some of the things that caused such profound immersion in the game and character you played that it became "your universe."

Bioware could take Mass Effect in a completely new direction while still having the above elements firmly in place. They didn't, and its massive fan base stopped caring. That was the biggest fallout from excluding the things that people came to associate with and love about it. We didn't care about Andromeda because we couldn't bond with the characters and story.

The next game I want to use as an example has yet to release, Battlefield V. Here, DICE isn't taking the game in a completely new direction (we still have the signature multiplayer, big-scale warfare), but they are including features we've never experienced in a Battlefield game. In itself, new features can be a great asset, like the new Fortifications and Squad mechanics, but it could also fundamentally change the experience.

From our time with the beta, we have a few concerns about the new gameplay mechanics, as well as the overall feel of the game. However, Battlefield V does have a lot of potentials to be a fantastic game.

Battlefield games have traditionally always been closer to a "realistic" experience than say Call of Duty games. I agree that it is a flawed argument to say any video game can be a realistic experience, but that's a discussion for another day. The point here is that EA and DICE have suddenly decided to include a feature that could potentially change the complete look of the battlefield, and thereby removing that illusion of realism that set it apart. Long-standing fans of the series suddenly wonder if it will still be Battlefield and perhaps EA is removing that one thing that made it special.

Time will tell if EA's gamble paid off, or if it will be their biggest failure to date.

The other side

If there's a 'right' then surely there is a wrong. For me, it's when entitlement crosses the border when threatening (edit not treat with) violence, in whatever form. But that's just the expression, what about the times when we expect unfairly? That's most of the times in my book. We have to wisen up and understand the nature of the beast - hype culture. Pre-launch is always hype, and it is our responsibility to sift through the advertising and get to the facts. Also, a video game never delivers what we expect it to, there are exceptions like Witcher 3, Horizon Zero Dawn, Hellblade - but these only prove the rule - that it is a rare treasure when a game exceeds expectations.

There are a few developers that we will pre-order games from on day one, no questions asked, but as I've said, these are exceptions, and we understand that we support them for more reasons than the product they deliver.

Unless a developer outright lies about something we can expect to have included in a game, they pretty much have the freedom to create whatever they please. I am, of course, excluding things like proper gameplay, a level of graphics, and so on, but even these can be subjective. We can't expect the same level of excellence from an Indie studio when compared to a blockbuster developer.

Then there is the downgrade fallacy that happens all too much. The latest example is Spider-Man's puddlegate. CD Projekt Red recently stated that they waited so long before they released the Cyberpunk 2077 demo to the public because they feared that gamers would cry downgrade once it releases. Remember, it happened to Witcher 3. Even though a developer clearly states, "this is a work in progress" many fans still play the downgrade card if they're upset over some puddle on the floor.

But then again, if a developer showcases footage as the final product, then there is a reason to be upset.

We cannot remove expectations from something we pay for. We want it for reasons, and when those aren't met, we are upset. What we can do, is have more realistic expectations - research a game before you buy it, and wait for reviews.

In this argument, there isn't a free pass for the customer or the creator. Both parties have responsibilities; developers should be more honest about what they deliver, and gamers should curb that enthusiasm.

What are your views on this matter?

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