Like many Nintendo fans, I’ve recently played through both The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds and Super Mario 3D World. I enjoyed both gamed immensely; they both surprised and impressed me in a way that I haven’t felt from a video game in a long time. The only other video game I can think of this year that truly impressed me the way these games did was Pikmin 3 and some independent games from the eShop. I was thinking why this was, since 2013 had a handful of amazing titles, and then I realized it’s because I was busy last month.
To give some context to that last statement, my boss from work went on a three-week vacation, leaving me to literally take over the business single-handedly. On top of that, I recently moved to a new house, which meant I had to use most of my free time packing and moving (also a new house meant no Internet connection for awhile). To put it simply, I did not have any time to spend being hyped for Mario and Zelda. As for Pikmin 3, Nintendo didn’t really spend a lot of effort on advertising, so I didn’t see much of the game before I bought it.
All this had me think about the way I approach video games now compared to when I was a child. Back in the 80s and 90s, before the Internet existed, we had Nintendo Power, television, and the box arts in store. Personally, I didn’t know about Nintendo Power growing up, so all the information came from 30-second snippets on the television or if the box art looked cool on the shelf. I remember seeing a commercial for Donkey Kong Country 3 — how my young brain tried to imagine what the game could be like! I was sold on it simply because I tried to think of what the game had; compare this to modern times where half the game is spoiled before it’s released.
Jump forward twenty years and we have interviews, previews, reviews, hands-on walk-throughs, demos, and forums. If anything video game-related is on the Internet, you can easily look it up in within a minute. I grew up in a small community that only received high-speed Internet when I was in grade 11. That’s right — I had to connect to a modem that blocked the home phone whenever I wanted to be online and an hour later, I might have been able to load a preview article of a game. Once I got high-speed, I didn’t have to rely on my friends or television or box art for my gaming purchases and I think it took out a lot of that “magic” for me.
One example I can think of happens to be one of the greatest survival/horror games ever created. Years ago, my best friend at the time brought over his GameCube one night and loaded up a game called Resident Evil 4. I saw some commercials and they interested me, but when I started playing, I was hooked. It was one of the most mind-blowing experiences I ever had as a gamer — right up there with experiencing Super Mario 64 for the first time. It was unlike any other game I had ever played and to this day, remains one of my all-time favorites. Had I been a regular on the Internet, I bet the impact of Resident Evil 4 wouldn’t have been so great.
An example on the other side of the coin is Rayman Origins. I consider this to be one of my favorite platformers of all time. I consider it a masterpiece that should have blown me away completely, but when I played some amazing levels, I didn’t say, “Oh wow, that’s so cool.” Instead, I said, “Oh, I remember seeing that on YouTube” or “I remember reading about that on these forums.”
I think this is why I love indies so much lately. Indie studies can’t afford as much marketing as, say, Rockstar Games. They’ll often times release a 30-second trailer to give an idea of what the game is about and then, a couple of months later, the game will suddenly be available to purchase without much exaggerated hype. My love for games like BIT.TRIP Presents Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien and Mighty Switch Force! 2 would probably have been decreased if I’d seen more of them.
Looking at my most anticipated game in the upcoming months, most of them are independent: Scram Kitty and His Buddy on Rails, Shovel Knight, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse, among others. I’ve probably seen a total of five minutes combined for all of these games, just enough to give me an idea of what the game is and enough to make my imagination run wild with what it could hold.
Some independent games, however, do manage to get mainstream attention and with it comes a flood of videos for marketing. Another game I’m looking forward to picking up is AVGN Adventures. It was already released on Steam, but I’m waiting for the Wii U release. I’m a big fan of James Rolfe and his site Cinemassacre, so I’ll watch anything he puts out. Anyways, his last episode was spent on reviewing a bunch of AVGN games and in it, he showed quite a bit of footage of AVGN Adventures. Some parts of the game that should make me smile or laugh are now spoiled from watching this episode. I’ll still love the game, but it goes back to the mentality I had with Rayman Origins.
Looking back over the last few years, it’s not just the independent games that impressed me. When Super Mario Galaxy came out, I thought I was outgrowing Nintendo and so, I didn’t pay any attention to this game. I received Galaxy for Christmas and its freshness gave me one of the best experiences I’d had compared to any recent video game. In fact, most of my favorite video game memories comes from games I either didn’t pay attention to at first or was before I spent time online. Sailing the ocean in The Wind Waker, blasting into space with Mario, Resident Evil 4‘s entire existence, booting up Donkey Kong Country for the first time and seeing that magical Rare symbol, and even buying my first indie game of the Wii’s WiiWare system — all of these games were unspoiled by the Internet.
Now, to be fair, I understand it’s up the person to say “enough.” No one is forcing me to go on websites to drool over trailers or read everything about E3, but it also feeds into the hype. When Nintendo first showed the debut trailer for Metroid: Other M, my socks blew clean off my feet. My smile was a mile wide and being the huge nerd I am, I was as excited as a kid at Christmas. This was Metroid in a way I never saw before and Nintendo knew I needed more. I ate up every bit of media I could find and with Metroid being my favorite franchise, more was never enough. In a rare case, I was still very impressed with Other M, and I was wowed quite often. I’m lucky they were judicious in their pre-release footage and never showed much of the bosses or cutscenes.
Being excited for a game makes it very hard not to look something up on the Internet. It’s easy and fast and, if you ever have any doubts about a game, just pop on a forum and ask the world whether this game is good or bad and would I like it because I also like this other game. It’s convenient, but it definitely takes out a lot of the mystery. Part of the thrill of gaming in the 80s and 90s was going to the store, looking at a cool box art, begging my parents to buy it, and coming home to find out that it’s absolute crap. Now, I have a stable income and can buy a game tomorrow; I’m less likely to buy a bad game, but there’s also no child-like excitement. In that regard, the Internet is a force of good: you can go your whole gaming life without playing a “bad” game. But I do admit — and maybe I am being a little bit too nostalgic for my own good here — but playing bad games makes me appreciate the good ones that much more. Speaking of which, I’m currently looking over at my copy of Epic Mickey 2 …
The Internet is definitely a double-edged sword in regards to video game marketing. It’s a fine tool to use to research some obscure gems or ask people questions like “I like adventure games and need something more than Zelda, any ideas?” You can look up any information about a game you’re interested in without having to spend money. But if you know for sure you’re getting a game, having too much information takes away the magic of experiencing it on your television for the first time. Nintendo released a trailer for Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and I watched it until I realized I was spoiling the levels for a game I was already sold on when they first announced a new DK title.
Maybe this all sounds like common sense to most people out there, but I’d bet some of you have spoiled games for yourselves. Now that I discovered the timeless secret of not spoiling a game for myself, I look forward to the upcoming months of gaming and recapturing some of the missing magic from my childhood.