Confronting Confirmation Bias and Echo Chambers
Anthem is the catalyst for this post, but the discussion could certainly be taken more broadly. Also, I want to make it very clear that I’m not excluding myself from this. No-one is free of bias, the best one can do is try to be aware of where your personal bias’ lie and take the necessary steps to mitigate them.
My bias toward Anthem is something I first raised after exposure to the demo weekends, again while writing up my impressions of The Division 2 beta and most recently mentioned being in the ‘honey-moon period’ for my early impressions of the early-access launch.
This is all good and well, but I want to write a review that will be useful to people shortly. So at least for myself, I need to confront the assumptions and biases I’ve held to date, and break the echo chamber effect1 somewhat in order to do so.
What was my starting level of bias?
Well… I essentially came out of a 5+ year blogging hibernation for the express purpose of talking about Anthem.
That should put some context to it for you. At the time I made the decision to come back to blogging for it, there is very little I could have heard or seen that would have dissuaded me from the position I then held.
Nonetheless; over the course of this (admittedly so far short) stint at returning to blogging, I’d already started to self-moderate. I had seen signs I was being unreasonable in my expectations. I was shrugging off certain things that really do deserve constructive criticism.
Enjoying a thing is absolutely fine, good even. We are, for the most part, much too ready to jump down negatively on almost anything and everything. I know that my natural inclination is one of skepticism and disbelief. Before this, I would have told you that I’ve been around the pre-launch hype of too many games to be taken in again. Prove to me it’s worth the hype and then maybe, possibly, I’ll change my tune.
I couldn’t tell you what it was about Anthem that captured that remaining, ‘I want to believe’ spark left in my imagination, really. But capture it it had.
I’m still enjoying the game. No-one (including myself) has been able to talk me out of having fun with Anthem.
This is not always a given, either. My Steam library is littered with titles of a more-easily-hyped-Naithin, and some of them to this day have not been loaded. Even once.
I have something like 35 hours into Anthem now and still hunger for more.
Be that as it may though, I think I have managed to gain a better perspective on where the troubles lie. The areas that are in need of improvement if not outright remedy. I can see that Anthem’s ‘Games as a Service’ model is more than anything else ‘Early Access’ for a AAA studio title. (This is a post for another day.)
To get there, to this more balanced position, has meant going out of my way to listen to dissenting opinions. Going willingly into the lion’s den of negative opinion about something I enjoy, and considering whether each individual complaint holds merit in as detached a manner as possible.
Review to Come Soon
So yes, the review will start rolling out soon. Depending on length I may section it off. In particular because I can write about story with some confidence in it not materially changing with the patch on the 22nd Feb.
But if you were hoping for a bit more guidance right now on where things sit with Anthem, I guess my conclusion is this:
Yes — Anthem has problems. The load screens being a big one (especially for those without the luxury of an SSD they can make space to fit the game on). There are other issues too in my opinion with how itemisation is handled and certain story decisions.
But equally, Yes — Anthem is fun despite these problems. Anyone telling you that you can’t have fun with the title in it’s current state is wrong. Now, whether you are willing (or able) to support a full-price game that is coming out with these issues is another matter, and a decision not to is certainly one I could respect.
I want to play Metro: Exodus so much, but I simply refuse to support Epic while their means of acquiring market-share is to introduce third-party exclusives to the PC market. I will wait a year for a Steam release rather than give them a cent of my money now. So I do get taking a stand.
Also, there are a lot of pretty good titles coming out right now besides.
If you’re on the fence, but interested, I think the best thing you can do for yourself (if you’re on PC) is to grab one month of the EA Premier access. This will give you a full month of unfettered access to try it out for yourself, and form your own opinions rather than take my word, or anyone else’s.
If at the end of the month you’re still invested, and/or the coming content drops sound interesting, you can then choose to invest (with 10% off the purchase price, if you do it before your month runs out).
Alternately, just wait for a few months for all the hype (both positive and negative) to die out, and see where things stand then. As I said, plenty of good titles to tide you over in the meantime. :)