Most of us can remember a time when we heard about something, maybe a movie, a book or a game, and everybody else seemed to be talking about it as if it were the best thing since sliced bread. No matter what you think about some product and no matter how “unbiased” you might consider yourself, when a human being hears a lot of buzz for a film, novel, video game, etc. expectations are heightened or lowered. It happened with Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Firefly, Mass Effect, Halo, and it is likely happening now for a whole slew of other intellectual properties. All these forms of media were hyped before and after their release. Hype is when expectations and anticipation is created for a given product.

Hype is especially potent in the video game industry. Before a video game is released all that most people have to form opinions off of are trailers, PR press releases, and previews from (hopefully) reputable gaming sites. One way that publishers create hype is by releasing exciting CG or live-action trailers that feature beloved characters or over-the-top action that, while pretty to look at, show no actual gameplay. Another way is through the big game conventions like E3 or Gamescom where show-goers are given hands-on time with demos or shown in-game footage. Before a game is released to the public, marketing and ad campaigns are able to cultivate the public’s expectations of their product and that image might not reflect the reality of the finished game.

Is this a deplorable thing that gamers everywhere should take up pitchforks and torches about? No. It is simply the nature of the beast. The video game industry needs to get word about their titles out there so that we, the public, buy them and give the publishers (who spent literally tons of money to create said game) a return on their investment. It is our job as consumers to be savvy, do the research, and not waste our money. However, if one thing in particular influences consumer spending in the world of video games it is the game review.

It is important to remember a few things about reviewing video games. First, people who review video games are not robots. Hype influences reviewers because they get excited about stuff, too. Game reviewers should try to be impartial and review the game on its own merits, but when the hype machine gets out of hand, it needs to be addressed. Ignoring that this happens by not addressing hype when it pertains to a review does a disservice to readers, whether they were planning on buying the game or not. Second, when a person goes into a game with certain ideas about what it is going to be like, those ideas become a part of his/her gameplay experience and might be integral to the final review. In the end a review is the summary of a reviewers time with the product, a catalogue of their experience in which hype can play a role. Third, not every game is hyped to the point that it is worth mentioning in the review. Games like Alter Iris, Mark of the Ninja, Bulletstorm, etc. are all games that weren’t hyped all that much and as a result, reviewers don’t need to mention that aspect in their review.

Video game reviewing is not a scientific process. People respond to things differently. Likewise, hype for games affects reviewers in dissimilar ways. Some might not have been incredibly excited for a new game and the hype for it is not worth mentioning, but others might have been squee-ing with joy at that same game’s announcement and in that case hype could be important to mention in the review. Hype should be addressed in a review if it has overblown every aspect of what the game is actually like in either positive or negative ways.

TLDR: Reviews are critical chronicles of a reviewers time spent with a product and hype becomes a part of that if the reviewer went into their gameplay experience with certain ideas of the game as a result of the hype.

TLDR to the TLDR: Reviews should mention hype if it is pertinent.

What do you think? Should hype be a factor in reviews?