Know what I hate? Chavs. Know what else? Teaching. Know what else? We could be here a while. I’ll tell you. Press embargoes.
I get why they happen, obviously — publishers and their PR people want to ensure that coverage of something is coordinated nicely so that everyone gets suitably whipped up into a frenzy all at the same time. But there’s an unfortunate side-effect if you happen to, say, follow a bunch of different video games outlets at the time a major announcement happens: everyone bellows the same fucking thing at the exact same fucking time.
It’s happening more and more nowadays, too. The most notable examples that stick in my head in recent memory are Assassin’s Creed III and Borderlands 2, both titles that I have a passing interest in but find myself becoming curiously resistant to the more and more I get battered in the face with the same information from slightly different angles.
I think, on the whole, this is the “problem” I have been having with mainstream gaming overall. There’s too much information out there — too much coverage, too many “behind the scenes” videos, too many “exclusive” interviews, too many press releases announcing a single screenshot (yes, that is a real thing I received today and I have no shame in naming Square Enix as the perpetrator). After a while, you become completely saturated with information about a product and subsequently have absolutely no inclination to want to touch it, ever. This was a big part of why I didn’t want to play Mass Effect 3, for example — EA’s appalling behaviour was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, really.
I feel for my friends who work in games PR for “B-tier” games, too. It’s hard enough to get a title like, say, Risen 2 noticed at the best of times but when you’re competing with everyone beating themselves into an orgasmic and/or angry frenzy over Mass Effect 3, there’s little hope for your title outside of groups of people like me who have forsaken the mainstream in favour of enjoying less heavily marketed titles.
Conversely, the games I have been playing and enjoying are the ones where information has been trickling out slowly, usually straight from the developers mouths without dribbling through the PR sieve. Take the “Operation Rainfall” RPGs Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower (which I’m currently playing), for example — these received very little in the way of press attention despite being fantastic games. The aforementioned Operation Rainfall, a grassroots campaign to get these three excellent games localised and released in Europe and the US, received plenty of press, but information on the games themselves was conspicuously absent. As a result, I was able to go into all three of them pretty much blind and have a fantastic experience in the process — a big part of what made all of them great is the sense of discovery inherent in all of them. That just doesn’t happen if you’ve been smothered in information for the six months leading up to the game’s release.
As a result of all this, I’ve come to a decision, and if you’re feeling the same way as me, I recommend you follow it too.
Cut back. Cut out the crap. If you follow a buttload of games journalists and outlets on Twitter, unfollow them. If you want some gaming news, pick one outlet and keep it on your follow list, but chances are if you follow lots of gaming fans, someone will retweet the news as it happens anyway. Otherwise, go seek out the news when it’s convenient for you. Check the sites when you feel like it. Subscribe to their RSS feeds. Use Google Currents or Flipboard to receive information in an easily-digestible format. Receive information on your terms, not that of a carefully-crafted PR campaign.
This doesn’t have to apply just to games — it can apply to pretty much anything that suffers from the problems described above. Film, TV, celebrity news, business, tech… anything, really.
I’m going to give this a try. It will doubtless initially feel somewhat weird to not see some familiar faces and logos in my Twitter timeline, but I have a strange feeling that I’ll be a lot happier, less frustrated and less cynical as a result. Check back with me in a week or two and we’ll see.
(If you’re one of the people I do happen to unfollow, it’s nothing personal. You just might want to consider getting separate professional and personal accounts!)