Everyone knows the phrase, “Don't judge a book by its cover.” It's been around since 1944, when it was originally written as “You can't judge a book by its binding.” The phrase has found its way into popular media, like when Frank-N-Furter crooned it during “Sweet Transvestite” in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It's even been immortalized as a meme. But it all boils down to the same thing, don't take something at face value. Maybe there's something teeming beneath the surface. It could be something a dire and frightening. Perhaps it's even hope and a deeper meaning in a seemingly shallow title.
There are some games that might seem like they have a fairly straightforward purpose. They're there to entertain, to get people to spend their hard earned cash on an equally laboriously created product. While some might be just that, there are others that hide something deeper underneath the surface. It could be as simple as a game that has a character or two, or maybe even just a line that makes you think a little harder. A really great example is the character Fawkes in Fallout 3. He's a Super Mutant with a lot more heart and intelligence that anyone generally gives him credit for. One of his most memorable lines is, “In all things, the calm heart must prevail.” A character that could be taken at face value as a brute is really a romantic.
A similar smaller example exists in the very first Assassin's Creed game. There's a moment when Altair says, “Men must be free to do what they believe. It is not our right to punish them for thinking what they do, no matter ho much we disagree.” Most wouldn't think that such wisdom exists in giant AAA games. But if you take a moment to look for things like this, you'll find that they're there.
The Evil Within 2 as a whole is another example. Many see the game and think of the original. It wasn't very good, so they may automatically give this title a pass. But take a moment to read some of the reviews and talk to friends that have played it. Turns out it is a vast improvement on the original. Avoiding the sequel because of the original's folly will prevent many from enjoying it. Stop judging it by its cover, and you might find yourself with another winner in your game library.
This concept can include games that intentionally pull a switcheroo. There's one title that's been getting some recent attention called Doki Doki Literature Club. When you look at the title, description, screenshots, and video for the game, they all lead you to believe it's a cutesy visual novel game with dating sim elements. But go through a playthrough of it and soon you'll know that there is much more to that. Not only does a darker plot begin to unfold, but it is a severely meta one at that. It's truly a dictionary definition of “don't judge a book.”
It's moments like discovering the darkness in Doki Doki Literature Club and realizing The Evil Within 2 is better than its original that makes gaming worth it. Don't judge a book by its cover, and you really never know what you'll discover. Be willing to try new genres that you maybe wouldn't have before. You're bound to find gems amongst the stones.