Tuesday 3 August 2010

Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.

I went to see Inception recently; reviews were almost universally positive (including, most crucially, from Mark Kermode), there were many glowing tweets about it, but I came out feeling a bit dissatisfied. It was definitely a good film with visually stunning sequences, combining pacey action with a lot more depth than the average summer blockbuster, but didn’t quite have that extra something that would have elevated it to the point where the only way of encapsulating a response to it in a textual format would be “ZOMGZ!!!1!1!!!”

It might not help that for the first ten minutes of the film I thought Leonardo DiCaprio had a weirdly Oedipal thing going on, calling his wife “ma”, but it turned out her name was Mal. Mostly, though, I think it was just that after such a big build-up, very little could live up to those expectations. By way of contrast a new series, Sherlock, started on the BBC, and knowing nothing more about it than it was a modern updating of Sherlock Holmes I really enjoyed the first episode. Course it’s hard to tell how much is the film or programme itself and how much is the associated expectations, but I’m fairly sure had I gone to see Inception totally cold there wouldn’t be that niggling hint of dissatisfaction. It’s a bit like how if somebody gave you £10 you’d be totally happy (if slightly puzzled as to why someone’s just handing out money), but if it was a coin toss and they said “heads I give you £10, tails I give you £50” and it came down heads, the pleasure at getting £10 would be offset slightly by a feeling that you’ve somehow missed out (plus even more puzzlement at why someone is handing out money in a weirdly random fashion).

From a marketing perspective, though, you have to at least get people aware your film exists, and then interested enough to see it in a crowded market, and on the balance sheet one sale with a slight sense of disappointment is preferable to no sale because your film sounded a bit rubbish, hence quotes on posters like “Hilarious! The funniest comedy of all time ever! I ruptured my spleen in nine places from laughing so much!” as opposed to “Y’know, it’s all right, if you haven’t got anything better to do give it a go, it’s moderately amusing in a couple of places.”

That’s why I’m not eagerly devouring every scrap of information about Guild Wars 2, Star Wars: The Old Republic or other forthcoming MMOGs. I’m not going out of my way to avoid news, I’ll skim headlines as they crop up in Google Reader (I was pleased to see an announcement about space combat in The Old Republic, that was my favourite bit of Star Wars Galaxies for the few weeks I tried it), but with the fluid nature of game development, where features can be added, removed or changed at almost any point, there’s no sense in getting too excited months or years before vague release dates which have a habit of getting delayed anyway. I generally find that applying a light dusting of cynicism to pre-release hype and being pleasantly surprised by a game to be more satisfying than buying into THE MOST ASTOUNDING GAMING EVENT IN HISTORY and finding it’s a Yet Another Diku-esque Grind.

Plus you get to say “I told you so” a lot more…

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