There's probably been a time when all of feel like we're out of the loop. There's just that game we don't understand that everyone else seems to love to death. We want to get involved with the crowd, to feel like one of the popular kids on the block. We often make the effort to understand what our gaming passions drive our friends and family that we lack. Nevertheless, there are many times that we stumble and fall in our attempts to get into the latest gaming fads. Sometimes I just have to ask myself, "Is it you, or is it just me?"

It's a situation I find myself in far too much this, or any gaming generation. Perhaps there are too many games that carry the brand of "One of the best titles, or Best Game of This Generation" in a review or have a massive, almost cult-like following that I fail to see. I won't say that I or anyone else must feel it necessary to like everything. I'd be a fool to think I could. Yet I wonder if I'm missing out on something important that I might enjoy.

There's an obvious amount of times where it's entirely just me. Many games out there are well-made and brilliantly designed by their developers, of course. At the same time, their games that I inherently have no interest in conceptually even while I appreciate them technologically. I admire the blinding speed and vivid graphics of most every racing and sports game I see played on Gamestop's demo kiosks. I truly marvel at every grain of sand and bullet shell that Call of Duty and Battlefield capture in their stunning sprawls of action-packed explosions. All the while, I would admit to playing them casually if not at all. I'm willing to pick up a Need for Speed if on sale and race a few hours away, yet I may never get into sports games, or perhaps sports in general for reasons of my own personal tastes. It's another easy thing to say that, perhaps aside from political ideology that rubs me the wrong way, CoD or Battlefield will not interest me just from their linearity. If I don't like a certain game genre, I'm no liable to be playing a game from it and really just have no opinion either way. With that said, many people love these afore mentioned genres far more than I and more power to them. Nevertheless, is there something deeper/ more interesting in my self-evaluation than just a natural taste? 

Having Different Expectations

Hype is easily the first thing that I believe has changed much of my gaming experiences. Part of what goes into my feelings about a game has always, at least in part, been about the imagined game I played in my head for months before its release. Whether it's been on my part or thanks to empty promises from companies, sometimes I've let expectations get away from me.

I think back to the Force Unleashed as one enormous example of disappointment. As a huge Star Wars fan since even before gaming, I remember the constant stream of Force Unleashed hype as the franchise's second-coming. The game seemed like a true Star Wars tale I hadn't seen since the real movies. . . until it came out. GI gave it an 8.75 back in the day and I would give it only a mere 7.75 myself. I won't say it was a bad game technically speaking, but with a drummed down combat from what was seemingly advertised and a stale hero, the end-result hurt far more than any average game I didn't expect anything from. I wouldn't have given it any writing awards myself from the VGAs and I didn't see what critics saw in it. I could only talk longer about its lousier sequel. [It's FU II abbreviation felt like an appropriate summary of LucasArts' handling of the series. . .] 

Experiences on the other end of the spectrum also speak to the "hype" problem. Under-the-radar games like Kid Icarus: Uprising and Prince of Persia 2008 were games that I knew nothing about before diving into them as blind purchases. It was probably those lack of expectations to generally love them. I gave 'ole Kid Icarus a generous 8.5 and I would've given Prince of Persia an 8.75 for the beauty of its world and combat in stark contrast to those who think low of both. [Kid Icarus only got a 7 from Jeff Cork on the site, if you can believe.] 

There is no less of a temptation from hype-overload from developers as well. We all know of the snazzy, pre-rendered cutscenes dished out by E3 and tv commercials that famously look nothing like their in-game versions. AC IV most recently showed off the best, though unfortunately separate, footage of Edward Kenway's buccaneering. It look fantastic visually but I couldn't help think that it was just as much as a lie to players of what the game was to be and look like like Watch_Dogs' pre-rendered E3 promo was. That said, both games will be great in my mind anyway, but it follows a culture of hyperbole and attention-grabbing that our media is glued to. We always see those big words of "AMAZING" and "EPIC" everywhere we see in our televisions, movie-screens, or computer ones. While it shouldn't it does get me mirfed when I sit down to play a game that doesn't deliver all of that in one package. 

Did I get my Money's Worth?

They say that money changes everything, and it can be true even of video-games. As much as I want to purely enjoy a game, I always know that money had to be paid for it, and how much I've paid factors into my satisfaction with it far too often. It's purely a practical matter, though consumer savvy one I suppose, of how much content I'm getting per dollar and it's sad that it decides the label of "rip-off" too much for me. I've enjoyed plenty of games I got at launch from day one, but there are those that I admittedly don't ever pay full-price for. As a Lego-Maniac, I love Lego games to death, but alas, it's only when I see them at the $25-30 tag that I snag 'em. With the recent exception of Lego City's Wii U version, they're generally just not worth the full price with their tendency to drag with mundane collection missions and I would probably think less of them if they only existed at $60. 

Some games that you find at a steal have generated an entirely different legacy in my mind. Once I finally got into the Metal Gear Solid series, I got MGS 4 for only $20 several yrs. ago and besides its amazing game qualities, I think of it more highly for only forking over a single $20 for it. Would I think less of it for more? I ask the same question with any JRPG I play. A full Final Fantasy experience delivers a 50+ hr. experience minimum minus sidequesting, and are worth every penny of their $60 price day 1, but would I start to resent them if sold for $130 if I felt like I wasn't being respected financially by them? Game editors, particularly from this site, feel quite positively about Skylanders and Disney Infinity for a further example. I look at them and immediately think of a $$$ sucking-machine that I don't feel like investing the cash in before I even think about how fun they might be. GI's editors have the fact that they play games like them for review free when they score them and while I don't hold that against their enjoyment of it, it's true that it adds a different depth to your game experience if you weren't give a high cost in the real-world playing them for free.

Being [or not being] Part of the Group

The most difficult aspect of my own gaming loves could in some ways be tied to a present, yet still influential element of the crowd. Yes, I admit that a peer-pressure surrounds every entertainment medium, even gaming, and it's troubling though inevitable that it affects some of our thinking when it comes to talking about a game. We are all social animals by nature and as such, a part of us all wants to share opinions most in a group. We love Team X-Box and being on Team PS4, but does it cloud our judgment when it comes to being honest about their games. Already at E3 we witnessed the enthralling sense of dedication that Sony's fans gave towards the PS4 while Nintendo is most popularly talked about in spurts and X-Box One is popularly booed. I won't imply that any one of you aren't sincere about your gaming tastes and passions, but I find that it's only true in me and maybe others that an unfair amount of tradition and loyalty comes into defending a game series. Tie this into my talk about nostalgia if you like. Mario and Zelda and Star Wars are things from my childhood that treasure, and I find comfort being in those fan communities camps for sharing my thoughts with the likeminded. We may always be drawn into similar opinions for a "safety in numbers" mechanism. It's not a bad thing in and of itself, but an overpowering version of it plays its own part in damaging our potential enjoyment of new things. How much of "us" is in our loves is only measured by how much we over-rely on the crowd to guide our tastes is a test of self that's all nothing less than important to me as a gamer.

(Everyone feels left out sometime. . . but it can be for the better. . .)

I suppose I could end this talk off by saying that being on the outs isn't all bad. Groups and communities are meant to be a free pleasure, but being your own rebel is what makes new ones just as good. I admittedly felt quite tired upon writing this late tonight and perhaps a fatigued me elaborated for far too long, but I hope some of you with the same thoughts might've found a familiar feeling in it. Agree or disagree? Have a future blogging suggestion or like the hilariously random Daisy cartoon sketch? Comment away and good night to all. 

Next on the Inquisitive Blogger: Do I have a Choice?