Against "it gets good later"
I recently played Destiny 2. After clicking through a billion executive-meddling signup forms, news bulletins, and invitations to cross-link accounts I didn’t want, the opening cinematic hit me with the exact words “It was the end…but also a beginning.” I got in-game, found out that I could only adjust my mouse sensitivity by integers, jumped to an obviously reachable platform and hit an invisible deathplane halfway there, walked through a few corridors of shooting-gallery enemies that seemed more interested in juking and snarling than trying to shoot me, and got introduced to a few characters with no reason to care about any of them.
When my AI companion mentioned “adaptive encryption”, I closed the game and uninstalled it. I’d played for around 15 minutes. I went to HITBOX DIMENSION to post about this and people nodded in agreement, probably because most of them had also quit Destiny 2.
I recently played Genshin Impact. I went to sign up for an account, switched to my backup email because the signup form didn’t recognize my personal domain, adjusted my password generator for the maximum password length, did a captcha, downloaded the launcher, manually typed my password because the in-game webform wouldn’t let me paste it from my password manager, and got started. Mouse sensitivity was integers from 1-5. I switched to my controller, and it pulsed a quick vibration before doing absolutely nothing. The FOV and FPS lock aggravated my motion sickness a bit, movement was floatiy, basic attack VFX felt limp, and every time the game forcibly pulled my camera up, it took five swipes of the mouse to bring it back down.
When the game tried to explain four different types of progression currencies simultaneously, I closed it and uninstalled. I’d played for around 15 minutes. I went to HITBOX DIMENSION to post about this and people called me names, probably because most of them were actively playing Genshin Impact.
Last one, promise: I recently played Trauma Team. After making it through the intro and discovering a bouquet of shitty gimmick gameplay with some barely-worthwhile scenarios buried inside, I decided to put it down. I was then paid a ridiculous and irresponsible amount of money to pick it back up and finish it. As I played, the bad writing got worse, the shitty gimmick gameplay got shittier, and every single bright spot in the downward spiral was punctuated with some bizzare or tone-deaf bumbling that made me wonder if anyone in the world is actually good at their job (certainly not me).
I finished it. I had hated almost every moment. No one involved in the exchange could decide whether it had been worth it, probably because Atlus should not be allowed to make video games.
The point of all this, maybe:
I don’t think anyone who says “it gets good later” is automatically wrong. I just suspect it behind their back, and do a very poor job of concealing it.
“Immediate serotonin or death” is probably not a good takeaway from this, or a good philosophy in general. A lot of my favorite things are weird and graceless, with awful pain points near the start, but I was interested enough to want to continue, even if I didn’t feel like they were competently made. My investment doesn’t require full confidence, just a minimum bar of interest, and I think this is probably the way everyone’s systems work internally?
Regardless, any strategy that helps me sort through my fractal-fuck todo list seems worth keeping around, and these are the ones that seem the most salient to me:
- It seems normal to expect media to be at its best at the very start. The intro is the one thing everyone sees, it’s how a creator sets up the way the audience relates to their work, and (in many cases) it’s the part that got tested and redrafted to death to maximize retention, or the part that someone pitched in an elevator to get the thing funded to begin with. When I ignore my internal sirens, this often seems true, and something I was told would get better actually gets worse over time. (Disclaimer: I do not know anything.)
- Works that require long investment incur survivorship bias. After 3 seasons or 80 levels, not many people will be left to tell you “actually, no, it was pretty much as bad as I expected the entire time.” Even the hilarious examples of this, the “Not Recommended / 6501 hrs on record” Steam reviews, seem to be from people who mostly enjoyed themselves and just feel like they’ve been mistreated, or feel like a malicious update has ruined something they were passionate about.
- You presumably have hobbies, or creative interests, or a particular book you like to reread, or family members you can call, or…okay, unless your entire itinerary looks like “try new strain of super fucked up synthetic heroin”, there’s probably something you could do at this exact moment that’s worth doing. Weigh your confidence in that thing versus your confidence in something you’re already not enjoying.
This seems like pretty solid reasoning to me, and maybe it will help you feel more justified defending your life against The Friend Who Recommends Anime,1 but I also don’t think I’ve encountered anyone specifically arguing for slow-burn experiences on a similar basis. Maybe message me if you’re this person.
Against against “it gets good later”: If your friends are the types of people who interpret preference differences as chances to have really interesting conversations, maybe this is a good enough reason to power through the thing—just change your focus.
Against against against “it gets good later”: If your friends interpret preference differences as mortal threats to their personal integrity, this is a bad idea, and you might also have bad friends? ↩︎