The bizarre and damaging fascination the gaming industry has with new technology is perhaps nowhere worse than in the state of the media as it stands. This is not the general media, which has a tendency to focus on narrow, headline grabbing issues that are often not accurately depicted or representative of the industry as a whole, but rather the media that is specifically focused on games.
This focus on technology is often without compelling reason. While in some instances it makes sense, as in discussing the system requirements of a game or the strict comparison between the hardware capabilities of two different consoles, but often it is completely beside the focus of the games as to be a distraction. If there are discussions on polygon count, size of the data, or a hyped sentence of the depth of a physics engine, I tend to become wary.
Because while those may be important parts in putting together the package of the game, they are not, in and of themselves, the game.
I think some may disagree with me. In an early discussion on the Wii Overlords article, one person who agreed with it called himself technophile and mentioned that these things mattered. I frankly must disagree, because the approach with the game industry and media is very different than how the movie industry and media approaches advertising a product.
Movies, even bad ones, will have the focus on the story, on the excitement, drama, and action. Movies will focus the potential customer on the primary experience of the movie: the act of viewing the movie itself. The technology used to create a movie will, at best, be granted an occasional side-story, as was the case for the Massive engine used in the Lord of the Rings films or Deep Canvas system used for Disney's Tarzan. Even the most effects driven movies will not have the technology used in creating these special effects brought into the forefront.
Somewhat ironically, this can create a case where a film will utilise industry shifting technology, and the general public will often not be aware of the effect the film had. For instance, there was a film in 1993 which had a drastic effect on the film industry and the movie viewing experience. While it was a huge blockbuster, few people know the effect it had, because that technology shift was not a large story. The technology helped to improve the viewer's experience, but knowledge of the technology was not necessary.*
In the game's industry, this situation is often backwards. We have the technology used thrust upon us almost from the first announcement, such that it may be easier to find out what goes into creating the game than what has actually come out of the creation.
If you look at a website for information on a forthcoming title, you will often be greeted with picture after picture of screens from the game. These may be very nice, high resolution screen captures with the intent of showing off how much effort has been put into making a game look nice. This will be followed with videos of the game, again showing off the smoothness of animation, clearness of audio, or how good the physics engine makes things act.
What none of these things do is engage the player. For that, you need a game demo. The game demo is the equivalent of a movie trailer. It provides the product for the consumer, in miniature. Demos are nice, but somewhat more rare than the screen capture or movie.
Why does this situation exist? I can only assume that it is because providing information and commentary on upcoming games is big business. Websites dedicated to this do very well selling memberships, providing inside information, and giving those exclusive looks.
A look is all it is, however. While I confess that recently I found myself on one such site looking for information about an upcoming game I have been anticipating (Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock), at the end of a trailer and two interviews, I had to turn it off. The information was particularly worthless because without the chance to try any of the new gameplay, it is not possible to have an informed opinion. Both interviews ended with "buy this game", which I may do, but I hope to have the chance at a demo version first.
These websites cannot provide demos of games, at least they cannot do so directly. At best they can pass along information that developers could do themselves via press releases and blog posts. However, the public seems to clamor for more information now, so is willing to pay for what could be gotten for free.
I wish there were a stronger analogue of the movie industry. Perhaps a company could provide a very short "teaser" demo. Perhaps it only covers a couple minutes of game play. A single fight in a role playing game, or just the ability to try out a few punches and kicks in a fighting game. It need not examine the entire depth of the game, but if it gives some early sense to the player of what it feels like to play, that is significantly more valuable than seeing screen capture after screen capture.
Further on down the line, provide a few longer demos. Again, it need not be long, but if well constructed, it should provide some of the story (if any), and progression in the game. Such a situation would be far more beneficial to the player and the company, instead of our current situation which seems to put the needs of both behind the business of the media.
*For the curious, the movie was Jurassic Park, which pushed for the change to digital sound in movies and theaters.