Octopath Traveler reviews came out today, and people sure do have some feelings about it.
One of the reasons I really like Kotaku is because of how they handle reviews and previews. When I was finding my way back into video game culture after a long hiatus, it took me some time to land on a website that didn’t lurch into hyperbole over every new screenshot of a game. I used to receive Game Informer magazine in the mail and it started becoming a little ridiculous- the ads every other page, the fawning interviews, the 7/10s. Still, I enjoyed flipping through the magazine, even though it was always hopelessly out of date by the time it arrived.
I followed The Penny Arcade Report for a while before they shuttered it; I still enjoy reading anything by Ben Kuchera. He’s over at Polygon now which has become another website I frequent, despite their tendency to post six or eight articles about the same subject within a day or two. Their content is better in smaller doses at the end of the day.
It’s hard to run a video game website, or really anything about pop culture. There will inevitably be articles that don’t say anything of substance while we wait for the next big release or announcement so we can comment on it. Again, Kotaku takes a pretty unique approach to video game news. The editorial staff is generally pretty good about not putting up anything half-sourced, so that the readers know that the news is legit when it does come. Of course they keep up with things that will get clicks; always a million Fortnite and Overwatch articles. But there’s less mindless hype building. Any previews have a reserved tone, none of the breathless coverage of IGN or whatever the YouTuber of the week is shouting about.
So for the life of me, I don’t understand people who read Kotaku reviews and decide to bitch about something they disagree with in the comment section.
I understand that people have been waiting for Octopath Traveler for some time. The game’s developers have an amazing pedigree and expectations for it to live up to that pedigree are high. So when the game comes out and a review is decidedly mixed, people get nervous. Should I cancel my preorder? This was going to be a day one purchase, but now I’m not sure. Why should we believe what he says, he’s only played [x amount] of hours anyway.
There’s a very human reaction in that people can’t help but become invested. The story of the game becomes the story of the player; the drama of what other people think about it can get weirdly personal. Positives and negatives become hills to die on there’s that need to debate and win over others with sound arguments or sheer passion.
I’m not advocating that people should never allow themselves to get excited about a thing. Those feelings can be impossible to avoid and besides, it can be fun to engage in the hype every now and then. I get excited about things all the time! I swear!
What I am advocating for is the tempering of expectations. I’ve stopped watching movie trailers if I can at all avoid them; it’s increased my enjoyment of movies by a significant amount. I keep up with video game news because it’s my job but I don’t let myself buy into the hype of a slick tech demo or preview. I’ve been reading some old articles about Molyneux lately and his particular brand of marketing is probably dead and gone now. He was a man who believed his own promises, to his detriment. Backlash always came to bite him because he was constantly at odds with reality.
It’s easy to see how big promises can be seductive, especially in regards to a genre that people don’t feel is getting a lot of love lately. Octopath Traveler comes at an interesting time in the Switch’s lifecycle, and perhaps unfairly has a lot of expectations heaped upon it. It will sell a ton of copies, and it will probably sit at a solid 8/10 at those publications that provide review scores. There will be a nagging feeling among anyone who read Kotaku’s review before playing the game that Octopath Traveler is wasting their time.
I find that I enjoy my content more if I don’t have any expectations. Do I hope that the movies/ games/ television/ books/ food that I consume are great? Of course! Do I expect them to be? Rarely.
That’s all I’m trying to say. Come at things the way you want to come at them, rather than letting a website tell you how to feel about it. Keep an open mind and don’t let the hype take you in. Don’t be cynical...
Well. Maybe be a little cynical. It can be fun, up here on the high horse.