If you’re like me, you can stroll leisurely through your local Gamestop, Best Buy or any of the other brick and mortar stores that peddle gaming treasures, and see a handful of upcoming titles that you want to spin up in your system of choice. Those hard earned credits are burning a hole in your pocket and you can’t decide which game you want to purchase. You want more than what your budget will allow for, so the last thing you want to do is miss out on a gem and get stuck with something that isn’t worth the cost of the CD or DVD it’s burned on.



While the following measures seem obvious to the casual observer, the truth is, most people don’t think about or take these steps and risk wasting their cash on games that will get about as much play time as Peyton Manning did in Superbowl 44.



1. Do your homework. If you’re reading this, then chances are you have Internet access. Most game companies release a fair amount of media prior to the release of their game. (screen shots, trailers, background story, character profiles). This data will provide a great snapshot of the title’s potential, or lack thereof. If you’re not impressed with the media releases, there is a very good chance you won’t be impressed with the final product. Certainly there are exceptions, but doing a little bit of advanced research goes along way in deciding whether a game is worth your money.



2. Read the ENTIRE preview. Typically, game companies will use recognized media outlets to advertise their products prior to their official release. There are times when game companies are locked down tighter than the security at Area 52 with regards to their latest endeavors, but usually the big name magazines and websites, like Game Informer, can get the inside scoop and turn that around in a preview that is provided to the public, or at least interested readers. The important thing to remember when reading a preview is to actually read the whole preview and remember that it is the opinion of the person reviewing the game. Game reviewers have the daunting task of playing a game and rating it on a scale that is often limited and hard to define. Their scope used to measure a game’s rating will undoubtedly differ from the next persons. For example, what makes a game a 9.25 or a 9.75? If you read why the evaluator gave it a particular score you’ll have better insight into what the game has to offer. Not to pick on Modern Warfare 2, but a lot of people have voice concerned over the number of exploits in multiplayer. If this is reflected in a preview/review by a low score, but you don’t play online, then this factor shouldn’t persuade you from not buying the game. However if you insist on a strong single player story and read a preview/review that says the story is boring, then obviously you might reconsider your purchasing decision. Bottom line: read the whole review and remember it is someone’s opinion that very well didn’t play all the way through the game but rather just a portion of it.


3. Avoid impulse purchases. Gamestop doesn’t have midnight release sales events for all new releases. Usually that is reserved for big name titles that the gaming community is frothing at the mouth for. I think the last one I attended was for Modern Warfare 2, and it was a hoot. Millions of people stood in line and enjoyed the festivities while waiting for the game. Most had no clue whether they would actually like it or not. That didn’t matter. It was Modern Warfare 2. The same was true for Halo: ODST. Big crowds. Long lines. If you’re the kind of person that buys a new game on the day of release (or a midnight release for those games that warrant such special attention) then you may be surprised or disappointed when you finally get to play it. If you’re not prepared for that, then you might want to wait and get some player feedback before you take the plunge. The good thing about the gaming community is we’re large (in numbers, not necessarily physique) and we’re vocal. I’m always intrigued and impressed with the World of Warcraft players who get a new expansion pack and race to see who can reach the max level the quickest. That’s dedication. If a game is trash, you are going to hear about it almost immediately. The same is true if it is a future Game of the Year contender. If you can wait, then wait. If you can’t wait, then you get what you get.


4. Try before you buy. This is normally accomplished through demos or trials that you can either download or get on DVD bundled with a magazine, but may be accomplished by visiting stores like Best Buy or Gamestop that have units set up allowing you to try the game out. After playing Guitar Hero: Beatles, I wouldn’t purchase the game. I didn’t really like it. I absolutely love everything about EVE Online, but after playing the trial, I realized it wasn’t for me. Too much time required and a pretty steep learning curve. If you don’t like a demo, there is very good chance you won’t like the game. If you don’t play the demo, then there is a very good chance you won’t know whether you will like the game.



5. Ask your peers. If you’re a gamer, then you probably know other gamers. Even if you don’t, you can lurk around game specific forums and read individuals thoughts and comments on a particular title. You can usually decipher the validity of the post by the quality of the post. You might not place much value on a post that reads, “Game A sucks. I hates it. It no good.”  However, a post that reads, “Game A was a substandard title because the graphics were pixelated, the story was difficult to follow and the game froze every time I switched from my primary to my secondary weapon while running and jumping.” has a little more value.




As I mentioned, these measures seem fairly obvious, yet I assure you, if you find a gamer that is displeased with a game in their inventory, there is a strong chance they didn’t really put a lot of effort into the decision making process behind selecting that title.


Oh, and the last point. Probably the most important point.


Gamers are never satisfied and expect everything. They want the perfect game and feel like they deserve it, yet such a creature will never exist.