Husky Voice: Choices We Make

I read a lot, all sorts of stuff, but recently I’ve been reading books sharing some common themes around human economics and incentivisation.  Just this week I started reading Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational, and already it’s got me questioning why I purchase the games I do.  For instance, why did I purchase Resistance and Resistance 2, but not Call of Duty 4 (CoD4) or World at War (WaW)?  Why did I get Motorstorm, but wouldn’t stump up for DiRT?  And just why was Killzone 2 my GotY for 2009 before 2008 had even finished?

It’s easy to dismiss my purchases of R:FoM and Motorstorm as the acts of someone desperate for games for their new console, but given the pleasure I had with both it’s harder to understand why I didn’t continue the ride with other franchises. But if we travel back in time just a few years we can possibly see where the pattern comes from.

On the PS2 there were a number of developers who made games that bit better than the rest.  Insomniac and Evolution were amongst them.  The Ratchet series was perhaps the best platforming action on the system, and Evolution’s World Rally Championship (WRC) games were stuffed with quality in every release.

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Jump back to the PS3 and you can see that my previous “relationship” with these companies has carried over.  When I’m looking at which FPS to buy next, I see Insomniac’s and think, given my previous decisions to buy their games were good ones, that their FPS will be good too.  And despite the hype surrounding CoD4 and the fact that it’s clearly held in higher regard than R:FoM, I still went ahead and bought Resistance 2 on launch day and a CoD title hasn’t come anywhere near my PS3.

A similar thing happened with Evolution and Motorstorm.  Because of our previously favourable relationship, it was a shoe-in that I’d buy Motorstorm – which I loved – but I’ve given anything similar a wide berth. How much of the love is genuine and not just the product of a decision based around feeling secure, i.e. making a “safe” decision, and why am I so averse to trying something new?

The recent launch of Killzone 2 throws a small spanner into the works, because Guerilla’s pedigree wasn’t exceptional on the PS2.  But still, they had something.  They had glowy-eyed enemies that reeked of atmosphere, and they had an amazing ambition that was let down more by the PS2’s lack of grunt than their own shortcomings.  And so once the Killzone 2 juggernaut started it was impossible to get out of the way.  In fact, I jumped on board and within minutes was proclaiming it the greatest FPS I had played.  Now, days after completion, I still stand by that.

How much is that decision based on my own objective view and how much is based on our natural tendency to back up our own decisions?  After all, I’d hate to think I wasted so much time on a hype-train that wasn’t all that.  There are other examples too, such as buying Uncharted and avoiding Tomb Raider, or buying every GTA on release and refusing to go anywhere near Saints Row.

I’ve deliberately kept PSN games out of the equation, because their price can render much of the above irrelevant.  But that in itself offers a question that needs answering: If I’m prepared to try out a cheaper game – for which there is no discernable point of comparison and therefore the purchase could be considered riskier – why not try out more of the Blu-Ray games?

All this speculating on my habits does leave my wondering where I should go from here.  Straight down to GAME to buy CoD4 perhaps?  Or maybe I should keep buying games in my own little bubble, aware that I’ll rarely buy a duffer, but maybe missing out on some truly great games along the way? Does this strike a chord with anybody?  Does it make you question why you buy certain games and yet avoid similar efforts for reasons you’ve never actually explored?  Let me know in the comments below.

Right, I’m off to buy CoD4, once I’ve put down my iPhone and Flight Control.

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