It’s the first February of the new year, and even a new decade, but you already knew that if you have access to a calendar or spend time looking at your phones home screen. If you're expecting more of a preamble from me than tough-cookies. This month’s theme for Band of Bloggers is all about subversion. Thanks to connectivity and ease of access to information, It’s becoming more difficult to actually surprise audiences and subvert expectations. One can find story and gameplay spoilers online up to and sometimes even sooner than a week before a high profile game launches. If you were alive at any point in the past twenty years than you probably already know the entire plot of Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot. Another famous leak came from the ESRB divulging who would be playable in Super Smash Bros for those two consoles before the Switch. It’s not always like that though; in fact you might know exactly what you’re about to get yourself into only to find an hour or two into gameplay that the game you thought you knew has completely surprised you. Here are a few examples to try and get across what I mean...with potential spoilers, so I'll try not to be too recent with my references;
Think back to the year 2001, or imagine it if you weren’t alive then. The Playstation 2 is incredibly popular, not only as a player of exciting new games, but also as a really high quality DVD player. A lot of PS2 owners are anticipating the release of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, some are anticipating it to such a degree that they’ve bought Zone of Enders just to play the demo of Metal Gear 2 that was packaged with it. I’m sure it’s fair to speculate that the MGS2 Tanker demo was the best demo of that year, that console generation, and probably even that decade. Not only did it excite fans and bring aboard new ones, it also showcased the power of the Playstation 2. November 2001 rolls around, people who knew what to expect bought Metal Gear Solid 2, and after the Tanker prologue...they’re playing as this whiny, pretty-boy who is completely new to the series. Solid Snake is seemingly dead, and you’re stuck with this anime boy who nobody knew or cared about.
(Snake? Snake!? SNAAAAAAAAAAKE!!!)
Modern Military shooters are a big deal, to the point that one is basically expected to launch every year. In June of 2012, it seemed like the main difference between Spec Ops: The Line and all of the rest is that this one is in third person, and also you can weaponize sand from time to time. Spec Ops: The Line seems very standard in a lot of ways: You play as Martin Walker, who is tasked with finding out what happened with Colonel Konrad who disappeared soon after an attempted evacuation of the city and who seems to have gone rogue. As the plot unfolds you’re forced to commit to some very serious actions which the game judges you harshly for. The fourth wall is fractured as the plot folds inward and attempts to explore the psyche of Walker as he loses control of himself.
(It's not a war crime if you kill everyone who says you're commiting a war crime)
In 2015, Toby Fox used Gamemaker Studio to develop and release Undertale all by himself. Releasing a role-playing game on Steam, especially a role-playing game made using Gamemaker Studio, is such an unremarkable accomplishment that one could complete that task in less than half a day. The first subversion here is that Undertale is a really engaging, well-written game with a fantastic soundtrack and memorable art style. Then, as more people played through Undertale and word of mouth started to spread, the phrase, “I can’t tell you why, but this game is amazing” became a part of the conversation. Like with Spec Ops: The Line, Undertale takes note of your actions and judges you for them without actually telling you you’re being watched. Starting a new game doesn’t even wipe the slate clean if you do behave in a way that the game deems to be unacceptable. The calibre of the writing in Undertale is such that you really want to see the best possible ending too.
(A world where dogs can pet other dogs is a truly chaotic world)
Even if you think you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into with a game, even if you look into as much information as you possibly can, games can still subvert your expectations and shatter your preconceived notions. So this month, write a blog about those games that you thought you had figured out only to be proven wrong. Whether you choose to talk about how, even though you’re 50 hours in you still don’t get Death Stranding, or Sonic Forces really was the best of the series. Maybe you didn't do any research before you picked up Pokemon Moon and you didn't realize there aren't any traditional gyms. Maybe you went into God of War 4 blind, and expecting a game more like 1, 2, or 3 and you're only now waking up from your nap. Whatever you chose to talk about this month make sure you tag or title your blog with “BoB” or “Band of Bloggers”.