5WG is pleased to present the following article, written by guest columnist Clay T. Shaver.
When I was a kid, there was nothing more powerful and exciting emotion than anticipation. Everything in those days had a countdown. We counted down to summer vacation or the first day of Little League. We knew exactly how many days were left until our birthday, Christmas or even Halloween. You’d spend days, weeks, even months playing it out in your mind; almost living out the experience before it ever happened. Each day the anticipation would grow. The closer it got, the further it felt. Everyday seemed like an eternity, every night like a winter in Nome. The excitement building to a crescendo of raw joy and childlike giddiness that’s unrivaled by even your best days as an adult.
Being a parent, my children have reintroduced that energy into my life. I watch my girls go through the same emotional rollercoaster of unbridled anticipation to unadulterated contempt for the slow moving calendar every time we schedule a birthday party or Disney World vacation. While I love experiencing that with (and through) them, I found myself starting to pine for that type of joy and anticipation in my life. I started blaming being a responsible adult with a job and a mortgage payment on missing that important part of my existence.
That’s when I realized, it’s not missing at all. I still do the same thing today. Sure, there’s less pomp and circumstance. I don’t make little tear pads to rip off for 232 days in a row while I count down the school year, but I know when Opening Day is. I don’t announce exactly how many hours it is until my birthday anymore, but I know what day new episodes of The Office are coming back. But it’s in this hobby that we all share, where perhaps the last of my true childlike anticipation lives.
There’s something about the development cycle of games today and the constant smorgasbord of previews, first looks and “Developer’s Diaries” that takes me back to the days of counting down the hours till the fat man in red made his yearly ride. Much like the Christmas season hitting the local department stores while we’re still wearing shorts and “flip flops”, modern marketing starts months before the first screenshot or playable demo ever see the light of day. And, in many cases, can literally last through years of development, dropping only well timed nuggets of information to keep the buzz at a consistent hum. It’s that swelling and building hype that brings me back.
Just last week, the folks over at the Sims division of EA, dropped the very first information about The Sims 3 – a game that was “officially” announced in November of 2006. They flashed a few screens and said all the right things that their diehard fanbase wanted to hear about the much anticipated sequel. Then they closed things out with a rock solid release date of “Fiscal Year 2009.” We waited 18 month to hear a thing, and when we finally did, we were given only an ambiguous ETA that could mean as much as another 18 months. But, guess what, it worked. The Sims 3, for the first time, began to ping loudly on my radar screen. I found myself feeling excited about the game that I would likely be playing sometime down the road.
When I was a “Little Shaver”, if I got any type of early look at a new game, it was usually a single screenshot in an issue of Nintendo Power or Electronic Gaming Monthly. More often than not, my first glimpse of even the most sought after titles didn’t come until I was playing it for the first time. In the pre-internet days, it was hard to build expectations with that didn’t exist. Which was a blessing in disguise as it was impossible to have people dissect an entire pass/fail write-up based on a single screenshot as we see so often today. But even with the modern day over analyses, I can’t help but be sucked in by the hype machine.
Maybe I haven’t outgrown it all. Seems to me it’s not the level of anticipation that’s changed, merely the end goal. When you’re 11 years old and your only job is going to school and playing with your friends, something as huge as Summer Vacation or a trip to Cedar Point is the only thing grander in comparison. But, when you’re punching the clock and spending half of your home time following the kids around, shutting off lights behind them and dropping pearls of Dad’s wisdom like, “do we own the electric company?” Maybe then something like A.P.B., the new version of NCAA dropping or, God forbid, Duke Nukem Forever hitting the shelves feels pretty damn exciting in its own right.
In a world where being a “grown up” isn’t nearly as glamorous as we made it out to be back in the day, perhaps it’s the times when you feel like a kid again that hold the most joyous anticipation of all.