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Switching Weapons – A Life of Expectancy

Posted by Jim on August 25, 2016

Switching Weapons

With the process of my separation ramping up, I’m finding it challenging to find opportunities to sit down and write. But fear not, I’m still managing to find them! Apologies for the delay of the article, but life should now have calmed down enough to provide a more sustainable schedule. Fortunately, as with last time, this leads directly into my topic.

When I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, hopping on the bus from Akron, OH on the way to Ft Benning, GA for Basic Combat Training, I only had stereotypes and hearsay to go off of in terms of what to expect. I had seen movies, I’d heard stories, I’d read articles and I’d played enough video games at that point to have, what I thought, was a general idea of what Basic would be like. Some of it was true, some of it wasn’t. Did my expectations color my experience? Of course they did. Did they ruin it? In some aspects, I suppose they did, but for the most part, no.

I’ve seen a lot of things happen in my beloved gaming world recently; games being delayed, games releasing with bugs and performance issues, games not delivering on promises made, and the reaction has always been the same. Hatred. Vitriol. Volatility. The gaming community sees an imperfect game the way a swarm of sharks sees a scoop of chum. They sense the blood in the water and they frenzy. Two years ago it was Watch_Dogs disappointing a horde of gamers that wanted it to be “Person of Interest—The Game.”  (Kudos if you get that reference)  Last year it was Batman: Arkham Knight and its abysmal performance on PC. A few months ago, Destiny (still my current obsession) fans complained that the April update was too-little too-late. Most recent, it was the No Man’s Sky fiasco.

I have to wonder, what part did our expectations play in the crushing disappointments that followed? What parts of our expectations were fed by overzealous or overambitious developers? What parts of our expectations were failed to be fulfilled by hasty or overbearing publishers that forced a release date on an unfinished product? Sure, in some cases, there was a bit of shadiness. Watch_Dogs revealed footage and previews at a significantly higher resolution than the final game proved capable of. There are threads on Reddit that detail every promise made by the No Man’s Sky team juxtaposed with the actual delivery, highlighting the glaring failure to follow-through with those claims.

The one thing all of these games I’ve mentioned had in common is that I loved every single one of them. Despite the controversy, I got exactly what I wanted. Let me give two examples:

Watch_Dogs was everything I wanted it to be, because I wanted it to be a fun, action, and intrigue-oriented experience with just a little bit of realism in an otherwise surrealistic setting. I understand the frustration many gamers had in the visual difference between what was shown and what we received, but it honestly didn’t bother me that much because I got the satisfying story and gameplay I was expecting. But that’s me. My expectations were met and I was happy.

I never had issues with Arkham Knight. But we expect games to work properly when they release. While I was able to enjoy it, one of my closest friends was not. He was angry, and justifiably so. He had paid for a game he had been excited to play, with the expectations that it would work, and was forced to receive a refund in the end. The refund is a small comfort; the money wasn’t the point, it was being denied the experience he’d expected.

In the case of No Man’s Sky, I just wanted a game I could turn on some music, explore around, fly through space, and buy/sell things. That’s exactly what I got. I didn’t need all the bells and whistles that were promised, but it is entirely reasonable that someone who did purchase the game for those promised features would be infuriated when they were absent when the game shipped.

So expectations can be a double-edged sword. I think in video games, and in many, many other aspects in life, managing those expectations can be paramount to enjoying things. Being able to separate realistic and reasonable expectations from unrealistic and unreasonable ones is exceptionally important to not leaving everything more jaded than the last disappointment. Some expectations are universal: we should all expect a functional game upon release. We should expect major selling-points of a product to be in place upon release. Arkham Knight and No Man’s Sky objectively failed.

Some expectations, however, are subjective. I personally didn’t care about the difference in the previewed graphics for Watch_Dogs, and my expectations were as such. I ended up loving the game, while many others took to forums with far more vitriol and harassment than a (insert your political party here) at a (insert opposite party here) rally. Watch_Dogs subjectively failed. Inversely, Watch_Dogs subjectively succeeded.

You can’t please everyone all the time, I understand that. Different people want different things, and some games are just going to resonate with more people than others… as long as they’re actually functional. But you can take examples like this and see what interests, values and standards you have to apply to more than just video games. By tempering your expectations, you can turn an “ew” into a “meh” at worst, or an “ew” into a “yes!” at best. Don’t buy into overhype, that way lies disappointment. Don’t fall into apathy, either; that way lies missed experience. Movies, comics, jobs, people; even Basic Combat Training can become self-fulfilling prophecies if you allow your expectations to alter your experience. Even if something doesn’t turn out to be entirely what you expected, maybe that doesn’t mean there isn’t something about it you can’t still enjoy.

Because even though you expected this article last week, at least a portion of you are going to enjoy what came eventually.


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About Jim

Sergeant Jim Beverly is a Pharmacy Specialist in the U.S. Army, and, for much longer, an avid gamer. A purple heart recipient and veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, Jim is always looking for ways to connect with his inner gamer, despite his obligations to his country. He strongly believes that the medium of gaming can be used to help servicemembers cope with adversity, post-war trauma, and strengthen relationships. His philosophy on life, the military, and being a nerd is shared in his column "Switching Weapons."

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