Editor's note: People make judgments — and try to pass themselves as "informed" — after reading a couple of pieces and watching a handful of videos on a game. Sure, it's fine for people to share their opinions, but just how informed is that opinion if you haven't played the game yet? Moeez asks this question, and I'm curious to learn what you think. -Jason
Humans are social beasts. We thrive on communication and feedback. We also, however, thrive on gossip and information from secondary or even tertiary sources. This is why most of us aren't journalists or news reporters. We're simply enthusiasts for the medium. And since our hands are off the product, we sometimes become misinformed. We are only going by what other people tell us.
"Seeing is not believing"
The majority of video-game enthusiasts are not in the gaming press. So it's inevitable that we bandwagon on the press's opinions, making them our own. Take this analogy: Imagine that we're clouds, floating above the Earth. We are just fluff. The Earth is where the gaming press can obtain concrete evidence on games. Without that evidence, many variables can "cloud" our judgment. It's only when we have the game in our hands, can we become rain and hit the Earth, joining the gaming press in informed opinion. Seeing is not believing, in this case. Playing is believing.
The climate of gaming has forever changed thanks to the Internet. Before we had the Web, magazines were our only doors to news and information on the gaming scene. Now, everything you ever wanted to know about videogames is at the click of your fingers. So with more doors open to you at any point of time, you're bound to think that you can know everything about a video game before it's out. You never have even touched the game, but with the amount of Internet outlets and press opinions, you can go off your sniff on what's good and bad. You can be that annoying backseat gamer.
Many gaming companies realize this vulnerability and are architects of their own games' coverage to such a high degree with trailers, screenshots, and quotes. The culmination of hype from gaming websites and media can mislead you, and when the game's reviewed, you may want to let out your assumptions. You want to be the better in the horse race that your choice was right.
"I knew it"
In the game's review and release window, your opinion can finally come out the closet, whether it is fan-gushing or hate-mongering. You think you've seen enough to form your own, hands-off impressions. You also might feel inclined to spread your propaganda to other soapboxes without ever having concrete proof. This is when you transform into a troll, and your purpose is to either put the game on the pedestal or sink it under the ground without ever having a grain of truth. We are all victims of this (trolling can be a lot of fun as a psych experiment), because we want to seem smart and be centers of knowledge (even if our information isn't first-hand). Pretentiousness is an eventual side effect of knowledge. You also want to be in on the act, before the hype for the video game dies down after its first month (which is a sad case in itself).
So when the game releases and the reviews come out, you get people who "knew" how the game would fare. "Yeah, I knew Final Fantasy 13 would suck: no towns, too linear? What were they thinking?!" Or, "Pfft, I knew Mass Effect 2 would rock! They just removed everything people hated, and it was that easy!" These kind of comments make me want to "facepalm."
Misled by the piper
Gossip isn't just the providence of reviews; gossip threatens news coverage as well because of the Internet. It doesn't matter if the news story had a first-hand journalist behind it; now websites (Kotaku, Destructoid, and other blogging outlets) can throw around headlines on the stories spread through secondary and tertiary sources. Commentators will comment on such "news" and spread that around so much that eventually it will stand as gospel "truth" (e.g., Gerstmanngate). Some places allow you to watch the whole game from beginning to end (You Tube, Justin.tv), without paying a dime.
This is the danger of the more avenues opened from the Internet: fewer first-hand impressions and more reliance on analysts and footage. When you're relying on analyst websites, something has gone wrong, no matter how reliable they are. If you've heard/seen this much about a certain video game, you'd think you know the whole caboodle?
The emperor has no clothes
Video games are a unique beast of entertainment. They are interactive. Fortunately, no videos or reviews can tell you how your hands and brain would react when you're actually playing the game. No amount of discussing particular game mechanics or headless speculation on video-game websites can allow you to get the full dish on the game before it comes out. None of these venues can sum up everything the game has to offer.
Unfortunately, you also can't convince skeptics of a game how good or bad it is without handing them the game yourself. You could say, "Brothers in Arms have some of the most emotionally brutal moments ever in a game!" but it means jack to the skeptic who hasn't touched it. What might impress you about a game might not impress or even make someone else hate the game. You can't know every single secret hidden in a game that may give you an amazing moment, as I noted in the recent Batman: Arkham Asylum.
Really, who wants fanboys or trolls to fall flat on their faces for having the wrong knowledge about a game or being misled? Who wants these speculators to be made fools after a game's release? You have to sympathize with these gullible enthusiasts for letting hype and hyperbole take them over. So, who really wants these uninformed, hands-off humans to end up like the emperor with no clothes?
What have we learned from this piece? What nugget of unpretentious knowledge can I impart to you? You shouldn't solely rely on websites or bloggers for your gaming purchases? Form your own opinion for once? That for opinions, everyone has their own and you should keep that in mind? No, you already know that by now.
The following advice might not be new to you, but it's a universal QFT (Quoted for Truth). Whenever a person starts going crazy over a game in a forum or comment, just say…"Have you played the game? If not, shut up!"