Now I know that this may seem like an odd question as we at Max and Tom squared are involved in the game covering business, but we also like the cultivation of discussion amongst our beloved readers and with commenting on posts now made easier, there’s no reason not to give us your opinion!
Now that my shameless appeal for comments is over, let me paint you a little picture:
The year is 2008 (with maybe part of this occurring in 2007, but the precise time is not particularly relevant) and finding myself completing my university course (in 2008 which is entirely relevant) there was a period of time where I was…….dramatic pause…….unemployed. To fill my hours I naturally stuck to my hobby and played video games. I also read about them and trawled through various web pages to find any news, videos or screenshots I could get my grubby little hands on about upcoming games. Enter Fallout 3. As a massive fan of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion I was excited when I discovered that Bethesda were developing another huge open world game based in a post apocalyptic setting. Sure I was saddened at the fact that I would have to lay down my swords in favour of guns but this was a small price to pay for getting the chance to navigate an entirely new world, which was Bethesda’s take on a Washington D.C. ravaged by war and nuclear fallout.
Before Oblivion I didn’t know about the Elder Scrolls series or Bethesda for that matter, I just put the games in and played them without paying any attention to who produced them and as a result I knew nothing of the game before I played it. But now with my steely gaze looking upon Fallout 3 I knew I had to find as much information about it as I possibly could, from preview articles to screenshots to developer diary videos. You name it, I saw it. The one video that will forever be ingrained in my memory was one of the aforementioned developer diaries. The roughly five minute long video chronicled your character’s emergence from Vault 101 and thus setting foot into the above ground wasteland of Washington D.C. with the video culminating in the ultimate reveal. Watching the sun saturating the screen as the character in the video reached the entrance of the gully leading to Vault 101’s door left me staring in amazement at how fantastic this moment will be when I finally have the game in my possession.
Fast forward to October 31st 2008, the official release date for Fallout 3 in the UK. My faithful postman slid a jiffy bag through the letterbox which had all the hallmarks of containing a game (trust me, I’ve ordered plenty to know the tropes exhibited in such a jiffy bag, that and Fallout 3 was the only thing I had being delivered to me) so I rushed to the door, ripped open the bag and no sooner had the packaging hit the floor, the game was in my Xbox 360 and ready to play. I coasted through the opening portion of the game until I was ready to leave the vault in search of my father, who had also vacated Vault 101’s security. As I exited, I drew breath one last time in anticipation for the big reveal of the world and took my first steps under the suns harsh rays. I then let out that breath, with an empty feeling inside. Sure the saturation was still there and the vast wasteland was presented in all its glory but the overriding feeling I had was ‘I’ve seen this before’. It definitely looked a lot better on my TV screen as opposed to a small box on my computer monitor but the moment was lost on me. As I had seen it months before, this moment that should have been an epic start to a lengthy quest had been ruined. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved the game and spent countless hours in its world but to this day I wish I had never watched that original developer diary and I know stepping onto the baron D.C. ground would not have been spoiled had I refrained from my flagrant gathering of game information.
Now to thrust the story into the present day, Bethesda’s developer follow up to Fallout 3 was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. By this time I had learnt my lesson and decided to have a complete media blackout. My heart wanted to learn whatever I could about the game but my head would not allow it so apart from learning about the inclusion of dragons and seeing a couple seconds of one flying, I knew very little about the game. This time I received the game, and by received I mean I went and purchased it from an actual shop, booted it up and prepared to be transported to Skyrim. During the games opening sequence (spoilers) your character is about to be beheaded when a dragon appears from over the hills and lays waste to the area. As I rushed away from the impending doom I felt my heart picking up pace and willed myself to outrun the scaly beast with all my might. After I had finished this sequence and relaxed while crafting a few weapons I wondered to myself ‘would the game’s opening be any different if I had managed to find a clip of it online?’ I believe it would as not only does my previous experience prove this but the terror of the event is in not knowing what is going to happen next so by watching it previously, I would have known exactly what was going to happen.
In answer to the question posed in the title, I believe game coverage is a friend and there are certainly people out there who do wish to find every little scrap of detail for a game and they will still enjoy the finished article when it is released. With the need for exclusives and suchlike, every gaming news outlet will strive to give out as much detail as possible to get people to their website and if they are not very forthcoming with game information they will be criticised for holding back. If the developer gives information to a website then they are certainly going to share that with any prospective reader. The decision to view any information is down to the individual and they always have the option not to look at it. It was of course my fault for watching the Fallout 3 developer diary as I was in no way forced to watch it and therefore have no right to blame the games media for posting such content onto the web but I am interested to know if anyone else has had a similar experience with a game. Have you seen something before a games release that ultimately lessened the experience you had? Have you watched or read something that seemed innocuous only to have it reveal something you really wish you hadn’t seen? I once read an article about Bathos thinking ‘this seems like an interesting game and there has been no mention of spoilers so I’m sure it won’t, ohhhh and it’s just given away the solution to the puzzle’. Or on the flipside, have you had no desire to play a game only to see something online that has caused you to become excited about it? Please feel free to share any similar stories you may have or any thoughts you may have on the subject of games coverage, we are always listening and up for a debate.