Lots of people are suffering from GTA4 hype-fatigue, and it's easy to understand why. The marketing machine is clearly in overdrive when you see Kotaku's Brian Crecente on ABC World News, X-Play's Adam Sessler talking to Geraldo Rivera on Fox, and GTA4 feature stories on NPR's Morning Edition, Day To Day, and All Things Considered - all on the same day. The buzz is loud, repetitive, overkill...and I'm lovin' every minute of it.
Some smart bloggers like Mitch Krpata have suggested we ought to be concerned about the "culture of hype" that's such a big part of the gaming community. Others like Ben Fritz at Variety raise concerns about "exclusive reviews" bestowed on outlets that have promotional deals with the publisher.
These are reasonable concerns, and I take them seriously. But at the same time, I've been joyfully riding this GTA4 hype train for months now, and I'll be a little sorry when it finally ends. Of course, it helps that the game appears to deliver all that Rockstar promised, but even if it didn't, I still would have enjoyed this crazy carnival.
More than anything Rockstar, IGN or other commercial outlets did to promote the game, GTA4 hype was driven primarily by the gaming community on hundreds of forums, chat rooms, blogs, fan sites, and any other viral social venue you can think of. In the build-up to GTA4, all Rockstar really needed to do was release the occasional trailer or screenshot. We took care of the rest.
We did it because GTA4 belongs to us. It's our game, and we chat, speculate, and argue about it like it's a new house we're all about to move into. We want it to be perfect - everything we expect from a GTA game, plus more - and our landlord Rockstar has been very good to us in the past. We've been watching them build this house for years, and they're finally ready to hand us the key to the front door. Hell yes, we're excited. Who wouldn't be?
I think we should hold onto the GTA/Halo/Final Fantasy/Metal Gear/Zelda next-installment pandemonium phenomenon for as long as we can because, inevitably, it will eventually disappear.
There was a time when movie audiences behaved this way. Big premieres once drew legions of fans, celebrities, and media swarming the entrance of the theater - cameras snapping, limousines depositing VIPs. Even in small towns, big movies like Gone With the Wind or Ben-Hur were often celebrated with special costume parties, promotional giveaways, and other festivities. My mother still owns a special commemorative plate she received at the premiere of Cleopatra in Upper Sandusky Ohio.
No one feels this way about Hollywood anymore. They don't need us, and we don't feel any sense of belonging to what they do. The old movie-magazines are gone and so are the fan clubs and big premieres. It's hard to take Hollywood seriously anymore when it tries to depict itself as the enchanted land of dreams. We still love movies, but most of the old magic is gone. Hollywood is a business, and we know it. So are video games, of course, but can you think of a single movie studio that elicits the emotional attachment from its customers Nintendo enjoys?
I was talking to a friend the other day about GTA4. We were imagining what online multiplayer would be like and reminiscing about previous GTA games. I'm fairly certain we had stars in our eyes. I hope they don't disappear any time soon.