On Destructoid recently, there was a call for people to talk about hype. I considered what ‘hype’ truly was and where it came from.
So here I am.
The first thing to consider when looking at ‘hype’, is he fact that it’s only become a ‘problem’ as gaming has grown. Previously, the only news we got was through niche magazines once a month. We could only talk about games with the other kids in the playground who had a console. There wasn’t the appetite 15 years ago, there wasn’t the awareness and there wasn’t the money behind it all. Computer games were a way for children to waste time and things that social recluses created.
Now it’s all changed. Everyone plays games. Anything can play games. Anyone can find a game that’s ‘for them’. Huge amounts of money are made from games. We’ve got game creators who are minor celebrities in their own right and, of course, we’ve got huge PR machines making sure that everyone knows what’s going on. Though PR isn’t the cause of hype.
You see, PR is just there to make us aware of what’s happening with a game through advertising and ensuring that feautres are run on websites and in magazines, though it’s got much slyer as years have gone by. Videos go ‘viral’, Community Managers are there to make us feel part of a ‘family’ and many competitions are designed not to challenge us or to get us to create something, but they’re mainly a way to promote a cause even further. ‘Re-tweet this message to have a chance to win a game’.
That’s where hype truly comes from, the gamers. Gamers are all too keen to promote and announce their excitement for games. Demos we’ve played are commented on, betas we’re participating in are written about and games we’re excited for we’ll create threads for. This leads to a huge amount of noise and with the internet becoming as crowded as it is, people are finding newer and louder ways to be heard. This NEED to be heard is what turns us into a companies loud-speaker. This noise is what’s known as ‘hype’ and it’s only getting louder.
What was once a conversation with the other kid in school who played games is now a series of blog entries. What was once writing in to a gaming magazine is now several forum posts. Where you’d once take a game around to a friend’s house, you instead LiveStream to an audience of 100s or 1,000s.
As much as the game companies would like to claim ‘hype’ as being their own creation it’d be wrong to do so. Developers and publishers do nothing but make us aware of their product, whether this creates ‘hype’ or not is down to us. WE decide what game receives attention. WE create the hype.
This isn’t to say that ‘hype’ is as powerful as people would like to think. How many games have been publicised beyond belief and then gone on to flop? How many games have had little to no attention and then go on on to be succesful? Many examples exist for both sides of this coin. To be honest, I’ve been swept up in a ‘hype-storms’ in my time. The first Assassin’s Creed game I couldn’t have been more excited for. I clicked on every story I could get, I watched every video that was uploaded. Did I buy it? Was I fooled? No.
With ‘hype’ and excitement comes a whole lot of nonsense, sure, but amongst it all there’s genuine comment and honest opinion. You can be sure that no matter how excited gamers and the gaming press are for something, if it’s no good, you’ll soon know about it. Reviews come in and user’s will soon upload game-play videos that show everything, ‘warts and all’. ‘Hype’ is nothing to be frightened of. It’s not wool being pulled over our eyes, it’s just excitement that gets exaggerated by a bunch of noisy like-minded fans. ‘Hype’ soon reveals the true quality of any game, no matter how much good-will exists towards the product. ‘Hype’ is also easily ignored, with the choices available to us, you can easily find another stream, another YouTube channel or another blog to spend your time on.
Websites, writers and advertisers cause awareness. We create the hype. PR and advertising can try and fool us, but ‘Hype’ never deceives us.