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The Fabtabulous RPG Media Blackout Challenge (Part 1)

February 8, 2012 6 comments

So lately I’ve been bemoaning RPG fatigue (here, here and here), and the difficulty I’ve been having recapturing the intense sense of immersion and escapism that I got so easily from these games in my childhood days. Rather than look too deeply for any personal or lifestyle reasons as to why this might be the case, I’m choosing instead to leap immediately to a flimsy conclusion, and attempt some half-arsed experiments to validate my theory.

My leading hypothesis is that a lot of the wonder of playing a brand new game is diluted by the sheer amount of information you have these days about the world, the mechanics, the environments and enemies, all long before the disc is in your perspiring hands. Taking the case of Skyrim¬†(my current whipping boy on this particular subject), I feel in the year or so preceding its release, I probably read something in the order of 40,000 words in previews/reviews, saw 50 odd individual images, and watched 40 or 50 minutes of video. Don’t get me wrong, at the time I absolutely loved it – those numbers above represent the volume of information I took in the first time. If you count re-reads, re-looks and re-watches, I shudder to imagine what the true stats would be.

The end result was that I knew way too much. There was no real wonder at the constellation-style levelling system – I’d seen it before. Almost no time spent lost in just getting to grips with the world and its mechanics, as I knew how most of it worked. Possibly most importantly, not nearly enough time spent wandering and letting my character build itself – the amount of knowledge I had meant I’d already done most of the building in my head. I knew exactly who I wanted to be, and how to build that character, and (arguably) the best part of the rpg experience lost its most important dimension.

Prior to launch, I felt like this knowledge fuelled my excitement for the game. In hindsight, after being disappointed by how quickly the intensity of immersion and simple, exploratory bliss of exploring the world wore off, (and finding nothing at fault whatsoever with the game itself), I’m starting to wonder if having ‘used up’ so many tiny snippets of the all important initial experience before I even played the game is at the core of the issue here.

Obviously, I blame myself and my extraordinary lack of willpower in the lead up, but I wanted to ask the question – is anyone else finding the same thing? Is the sheer overwhelming volume of information about a game available before you play it helping, or hindering your enjoyment of the final product?

To test this theory, I’m kicking off my Fabtabulous RPG Media Blackout Challenge. Its a simple premise: I will pick an upcoming RPG about which I know next to nothing (I would have said absolutely nothing, but I don’t want to risk blowing this whole thing by accidentally ending up with a Final Fantasy XIII), and I will avoid knowing anything¬†at all about the game until I play it. No previews, no trailers, no reviews, no news. I’ll have to either avoid google reader altogether, or put a filter for the name on it to prevent accidental learning. Probably also un-follow a few twitter accounts for the duration as well.

I’ll document the experience (using the world’s loosest definition of the term) here, and then make a totally scientific gut-call on whether or not I found the experience more or less engaging than I have with similar games about which I knew almost everything going in.

Obviously, choosing the right candidate is going to be a tricky endeavour. Anything coming out in the next month or two is out, as the damage is already done. As is anything which is a sequel or spiritual successor to anything I’ve already played.

I’m open to suggestions. The only thing I can think of at this point is Risen 2. The sum total of my knowledge about this game so far is:

  • Sequel to Risen, a western style fantasy rpg which was solid but flawed (not sure of the reasons, as I didn’t pay enough attention)
  • Its pirate themed. Or set in a pirate world. Or has something to do with pirates.

Thats all I’ve got. And thats all I’d like to have, right up until game time. (Someone will need to help me out with the release date). The important thing is I know nothing about the story, characters, mechanics or gameplay.

If you know of something thats still relatively unknown but will be released reasonably soon, feel free to shout out the title and release date in the comments.

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