Peep Show! How Much Is Too Much Game Coverage?


Contains No Spoilers

After years of anticipation it is time for the actual release of BioShock Infinite. We’ve been hearing about, seeing glimpses, reading articles about sneak peaks into the world of Columbia, Elizabeth and Songbird. Somehow it still seemed like a mirage off in the gaming horizon. But now it is here! Released the 26th of March if you’ve been living under a rock, BioShock Infinite, on the surface, is a familiar story of boy (Booker Dewitt) going on a a quest to rescue a princess from a castle (Elizabeth). Of course, it is much more nuanced than that. After all, it was created by Irrational Games under creative lead from Ken Levine makers of the “highest-rated first-person shooter of all time” as the BioShock Infinite TV spot would have us believe. Don’t get me wrong I’ve only played two hours and I know I’m in love. The original BioShock is one of my favorite games of all time. I’m tempted to say Ken Levine is close to genius, as if his ego needs anymore inflating. And this isn’t a review. I will revist BioShock Infinite after I beat the game and have a few days to take it all in. This gripe is about game coverage. Seriously, how much is too much?

I remember anxiously watching the 15 minute E3 demo thinking this is unreal. And then rewatching and rewatching. That was enough to wet the palette without being over indulgent. It is interesting to see how much the game has changed since that demo. I’m not sure that scene even appears in the game. Then there were short videos detailing the “heavy hitters.” People started complaining then that Levine and co. were showing too much of their game. Giancarlo Varanini wrote a piece on it a year ago. Irrational went dark and said that we wouldn’t see anymore of the game until it was released. I was fine with that. It is important to keep players interested without being over-exposed.

Then starting in late 2012 trailers were released and Ken Levine went on a touring campaign to promote the game. I will eat any interview of Levine up but chose to stay away from any video coverage of the game. That was my plan and I was sticking to it. That was until they released the first five minutes of the game in December. I was sticking to my guns and not going to watch. I wanted to be as virginal as possible going into BioShock Infinite. Now I played BioShock years after it was released in 2010. I watched many videos including the lengthy E3 demo. Still, I will never forget the experience of first swimming to that lighthouse and the atmospheric sensory overload of seeing the Andrew Ryan bust in all it’s glory and carefully making my way down the steps to the tune of La Mer. It is an experience both unforgettable and possibly unreproducible which may be the reason Irrational decided to release the very familiar first five minutes of Infinite.

I stuck to my guns about not watching any BioShock videos, that is until the final week before release. The week before Infinite was released I went into a smorgasbord of anything BioShock Infinite or otherwise, or Ken Levine. I consumed every interview even though I suspected Levine would say the same things. He did. Watched every making of video I could find. I did watch the first five minutes and then practically the entire first hour with Dan Chiappini. I watched the Escape from Mount Stupid with Danny O’Dwyer. I love those. I watched a two-hour BAFTA presentation by Ken Levine with Q&A session. It was very good for aspiring designers, by the way. I literally ingested any kind of media I could about BioShock Infinite like a heroin junkie trying to get his next fix.

The reviews were somewhat “spoilerish” but that is to be expected. I good reviewer can manage to successfully review an entire game without spoiling too much but video doesn’t do such a good job. If a picture really is worth a thousand words, how much is a moving picture worth? What made it worse is I had to wait an extra agonizing day than every one else to even play Infinite because of Amazon. So I watched more videos but made sure to avoid any forums or walkthroughs or social media.

Now that I have played the first two hours in all it’s spectacular glory, I’m left thinking why? Why so much coverage? I would have loved to discover that amazing introduction to Columbia myself. I did enjoy exploring the city before all Hell breaks loose but I wasn’t surprised. I knew what to expect and went through the motions. And it isn’t like a mischievous employee leaked the first hour or two to the media. It was Levine and Irrational heads doing the spoiling themselves.

Here’s the thing. I know advertising is an integral part to the survival of Triple-A games. I’m not a fan of video game advertising (I don’t watch TV, I skip all commercials on video sites, and I have ad-blockers on every browser I use) but I understand it is necessary. The question is as follows: shouldn’t advertising be a balancing act between piquing interest and not spoiling the content? I don’t understand the “irrational” behavior 😉 of the Irrational team. Like how I did that? No?! it was cheesy I know but it stays. Media should have some level of responsibility in knowing when enough is enough coverage. Hype doesn’t begin to describe the media frenzy around BioShock Infinite, understandably so, everyone is excited. I’m excited. And if one outlet is going to release information all other news outlets need to keep up or be left behind. I understand the cycle, I just wish there was a little more restraint about revealing information of one of the most highly anticipated games of this generation.

I know, I know what you’re thinking. First world problems. It’s just a little gripe in all the “rapture” (I did it again – I can’t stop) that goes with playing BioShock Infinite. So here I go into a media hibernation until I finish BioShock Infinite. I can’t expect the media to change. If anything it’s only going to get worse. The only way to solve this problem is: Don’t Watch. Shut down the YouTube. Exercise a little more self-control. I only hope I will be strong enough to resist temptation the next time a game comes around that I am this excited about.