Dangerous Preconceptions - seb100172 Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Dangerous Preconceptions

Yeah...it was hard to find an image for this...if you search

for 'preconception' all you get is pregnant women.

I have a friend who used to think that everything I played was pure ***. For years I tried to show him the wonders of games other than Call of Duty, FIFA, and The Elder Scrolls. When I first met him, he told me that he was a hardcore gamer. It turns out that he only thought so because he played TES and Diablo 2. To ease him into the gaming medium from a broader spectrum, I tried to show him other, albeit more unique, first person shooters. Borderlands, Bioshock, and the Resitance series, according to my dear friend's first impression of these games, were pure crap, and these games aren't even obscure. There almost always was no second impression, and much less a third. The only time he agreed to play an extended session of a game with me, which happened to be Borderlands (because he liked Diablo 2 and shooters), only helped him further cement his opinion that I had a horrible taste in games. Soon, I gave up trying to share my love for some of my most beloved franchises; it was hopeless. It was almost comical, then, when he came to me, months after I had given up, announcing that he really liked Borderlands. He was even stoked for Borderlands 2. Someone else had shown him the game, and for a reason that took me a while to understand, he enjoyed it then.

How could anyone say that the graphics suck?!

Many factors caused this change of heart to come about. First of all, you can probably tell he was more of a casual gamer. He played only the most popular games, in very short sessions, and his definition of what was a 'good game' consisted of whatever had a larger number after its name or whatever everyone else was buying. However, the fact that he had been capable of changing his mind means that these were not the only factors that mattered. Reluctantly, I came to accept the only possible explanation. An explanation I refused to accept because it was offensive: My friend's low opinion of me, of my taste in games, made him unable to accept that anything I showed him could possibly be enjoyable. This realization made me consider writing about our friendship in the past tense, but that is a personal matter beside the point. When we played Borderlands, I tried to show him and ask his opinion on the different aspects of the game. He answered with such conviction that I almost thought he had already played it. What did he think about the amount of guns? "They are all just mild variations of each others." What about the graphics? "It looks so bland and unrealistic." And the co-op? "It makes the game lag." And it went on and on. The reason why it seemed he had already made up his mind is because he had. He had made negative preconceptions about the game based solely on the fact that it was me who had recommended it, and he refused to change his mind as we played. Preconceptions are a pest that have been plaguing humanity since it's inception, and it evidently harms gamers too, even if it was a casual one in this case. It might not let gamers acknowledge a good game when they see one.


In our modern times, preconceptions have affected gamers' experience with games more so than at anytime in the past. The internet has let us quickly and efficiently look at others' opinions on games. Every gamer, without exception, has let an internet score on, say, metacritic affect what he will buy or play next. However, it goes deeper than that. A preconceived idea about a game does not only affect one's decision about which game to buy. It also alters how much the gamer enjoys their experience. A study conducted by Electronic Entertainment Design and Research (EEDR) and The Guildhall at SMU had some insightful results on the matter. This is a popular study, so chances are that you have heard of it already. The subjects were people who had never played Plants vs. Zombies. They were asked to play it. One group read positive reviews of the game, another read negative reviews, and the last was a control group that was given no reviews to read. At the end, they were asked to rate the game, and they could take home either $10 or a free copy of the game. As expected, the people who had formulated a negative opinion prior to playing gave PvZ the lowest scores and took the money. The opposite was true for the people who read the positive reviews. If you are further interested in this study you can read about it more in depth here: http://www.gamesradar.com/study-professional-game-reviews-strongly-affect-consumer-behavior/.

It is shocking to me that anyone would pass up the opportunity of a free game, even if it was badly reviewed. What was the most shocking, though, is that a preconception has such a firm grip in one's mind. In my personal experience, I enjoyed many games that have received middling scores in metacritic, especially when I was younger. Thus, it also surprised me when, out of curiosity, I looked for the critical receptions of some of my most played games as a youngster and found that many games I had adored were largely disregarded. Custom Robo, Monster Hunter (the PS2 ones), and Spectrobes are just a few examples. These were games that were simply given to me as gifts or that I bought on a whim. Maybe their box arts were cool or something. Despite my method of choosing, the fact remains that I enjoyed the heck out of each of those games. Admittedly, having played them, I still consider them to be inferior to some other higher scoring games, but this did not stop me from having fun. On the other hand, in my friend's case and in the study, the subjects' negative prejudices were so strong that they found the game tedious and an utter waste of time. Reading a review and creating negative prejudices apparently creates a definite dislike for a game, if you're susceptible to influence, I guess.

On a parting note, I want to state that the goal of this post was not to decry gaming journalism; I'm not subversively suggesting that there's the industry is conspiring to wash gamers' minds. No. The only thought that I do want cultivated in the minds of anyone reading this is that people should not let reviews or public opinion limit what they play. I guess my ultimate goal was to simply suggest something that has been exhaustively suggested: try something different. Try something that is disregarded by your friends or community. Maybe, pick out a game randomly for once. I do realize that many people have to find time to game with tight time constraints. However, even then, playing 'bad' games would make the 'good' experiences all that more memorable and satisfying (This is another topic that has been extensively discussed by many blogs, here's one: http://www.gameinformer.com/blogs/members/b/residenthazard_blog/archive/2013/12/12/play-bad-games.aspx). Just don't be like my dear friend that I mentioned at the beginning.