It is not logical, but it is often true. -- Spock
Two hours. I've managed to create the luxury of two hours just for gaming. It's an achievement of enormous proportions. Most of my gaming fits in one hour blocks, and while there's little chance I'll ever finish most of the games sitting within arms reach, I'm determined to make a dent as a matter of principle. I settle into the comfy chair, and survey the options -- that ominous and intimidating entity known as the stack. I love the stack. Where once I was afraid, or even resentful of the opportunities it presented, now I love the choices.
So when I find myself frozen in the chair, it's not because of overwhelming indecision. It's because deep down, I know that next week will be so much better.
The first thirty minutes of this carefully stolen time are squandered consuming hype. I browse my favorite pushers, I absorb every ounce of information I can about the glory that will be April 2007. Early strategy tips for Command and Conquer 3 give way to speculations on the forums about Guitar Hero 2:360 downloadable content. I log on to the waning Lord of the Rings Online beta just to see what made the last patch, but of course I can't actually play. What would the point be, when the character wipe is only a few days away?
I blame myself for being the kind of person who always wants the new hotness. I've always been this way. I want the trendy, the hip. I want to be doing what the cool kids are doing. Most of the time this urge is so far removed from my abilities that I simply look in the mirror and chuckle at my own smallness. After all, I can't drive an M3, I can't fly a Decathlon, and I can't hop down to the city to eat at the latest gastronomic wonderland every weekend.
But with media, all these things are possible. I have friends whose musical tastes locked up in auditory rigor mortis in the 80s, their iPods forever doomed to be graveyards for flash in the pan proto-grunge bands and Tears for Fears reunions. But all evidence of taste to the contrary, I've remained a rabid consumer of music. The signs of my age aren't in any osteosis of taste, but rather in my failing memory -- love that CD I just bought, can't remember what it's called. Thanks to Netflix and cable, I can watch a never ending stream of movies, using my cooler friends as the filter, so I know what to rent and record.
With games, this is not so easy. The technology ramp never ends. Each new game is full of promise, and will either provide me with post-purchase satisfaction for my hardware or impetus for yet another click upward on the hardware funicular as the cable tightens. So while the stack beckons, I know that next week's games will be even better. Each will require dedication, focus, and yield a wealth of experience beyond the dreams of avarice. Tomorrow's games will with iron clad certainty bring about gamergasms of mythological intensity. The streets will be paved in gold, money will rain from the heavens, and half naked women will stream through the doorway.
I'm a self-deluded victim of the gamer hype wagon. I've convinced myself that it will always be better. I'm more likely to play a demo than I am to play the game I bought last week, because the demo is all about tomorrow.
I blame myself too for my complacency and contribution to the conspiracy. It's to be expected that the game industry -- like any industry -- will reach for every superlative to describe the next big thing. And as an ersatz member of the gaming media, I've done my share of hyping. I've previewed, reviewed, demoed, betad, and waxed poetic about shaders and technology demonstrations. And despite all this I'm a voracious consumer of the very hype I'm helping breed. I read the spec sheets, I build my new PCs and buy consoles in the hopes that the hype will bear fruit.
And often enough -- just often enough -- the hype proves worthy. Once every few months, or few years for the more discriminating, a game comes along that blows the doors off. The world of games evolves fast enough that this year's model is quite often a huge improvement over last year's. Six months can mean the difference between a title that's just OK, and one that presses new hardware to its limits.
I know, I know. It's all about the gameplay. I pay my Gametap subscription fee in part to remind myself that it's not always what's new that is what's hot. The stack, both real and virtual, is full of true gems who have not received attention due their stature.
But in these waning hours before the next big thing, the idea of committing to a faded glory is almost physically painful.
So instead, I fire up Peggle, or Magic, or Worms, and I let the time be eaten, rather than invested.