Back when I was in high school, I remember walking into the local independent record store with a friend of mine. I don’t exactly recall what we were doing there, but I do remember the exchange we had with the employee standing behind the counter. It was 1999 and Axl Rose’s long delayed “Chinese Democracy” was rumored, once again, to be coming out later that year. Being Guns N’ Roses fans, we were excited for the chance to hear the long awaited album. Was it going to be a return to the balls out rocking of “Appetite for Destruction”? Or was it going to be an album full of heartfelt emotional ballads with guitar solos in deserts that melt your face? The chance to be overwhelmed by some groundbreaking music was on the table, but the actual product never delivered. It wasn’t until 2008 that the album was finally released but, by that point, many people, including myself, no longer cared. Even though I did end up liking it somewhat, the fact that it never lived up to expectations will always be a disappointment. With each new year, E3 is starting to become similar to “Chinese Democracy” for me. I get really excited to find out about all the new games and consoles that are supposed to be announced, yet I’m disappointed by the end result. Is the expectation of being overwhelmed by a game or console too great and is the cause of my growing disappointment in each successive E3?
Watch the hyperbole
First off, we need to be careful when using the word “overwhelmed.” When was the last time you were actually overwhelmed by something that you didn’t expect to happen? Maybe it was when you asked that girl out you’d been pining after for years and she comes back with, “Well, it’s about time.” Perhaps it was when you donated blood and later found out that it saved the lives of different people in Joplin, MO and Birmingham, AL after those two cities were destroyed by tornadoes. You never expect those things to happen and that’s why they become overwhelming. We shouldn’t be overwhelmed by anything related to video games. After all, they are used for entertainment. We should be so lucky to live in a society that allows us to wonder what Nintendo’s new console is going to be and not wonder where we are going to get our next meal.
However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be excited about the upcoming video games announced at this year’s E3. I don’t want to stand on a high horse and tell you that video games are unimportant and we should be focusing on what really matters. If I did, I probably shouldn’t be writing for a video game focused website. We need video games. It allows us to escape the horrible things that happen in the world. They give us a chance to escape our own difficulties in life. We forget about bills while we climb the highest tower to overlook the Colosseum during the Renaissance. Chores are an afterthought as we solve crimes in 1940’s Los Angeles. And even though we might sometimes picture the faces of coworkers on the heads of enemies in a first person shooter, we aren’t actually thinking about work. Video games give us these escapes and the week of E3 provides us with something to look forward to in the coming year.
Mete out those expectations
As a self-proclaimed video game journalist, watching the live streams of E3 gives me the chance to form my own opinions on what is being announced. Pre-E3 hype gets many of us amped up for the actual conference. Earlier this year, Nintendo announced that it would be showing off its new console during the press event. Even though there are many opinions about whether or not it is a compelling product, the overall reaction of the announcement was met with confusion. What is this console? What can it actually do? Nintendo was right in showcasing the new controller, but made that reveal so confusing. I thought for a moment that the new controller was the Wii U and would be used in conjunction with the Wii. The pre-E3 hype machine had me all amped up for the new console that was met with a resounding, “Eh.”
I guess the expectation of being overwhelmed by a consumer product kinda makes me feel icky. Look, I use and enjoy Apple products like the iMac, MacBook Pro and even had a dalliance with the iPhone 3g. But you will never hear me exclaiming that any of these products are overwhelming or even “magical.” They are just products that I find easy and fun to use, that’s it. I feel the same way about the different video game consoles. Right now, I’m in gamer love with my 360 and am disappointed with the PS3 and Wii. But there were times when the opposite was true. Nothing can be awesome 100% of the time.
So, why do we get our hopes up that a corporation is going to blow us away with an amazing new product? Sure, there are people out there who feel differently than me who have had a consumer product change their lives. Yet, the expectation for something like that to happen has definitely drifted away from me as I’ve gotten older. When I was young, everything was awesome. I liked bad movies and played terrible video games. I didn’t care. I had this haze covering the part of my brain that could be critical of something, anything. I liked what I liked and I didn’t care. As I got older, that fog of naivete started to clear and I started to become more selective in the games and movies I rented and bought. Now, I write for a website where my critical opinion is on display on a daily basis. I’m not saying I want to go back to the time where I liked everything I crossed paths with, but I’d like the chance to have my expectations blown out of the water.