There’s something great about being late to the party. There’s no awkwardness between you and the host while no one else is around. The anxiety of pathfinding is gone. You can roll up to the front door when you please and depart just as well. It’s liberating being late to the party.
Being late has another special quality. You’re not beholden to the logic of that party. It’s easier to see the patterns in how things have played out. Being late gives you a kind of grand view that’s hard to obtain if you’re there, in the moment, as things are playing out. The kinks are worked out, or the kinks are on full display and you quickly learn to cut and run.
That’s the beauty of diving into something far passed it’s time. It’s what makes Gavin’s Backlog tick. It’s what’s so fun about the end of a console’s life cycle or a remake from a time far before you played games. Distance can and does make the heart grow fonder. It’s why I’m enjoying Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal now that it’s been cancelled for well over two years.
I’ve been watching Game of Thrones as it aired and it’s exhausting. I remove myself from social media, scour every moment for a critical detail, hit social media hard with a hot take, and then hop in front of my desk to crank something out for you all. I tried it with Westworld and that was equally exhausting. It’s hard to say anything truly witty or interesting in the moment. When I’ve done it, it’s always been an accident. Now, the only take I worry about is the one that I text my friend after I watch a few episodes.
Playing Final Fantasy XV long after the critical bloom is to experience the game without the hype train or even the echo of that train. No arguments over that one chapter, what was patched in, or its long development cycle. This far after its release I get to play the game in almost total silence. It’s nice. I’ll never play the game that was so polarizing partially because it’s been patched and partially because I’m playing this game long after the poles have vanished.
It’s hard to live in a world of mystery. Those first, burgeoning moments of a party before the food, before the main body of guests, before “the real party starts.” Coming to things late lets you take it at a pace all your own, a pace dictated by nothing more than how you feel on that day or in that week.
As an industry we exhaust ourselves to be the first to takes we never really give time to the takes worth having several months later. We don’t consider the waters that those games are tossed into, that they exist in an ecosystem, a context, one that doesn’t exist in a moment. It’s to stand in the halls of memory and bask in that which came before you, even if its only been a few months. As Gandalf told us, “A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.” To be late is to be on one’s own time. It’s to have agency over the critical engagement free of timeliness.