The Art of Anticipating a Game

Gretchen Rubin, one of my favorite people on the internet, has a mantra that anticipating happy events is part of living a happy life. Just thinking about or planning a new experience can make a person’s currently dull circumstances lighter.

Considering the post-E3 landscape that we are in, now is a good time to celebrate the way we anticipate.

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As a kid, any game or console I wanted was one I heard about it on the playground and had tried at a friend’s house. I didn’t know anything about E3 or PAX. Even when YouTube came on the scene I didn’t receive many announcements on the internet. Word of mouth was the only way I learned about games. The same stood true for when I got back into gaming. My wife let me play on her 3DS with her copies of Animal Crossing: New Leaf and Pokemon X. I didn’t hear about them from anywhere else, just because my internet interests weren’t there.

Since re-entering the video game scene, however, the way I anticipate a game has changed drastically.

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The first game I saw announced on the internet was 2016’s Pokemon Sun and Moon. After seeing the trailer in February, I started a tradition that I’ve maintained ever since: play older games in the series and get a context / appreciation for the developers’ ongoing work.

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Before Sun and Moon released, I went back and played Pokemon Black and White, which may be the best mainline Pokemon games yet. I tried to play through Platinum, but I wasn’t successful. Regardless, this exercise got me ready for a new Pokemon adventure, and I lapped up every new tidbit of info they released in the following months. I heard of an event called E3, a big gaming convention where Nintendo would show off gameplay of Sun and Moon. So I decided to tune in.

As fate would have it, that E3 was when Nintendo dropped their trailer for Breath of the Wild.

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I was speechless. I watched the Treehouse livestreams and almost bought a Wii U right then and there, until I heard that it was also coming to Nintendo’s newly-rumored NX system. That was confirmed in October when I saw Nintendo’s trailer for the Switch. Before its launch I replayed Ocarina of Time as well as the original Zelda on the NES because I heard that they were “going back to their roots.” Then the Switch released in March and well… the rest is history.

And then Nintendo blew me away again in their 2017 presentation. I never thought I would see a new Metroid game again, but here we are, in a world where Samus Returns actually exists.

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In 2018 there were so many good games that I had to add in another tradition: after watching the Direct and Treehouse events, I started scheduling and budgeting what I could spend for the big new releases. For me this heightens the anticipation, deciding which ones are really worth my time and which ones I’ll consider for later.

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I know some people are saying E3 is a dying event, but Nintendo’s presentation this year spoke otherwise. I fully believe in the E3 tradition. There’s nothing quite like that moment of uncertainty followed by sheer excitement when you finally piece together the announcement, like when 2017’s Metroid Prime 4 logo appeared, or when they announced that “Everyone is Here” for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, throwing in every fighter in the series history. And Nintendo had plenty of moments like that in this year’s presentation: Banjo-Kazooie’s fighter reveal, The Witcher 3 port, and let’s not forget that teaser for Breath of the Wild’s sequel. Their Treehouse streams were engaging this year as well. They totally sold me on Astral Chain and Dragon Quest XI. In fact, I considered buying almost every game they showed.

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I dislike it when people lecture the internet to “hype responsibly.” Yes you should keep expectations realistic, yes you should take trailers with a grain of salt, and yes you should be careful about preordering a game. But looking forward to a game and speculating about it is all part of the fun. People say E3 is like Video Game Christmas, and I would agree: you get some things you wanted, and some things you didn’t. When you stop and remember the details, Christmas always had its highs and disappointments.

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E3 was a little bit more special for me this year because I got to watch the direct with my nephew who has only recently started playing Smash Bros. He had no idea who the Hero from Dragon Quest was, or what Banjo Kazooie was, so it was fun to help educate him on why these fighters are important additions.

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Following E3 of this year, I’m preparing and budgeting for the following games:

  • Super Mario Maker 2
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses
  • Astral Chain
  • Link’s Awakening
  • Ni No Kuni
  • Dragon Quest XI
  • Spyro Reignited Trilogy
  • Hollow Knight: Silksong
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  • Luigi’s Mansion 3

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I know that’s a long list, but don’t worry, I have good news: I also have Collection of Mana, Oninaki, Sekuna: of Rice and Ruin, and Dragon Quest Builders 2 on the radar. Several of these will probably have to wait until 2020, just because I just don’t have that much fun money for such a short period of time. I mean, let’s be reasonable…

What games are you anticipating this year? Do you guys have a tradition or set of rules before a game comes out?

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