Why I’m Not Buying Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn came out today. Resident Evil 7, Gravity Rush 2, Yakuza 0, Nioh, For Honor, and Halo Wars 2 have already been released in under two month’s time, and we’ve still got Breath of the Wild, NieR:Automata, Mass Effect Andromeda, Persona 5, Yooka-Laylee, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and Prey purportedly coming in the first half of the year. Factor in the indie game sleeper hits slipping under the radar while all this is going on–looking at you, Night in the Woodsand voila! Unless you’re someone basking in the autonomy granted by the absence of obligatory time commitments — and a hefty pot of gold — you suddenly have the biggest backlog in recent history.

Coming to terms with this reality has its pros and cons. It’s great that the industry seems to be generating more interest from a wider audience. I’m not saying everyone is interested in every anticipated release, but games like For Honor and Halo Wars 2 are proof of various genres and interests successfully blending together. Regardless of your preferences, chances are there are more than a few upcoming game releases that make your eyes well in excitement.

But the current surplus of distinct, quality game experiences is now affecting my time spent with the games I play, and not in a good way. With so many prolific experiences usurping the limelight of their predecessors, there’s become this constant pressure of completing a game “in time” for fear of being too late to board the S.S. Launch Day. The very act of playing a game has become a game I never intended to start, and I found myself min-maxing the stats of my life–namely time, money, and sanity–just to avoid being stuck on the shore.

I’ve sacrificed a number of potentially memorable moments already. I’ve intentionally ignored DLC for the games I own and love, and I’ve removed most multiplayer experiences from my daily routine solely to feel included in a current conversation–a missable exchange of ideas in the game of life. It was tragic, the moment I realized I’ve been viewing my favorite local multiplayer games like Overcooked as a “waste of time” instead of a great time with greater friends. Fun isn’t enough alone. If there’s no progress being made towards putting a disc back in its case, then the backlog grows.

I’m avoiding Horizon as yet another sacrificial act. My overflowing excitement to get my hands on a game doesn’t cut it anymore. I haven’t lost any interest; I am painfully interested. But every hour spent with Horizon would be peppered with moments of disconnect–a focus on time efficiency and completion rather than the experience itself. However, even with this method of selectively skipping Horizon until I can dedicate to it the time it deserves, my time with any other game will be marred for doing so. I’ll be missing out on a collective dive into Horizon‘s unknown depths with the rest of the community, and another new game doesn’t make that feel any less excluding.

Tweets, streams, Let’s Plays, comedic articles and thought provoking takeaways suddenly teeter on the edge of spoiler territory if you’re not plowing through the game with everyone else. For those who couldn’t care less about spoiling the game for themselves, this is admittedly a benefit — having more information about a game before a purchase is difficult to paint as a negative. But for others adamantly against the notion of revelations being uncovered by way of the internet instead of the game itself, becoming the human embodiment of pure nerd anxiety every time you get online is an unfortunate outcome that can affect both what we are playing and what we have yet to even touch. The current video game release structure is bleeding, unfortunately, into the very experiences we have with the games themselves.

The release of the Switch mixed with Breath of the Wild‘s departure from the series’ recent formula make it an abnormally exciting release, but even that is not enough to curb my curiosity for Horizon’s universe. I would have three days with Horizon‘s protagonist Aloy before jumping, once again, into Link’s boots. Now flip it around. Think about playing Breath of the Wild for three days. Just the thought of trying to experience a proper amount of its content before Horizon releases stresses me out all the same. I’ll thankfully be involved with at least one of these journeys, but if a decision isn’t already made for you by the system(s) you own, it’s a heavy decision to make.

So what’s the point in complaining about what is very clearly a first-world problem? To see if I’m alone, I suppose. In a world where years of hype dissipates within a week of most any game’s release, how can any one gamer keep up with current release calendar? It’s a fortunate problem, but I feel like many of us will miss a lot of developmental discussion as a consequence for our decisions.

The cycle doesn’t end here, either. Nier: Automata comes out March 7 with Mass Effect Andromeda two weeks later. Gods, help us all.

Which games are worth the commitment of your time? How are you coping with the oversaturation of significant video games?

“Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”

Originally published at www.entertainmentbuddha.com on February 28, 2017.