I've learned to love the post-holiday quiet, when the retail insanity subsides and the gaming industry seemingly goes into hibernation. For the first few months of each new year, previews and announcements become few and far between and the torrent of new releases becomes a mere trickle. For avid gamers like myself, it's a reprieve of sorts, when we can sit back and catch up on neglected games or revisit old favorites without worrying about whether we'll have time or money for the next big release.
Over the past few months I've spent countless hours dabbling in browser-based games, sampling the innumerable indie titles the internet has to offer. I've hooked up my dusty PlayStation 2 to revisit Shadow of the Colossus and discover for myself what all the Persona 3 fuss was all about. When major releases like Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 have come along, I've thrown myself at them with abandon, wringing every last drop of entertainment from their code without worrying that I may be neglecting other new games. I even made a brief foray back into World of Warcraft.
I've also been more content to ignore the news, which seems especially dominated by speculation and rumor in the ramp-up to Spring and Summer press events. The preview content that finds its way onto the internet and newsstands seems far more likely to feature games of questionable importance, many of which won't be released for a year or more. More often than not I've been perfectly content to hit the "mark all posts read" button in my newsfeed browser, knowing that I'm probably not missing anything I won't read again in the next few months.
I fear that this respite is coming to an end, however, just as it does every year. Though major releases are still scarce, the hype machine is sputtering to life as the industry prepares to inundate gamers with promises of the nirvana it's prepared to deliver. It won't be long before terrific games we've enjoyed in past months will start to fade into irrelevance as they're outshined by the promises of what's to come.
Any activity that relies upon the relentless pace of technology is bound to foster a forward-thinking enthusiast culture, but I can't help but think that with computer and videogames the situation has become a bit ridiculous. Despite my previous stance as a cautious defender of preview-obsessed fans and media, I'm worried that we're trampling the accomplishments of the medium underfoot in our race to see what might be around the corner.
A major release typically sees months' or years' worth of previews and fan-baiting promotions before culminating in a tumultuous, orgiastic release of reviews, memorialized online at Gamerankings or Metacritic. A vociferous debate over review scores usually follows, in which admirers and haters square off and scream at each other about the relative merits of the title's more mundane attributes. The debate continues until the next major release hits, the old game is forgotten and the cycle begins anew.