So, I have been seeing this a lot. And, I am sure we have all noticed it and at least wondered about it in passing. Many an MMOG have been using a little tag after their name as an additional descriptor to get peoples attention. I am speak of games that end in 'Online'...
So, wait...what is this blog post really about?
It is about the fair and unfair use of terminology by game developers and publishers. When we use words too much and in too many bad ways. They become watered down at best and Buzz Words at worst. The problem I see here is that in a lot of instances "Online" at the end of a games name is doing both!
It's an obvious attempt to make a game sound more exciting then - likely - is. By making it seem familiar with past genre success. It's cheap. Plane and simple.
So, what is a fair use of this word in relation to a games name?
Well for that let's look at one of it's first uses... Ultima Online. In this case the publisher wanted to distinguish This MMORPG from a previous Offline version of the game. This was:
- Firstly, honesty in advertising. Letting people know "Yes, it is Ultima. No, you don't play this version by yourself."
- And secondly, Courteous. It was far more descriptive then throwing a roman Numeral on the end and expecting people to just get it, or figure it out.
And for the time (mid-late 90's). This is what you did when you had a game that had a previous incarnation which had little to no multiplayer and was not online. Yet, you wanted to make the distinction for the newer version of the game that was online.
We are also presented with fair extensions of this idea. Like Turbines Titles "Dungeons & Dragons Online" & "Lord of The Rings Online"...In both these instances there had been games and a fandom preexisting the MMORPG's. However, in this case there really wasn't a chance of mistaken identity. But, there was a want from fans to finally see an MMORPG or something like it from a publisher. Though, it was at this time getting a little away from the point of using the phrase 'Online'. Or rather it was expanding on the affix's usefulness. It was still a fair use of the word. All of these games had success (at least in their prime). And, continue years later, to keep on keepin' on. And, all of them had Online in the name.
And, I just have to think...
At some point someone making a new MMORPG must have just said to themselves "Bet they will play it if we put 'Online' in the name." I think this might have happened right around 2000-2002.
But, when ever this happened and for what ever reasons there are now a lot of games out there that use this unfairly. Aika Online, World of Tanks (they are playing with using the online tag inconsistently now) to name a few. And, if you have not played it Fantasy Online... In order to be purposefully generic, Uses 'Online' in it's name...and 'Fantasy'. But the whole point of that game is to poke fun at MMORPG's. which actually makes for an entertaining experience (If your an avid MMORPG player you will continue laughing at every turn likely).
These games have no previous Offline version. They are trying to cash in on a buzz word alone. And, usually behind this mask seems to be a slew of poor to downright unethical practices. In my book a fair extension of the use of a word or term is not because you need it to try and make up for where you are lacking.
This has largely put me off playing a new-to-me MMORPG that has Online in the name (I do actually play world of tanks but it is my stupid fun change of pace so i don't burn out game).
The point of all this is we can not allow punlishers/developers to use terms, words, phrases and advertisement unfairly, without being due it, or otherwise dishonestly. I f we do we are only hurting our selves. So get on their forums, use their contact feature. Ask them why they choose to take certain approaches, and call them out when those approaches breech the trust you should be able to have in them, or hurt the community on the whole. Be polite. Try to be respectful. But also, be persistent. And, try to show them the side of it they are not seeing.
If we let them continue to water down the genre we all get soaked.