The Art of Tease: Why publishers should stop telling us everything about their games
If I know anything about striptease – and I really don’t know that, but shut up and listen anyway – it’s because the word has a certain emphasis tease. To excite and excite your victim, show things little by little. you torment. They do things slowly and consciously and carefully. You don’t go out naked with your arms outstretched and yell “NOW HERE’S MY COCK”, as hilarious as that would be (and I to do know about it).
And yet, the latter is exactly what the gaming industry does when showcasing its latest and greatest games. It doesn’t leave much to the imagination and doesn’t hold any surprises. When we watch games, it’s all there to see before the game hits stores.
It is not difficult to understand why this is so. Games are so expensive that unfortunately the focus is more on sales than on playing. Therefore, publishers show the best and most explosive moments of a game before release, hoping to entice players to achieve record sales on the day of release. They tell us everything they can about the game. “These are the enemies,” we are told. “These are the weapons. This is a large set piece. That’s the story. Here’s a look at some of the awesome cutscenes we’ll show off later.” And we’re impressed, so we’re buying it.
Trouble is, for me at least, this makes games a lot less fun play.
I can’t really talk about it without diving into anecdotes; It’s impossible for me to play a game for the first time if I know all the pre-release versions and go in blind. Still, it might say that if I Yes, really enjoy a game because it surprised me. I went to the original deus ex two things to know – that it was a first-person shooter and that it had customizable weapons. What I found was an FPS/RPG hybrid with multiple paths, emergent behavior, and an amazing amount of attention to detail in what the player was doing. It felt free and open and I had no idea about any of this. It surprises me. I loved it.
i went in psychonauts from the back of the (pretty rubbish) demo without knowing anything about the overall storyline or the rest of the powers or the weirdness of the later levels. I didn’t wait for a certain level or sigh for the appearance of the villain I’d seen in seventeen trailers. Despite its many flaws, it’s one of my absolute favorite games. The sum of my sleeping dogs Knowledge – one of my favorite games of the last year – was that it was an open world game in Hong Kong, with triads.
As I said, these are anecdotes and these are all brilliant games anyway… but I can’t shake the feeling that I would have at least enjoyed it tiny a little less, if I already knew everything about them, to go inside.
Unfortunately, I’m assuming I’m screaming into a pillow here. This is one of those times when those making games are completely at odds with those playing them. We want Have fun the games. They want us to enjoy the games too, but first and foremost they want us to do it Buy She. If they can generate more revenue at the cost of making a game a little less fun, I don’t think it’s a very difficult decision to make.
However, some attention should be paid to those who go out of their way to shock their customers. Metal Gear Solid 2 is one of the most famous of these, with everyone thinking that the game was about Snake before launch (although in this case it drew a pretty spectacular backlash). Still, Kojima, in his weird way, actually seems to understand that surprising players are more likely to make the game feel special.
He recently tweeted: “In the media [interviews], some ask ‘What is the story about?’, ‘Who is the enemy?’ ‘What would happen to Snake?’ This also happened in E3. I answer nicely with a smile below. ‘It’s like being told who is a criminal even though the author hasn’t finished writing his crime novel.’”
Which is hugely annoying and pretentious, but over the author’s accents and imperfect English (which isn’t a knock – his English is a much better than my Japanese) and I can’t say I totally disagree with him. I don’t think it’s like asking an author who the killer is in their forthcoming crime novel, but when it comes to something like this Metal Gear Solid 5I’m not entirely sure if these are things we are to need to know before we buy it. I mean, at this point, chances are you’re either going to buy it or not. Hearing about a few extra characters probably won’t change that. So does it make sense to metaphorically give the game away beforehand?
It goes a little further, too, as Kojima’s reputation for tricks almost means that everything The revelation about one of his games is now being taken with a grain of salt. If someone else said, “Kiefer Sutherland has a starring role in our game,” we’d just believe them. But with Kojima, there’s a large group that believes it’s a ruse – that David Hayter will return as Snake. As many of you think, there is at least one easy chance of that happening? Well how many of you think Michael Ironside will be back to voice Sam Fisher Splinter Cell: Blacklist? It’s the same situation — the voice usually associated with the character isn’t involved in the latest production — but only one of them is fully believed.
On the other hand, we have Peter Molyneux, who we tend not to believe different Reasons – namely, because Molyneux has a long and storied history of overdoing its games to utterly unreasonable levels. “fable will plant you acorns and make them grow into trees” is one of the most famous, but let’s not forget “Fable: The Journey is not on rails” and “Black-and-white it’s going to be a good game.” This is really at the other extreme of the spectrum and shows the dangers of telling people too much. Especially when “too much” is synonymous with “nonsense invented on the spot”.
It’s not as if the act of spoiling things before release is limited to games, of course; There’s a reason TVTropes has multiple pages under the Trailers Always Spoil banner. And it’s not that surprises don’t work in other media either – Psycho shocked a few people by giving up his biggest star less than halfway through the film. (I’m safe with that spoiler, right? There’s certainly a statute of limitations on these things.) Still, having a cutscene teased from the last half-hour of a 12-hour game somehow feels more jarring to me than if there is a shot from the climax of a two-hour movie.
In all honesty, my least favorite part of being an in-house games journalist (aside from playing painfully average games that weren’t bad enough to openly poke fun at) was writing the news. Not because I don’t like writing news, but because I had to expose myself to everything developers, publishers, and PR said and did to decide whether or not it’s worth reporting. Now that I’m not really doing the news, I have it possibility not to expose myself to the vast amount of carefully published information floating around. If there’s a game that interests me and I’m pretty sure I’ll get it, I now have the option to avoid all the previews, news and reveals.
Particularly annoying are the cases where things that the developer clearly intending to be twists are indulged in pre-release bits and bobs. Knowing some of the plot twists and obviously intended surprises (after the list of things I wasn’t allowed to talk about) on some major BioWare games, thanks to preview events I’ve attended, I’ve taken great pains not to write about them… and one or two of those ended up in trailers anyway. The aforementioned sleeping dogs is perhaps one of the most egregious public examples, with its demo completely spoiling a plot twist in the second half of the game. I could fill another five paragraphs with examples, but I guess my point is clear.
Like I said, it’s not hard to see why These things are pushed so hard in advertising. Check out the cool characters! Check out the big explosions! Check out the tense, dramatic scenes that clearly take place towards the end of the game! Sod the fact that they would have been a surprise as hell if you hadn’t seen them three months before the game came out; look at her! It’s perhaps understandable if this big twist is something that completely changes the tone and nature of the game (like miasms‘s kitty monster), but it’s usually hard to shake the feeling of how, by the time the game comes out, it’s too late. We have seen everything.
So no. This will not change, but this is not an appeal to developers, publishers or even PR. This is an appeal to you. As an experiment, if there’s a game you’re looking forward to and you’re pretty sure you’re going to get it – maybe Metal Gear Solid 5or Batman: Arkham Originsor Assassin’s Creed 4, or whatever – just stop reading about it now. Don’t read the previews. Don’t watch the trailers. Don’t find out the identities of the remaining assassins Batman; hear nothing more about the plot of Assassin’s Creed; not… well, okay, everything we’ve heard about Metal Gear Solid 5 is probably a lie, so you might be safe there. But still: learn Nothing more about it than you already know. Then buy it, play it, and see how those things affect your enjoyment.