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One Chance To Make A First Impression, But…

I don't always know what inspires a particular blog, but when I do, I will often mention it...especially if it can be attributed to another person. Well, the idea for this blog sort of hit me after sifting through some of the user reviews and reading Reptar7's review of Black Ops 2. You can read it here if you want. Anyway, Reptar7 made the comment how it takes him a few months of playing a game before he's ready to write a review for it. I can't be sure, but I think that's in sharp contrast to how much time is typically spent on a game before a review is written. That concept is kind of the genesis for this blog.

There is a popular expression you've very likely heard that suggests, "You get one chance to make a first impression" but is that first impression always accurate? When applied to video games, and your first exposure to a game, is your first impression representative of your true thoughts or do you need to play the game for a certain amount of time before your true feeling is realized? Can your perspective be influenced by external factors like promotional hype or positive comments from industry experts? Have you ever played a game you thought was one of the best games ever, but over time or after taking a break and picking it up again, you find your opinion has changed?

I don't know why but I think it's a fascinating concept worth exploring. I've played quite a few games so far this year - I was sure at the time some of these big names would be in the running for Game of the Year, but now that I think about it, I wonder if my initial assessment was a bit premature.

For example, I thought Tomb Raider was an exceptional game; a game I thoroughly enjoyed playing. When I finished it I thought for sure it would be in contention for Game of the Year (and maybe it will be). But ever since I finished it, I haven't played it again or even really thought about it. When I do, it doesn't seem as spectacular as I initially thought. So, is it?

Even Bioshock Infinite, a game that earned more perfect scores from the industry experts and community members than any other game in recent times, doesn't seem as mighty as I remember. Don't get me wrong, I still think it's an amazing experience, but was my original reception of the game inflated because I played it shortly after its release when the industry was buzzing about it?

And perhaps the real question is...does it even matter?

Whether it does or not, who can say...but I can't help wonder how come I think about the original Bioshock more often and can remember more details about it than I can Bioshock Infinite? There are some games I recall playing from years and years ago (decades even?) and I'm always surprised I remember so many details and have so many positive memories of the game. I can even go back and play it again and the magic is still there.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some games I think are totally amazing and when I revisit them, I have no idea why I thought so highly of the game. My initial assessment was clearly inflated, for whatever reason.

Every now and then I'll go back to a game I initially didn't like and find it wasn't near as bad as I originally thought. This was especially true with Battlefield 3. My first 15-30 minutes with Battlefield 3 were mostly a disappointment. I powered the game off and thought I just wasted $50 or $60 bucks on a game I'd probably never play again. But then I caught my daughter playing it...I watched for a bit...tried it again...and found I really liked it. I think I judged it so harshly because I was such a huge Battlefield 2 fan and expected it to be more like that.

The industry is full of examples where the initial excitement for a game is somewhat short lived and the longer the game is out the less gamers tend to rave about it and hold it in such high regard. I've already seen headlines reporting The Last of Us is going to unseat Bioshock Infinite as the primary contender for Game of the Year. Seriously? A game that so many people gave perfect scores to and agreed was a masterpiece, and we're already prepared to dismiss it?

Perhaps one of the most obvious examples of this is Mass Effect 3. Now, I certainly don't want to open old wounds, but the initial reception for Mass Effect 3 was - it was the greatest game ever. But over time as more and more people spent time with it, played through it and started digging in to the story and its controversial ending did we start to see the review scores go down and people start to criticize it.

The Call of Duty series is another obvious example. I'd be curious to see what the sales numbers are for the game after it's been out for a few months. So many people pre-order the game and pick it up the first night, it's hard to say it's a great game based on these numbers alone. I say this because it never seems to take too long before the haters come out and start bashing the game for being too short or that the servers are overrun with cheaters, trolls and other miscreants.

So which perspective matters? Which is more accurate? Which is the one you tell your friends when they ask about a game? Which is the one you think about years later when you remember the game - your first impression, your last impression or somewhere in the middle? I can't answer that, or even if it matters. But I do think about it.

Something to consider as we head into E3 and prepare to be blown away with all the footage of upcoming games. I'll enjoy the hype...the glitz and glamour...but I certainly don't want to forget about what the game truly has to offer after I've played it for a while.

Cheers.

 

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