The Power of Lowered Expectations and Being Pleasantly Surprised

(If this is your first time here I’d like to direct you to this page first so you can see where I’m coming from.)

I used to be a quality snob.  When I was a teenager, I used to spend a lot of time with one of my cousins and he had what I considered at the time to low standards when it came to movies.  I clearly remember spending an afternoon with him, having a lousy time while he heartily laughed at the Police Academy movie we were watching.  (Which one?  No idea, but it was definitely a few sequels in.)

I hated it.  After he was done laughing at a scene he’d say something to me to the effect of “come on, there’s no way you didn’t think that was funny”.  For the most part I genuinely didn’t find it funny but as I look back, I can see something about myself that has changed.  I don’t know when I changed but there’s definitely something different now.

What’s different? Well, it seems that I’m no longer the snob I used to be.  I’m not saying I’d find Police Academy 73: More Bodily Function Jokes funny now but in general, I’ve lowered my expectations.  After some retrospection, I’ve realized that while in some ways, I’ve reduced the level at which I’ll tolerate and even enjoy something and in the end, I think this is a good thing.

I frequent the gaming forums at NeoGAF fairly regularly and I noticed something yesterday.  As of this post, the 2014 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) is underway and Sony held a press conference last night to announce new products.  If you look through the press conference thread on NeoGAF, you’ll notice a lot of disappointment after the presser due to the fact that Sony didn’t really announce anything PlayStation related.  Why the disappointment?  Well, it seems as though peoples’ expectations of what could be at a Sony press conference got ahead of the facts – CES is an electronics focused show and not generally a gaming related show.  If given the proper context, would anyone have expected anything gaming related?  Probably not, hence the disappointment.

I wasn’t disappointed though and do you know why?  I didn’t expect any gaming content in Sony’s press conference.  But you know what?  If they had, I would have been pleasantly surprised.  Being pleasantly surprised is something that I’ve really come to enjoy in recent years and lowering my expectations has helped with that.  A few years ago I saw G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra in the theater.  I thought it looked like fun and decided to check it out with a friend.  The only thing I expected from the film was to hear one character say “and knowing is half the battle” to which I wasn’t let down.  Make no mistake about it, that movie is kinda dumb but it’s dumb in a fun, blowing-stuff-up kind of way.  In the end, it’s one of my favorite popcorn-action movies.  That movie didn’t exactly get rave reviews but in the end I see the fun in it and if I had some preconceived notion as to what that film should have been like, I probably would think less of it.  Now G.I. Joe: Retaliation, that’s a different story…

Just to be clear, I haven’t blinded myself to quality.  There’s certainly a place for criticism and an appreciation for craftsmanship in media.  I love a smart summer action movies as well but it doesn’t have to be an either/or situation for me.  The same thing goes for TV shows and video games.  You know other things I love?  Michael Bay’s Transformers movies, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Earth Defense Force – all of which are flawed but I like them nonetheless.  (There’s a S.H.I.E.L.D. post coming).

So do yourself a favor, look for the good in things and temper your expectations.  There’s a ton of content out there that may not be of the highest quality but have some measure of value nonetheless.  You might be surprised what you find if you allow yourself to experience new things and keep an open mind.

Also, this is why Half-Life 3 will never be good enough for many people whenever – or if ever – it comes out.  Darn internet, get off my lawn.

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