If I were to be the editor in chief of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and the responsibility of choosing the word of the year was thrust upon me, I’d choose “hype-train.” I wouldn’t go so far as to say that 2016 was the birthing of the hype-movement, but it certainly was the culmination. Perhaps 2017 will be the year that the hype-market crashes.
Referring to the Internet as some sort of newfangled thing that somehow affects real life is so antiquated; we’ve had the Internet for 20 years now. Whatever it is accused of doing, it has already done. Case in point, the Gamer’s Notebook word of the year, hype-train. A hype-train occurs when excitement over a certain thing is overblown to such an extent that the resulting person or object could never hope to match the expectations set by an out-of-control PR machine.
We’ll start with 2016’s video game fail of galactic proportions (which is in no way an award; this is in no way a listicle): No Man’s Sky.
No Man’s Sky was, to be fair, doomed from its original announcement. Hailed as a super open-world space exploration adventure, developer Hello Games promised more than just the world — they promised endless worlds filled with creatures of various design, all randomly generated upon discovery. They promised space battles and a race to the center of the universe that would take months, maybe even years, for anyone to complete.
So when No Man’s Sky debuted in August and the first player reached the center of the universe in a matter of hours, gamers realized that they had been had. The hype-train derailed; fanboy bodies littered the countryside. Creatures were random, alright, but random in a way that made no sense — like holding up a spork and declaring yourself the penguin of doom.
A petition was started requesting refunds for those who purchased the game. Worse, Hello Games was threatened with a lawsuit for false advertisement. Needless to say, No Man’s Sky wins this year’s “award” for biggest fail of 2016.
2016 also saw the fulfilment of promises made years, even decades ago.
Since I’ve verbally fellated Final Fantasy XV several times over the course of the year, I’ll refrain from doing so here (adding that I freakin’ love it, faults and all). The year was a banner year for the industry, which saw, finally, the release of FFXV (announced in 2006) and The Last Guardian (announced in 2007). The latter, a puzzle-adventure from developers genDESIGN and SIE Japan Studio, was the spiritual successor to one of the greatest games of all time, Shadow of the Colossus. Fans had anticipated and started the hype-train regarding its release years ago when the first footage was shown at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2009.
The game follows a mysterious boy and his enormous friend, a giant dog-like creature that obeys his commands. It was released to mixed reviews. Mostly, people were happy that it had been released at all, bookmarking the long, artistic vision of Fumito Ueda.
Finally, the year wouldn’t have been complete without starting up a new hype-train. All aboard for the Nintendo Switch, set to be released in March of 2017. The Switch promises gaming-on-the-go with a detachable controller that also doubles as a smart tablet. Gamers will have the ability to plug in at home and, when the boss calls and asks why you’re three hours late, detach the controller and continue the game wherever you are in the world.
The hype-train is at full speed. Will Nintendo deliver? If 2016 has taught us anything, hype-trains are just as prone to derailment as they are to reaching their final destination. Here’s to a happy, and successful, New Year.
Chris O’Neal will have completed Final Fantasy XV by years end… hopefully. Follow him on Instagram @atchrisoneal.