A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my son about the new Resident Evil game, about how I was looking forward to playing it, and about how it might be the first thing that has made me crave a taste of Playstation VR, when he said the following, “I’ve already watched someone play through it on YouTube.”
He had sat and watched a complete playthrough, experienced all the surprises and shocks second hand, and let’s be honest, killed the game stone dead for himself if he was ever to pick it up one day. And this is something that has become so commonplace in modern gaming. We used to witness film trailers showing audiences the best bits of the movie in an effort to sell something that was in reality usually a lot tamer than the trailer suggested, and now in gaming we have guys on Twitch and YouTube playing through entire games before they’re even in the mitts of the general public. And we watch in droves! I’ve been guilty of it myself.
In fact, this “let’s kill the joy” thing runs all over the place. I recently re-subbed to Loot Crate, I did this just as they happened to make a change that saw them send out the crates early to some of the bigger name YouTubers out there. And I went and watched one of them open the bloody thing whilst mine was still bouncing its way through the mailing system thus killing the main point of the crate in the first place. I wrangled with myself before watching the video, do I, don’t I, and then convinced myself the theme wasn’t really my cup of tea, gave in to temptation, and clicked play. When the box showed up a couple of days later, any magic was gone.
I now find it quite hard to remember the last time I played a game that I hadn’t already watched some portion of. When so much playtime is just one click away it’s hard as an avid gamer not to be enticed to watch. The only problem is, that click is one that can kill pivotal and glorious gaming moments for you further down the line.
I know personally I’ve ruined more than a few twists and cliffhangers along the way, but it wasn’t always like this. There was a time when all we had as video game fans were the monthly magazines and the once a week episodes of GamesMaster. The magazines were little treasure troves of glorious screenshots and first glimpses of new titles, or when the time was right, new consoles! I used to devour these things, every single word, and then when I was full on the word count, I would just gaze at the images and hope that I might get a chance to play one of the games soon, and that surely this is the pinnacle for video games. It was a far simpler time, no doubt, but whilst it might not have been the pinnacle for games, I firmly believe it to have been the pinnacle for excitement about games. It’s incredible what a couple of thousand words and a handful of screenshots can do to the mind of a game hungry kid.
GamesMaster was TV gold for the new gamer generation. It arrived at a time when games were infiltrating the mainstream and it filled a void for those of us craving more than the monthly mags. It was witty, it was exciting, and it was packed with video games. In some ways it was something of an early glimpse of how the coverage of video games would play out. There were challenges on levels from games I usually hadn’t played yet and there were videos from upcoming games I hadn’t seen before, I would sit and let it wash over me, happy to drown in every glorious pixel that spilled from the screen.
But that was then and this is now. The times have changed, the seams of the internet channels are bursting as game show upon game show squash into the same place, and largely, do the same thing, play the games we’ve yet to play and discuss in detail the games we’ve yet to enjoy, and I imagine like many of you, I sit and watch. But, we definitely lost something along the journey to this modern age. We lost the awe, we lowered the excitement, we plucked games from the heights they might have reached and pulled them back down to earth, and we did it by simply watching. Watching others play the games, watching them dissect the games, watching them lessen the game’s impact for the moment we begin to play. I want to walk away from these channels and try to find a place where I can once again play a game and have only a notion of what is to come. But it’s difficult. At heart I’m still the same kid who craved every nugget of information and would seek out anything video game related in the hope of catching a new screen or video from a game I was excited about, and now that information is ridiculously easy to reach and my willpower is a weakling.
Regrets, I’ve had a few…
That’s in no doubt, but how about yourself? Have you ever regretted watching the players? Ever stumbled upon just a little more information than you wanted about a game you had yet to play? Or, are you one of the lucky ones with a +5 willpower save who always manages to avoid such game killers?
As magical and fulfilling as the new gaming landscape is, with its playthroughs and its unboxings, its alpha tests and beta goodness, stacked high demos and YouTube personalities, for me, it lacks the real magic that lives in expectation, and excitement of the (relatively) unknown, the sort of magic that once upon a time, in a galaxy pretty near, could make a kid dream big.