After slaving over and consuming all of the review, previews, and features available for every game that interested me, I started having the feeling that I get when I watch a movie trailer that's way too revealing. By the time the game actually comes out, I know what its "beats" are, and I know exactly what to expect. Sure, reading keeps me more informed and let's me know whether or not a game is worth the purchase, but it also leaves me with a shallower experience in the end.
Being so well-informed makes a game's flaws more apparent. Something that would have been a mild annoyance — or perhaps barely notable at all — becomes an egregious error because I read four different reviews that point out the same "glaring" problem.
Sometime last year I decided to say "screw it," and I started purchasing and playing games using the same criteria I used to when I was younger: my gut.
The first game I tried this new approach with couldn't have been a better choice: Batman: Arkham Asylum. It's pretty much a given now that the game is awesome, but before its release, Arkham Asylum's buzz among fans was mostly positive with a big dose of cautious pessimism. Seeing as there hadn't been a great Batman game, well, ever, gamers had every right to feel that way.
So I went into the game blind. I didn't wait for any reviews and didn't read any hands-on impressions. All I had to go by was the very first screenshots of the game and a gut feeling that it might be good. It couldn't have gone any better.
Batman: Arkham Asylum became one of the biggest surprise hits of last year. And it blew me away because I had no clue what the game had to offer going in. I experiences all of the added touches, gameplay wrinkles, and story elements, for the first time, through my own two eyes instead of someone else's. It was fantastic.
Since then, I've taken this approach with all of the games that I purchase. Obviously, some titles have more hype than others, or are part of an already established franchise, so it can be easy to spot cetain surefire gems, but this approach has led me to play quite a few games — that I loved — that drew wildly differing opinions from members of the gaming press. Some of them even ended up having positive reviews — unbeknownst to me at the time.
Games like Ghostbusters, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, and Cursed Mountain (a game I just picked up the other day and still need to crack open) get their due without me knowing exactly how each game will disappoint.
Not only that; this method keeps you free of spoilers! Experiencing Batman: Arkham Asylum and God of War 3's opening with virgin eyes was awesome.
I know that some people think that games are expensive and that not everyone has the luxury of taking chances like that with their hard-earned dollars. And I can totally respect that. For my money, opening a game and loving, liking, or hating it based on its own merits — and solely on my own opinion — makes it a risk worth taking.