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You, tank! You, spank! You, gank! I'll..uh..loot.

The views of an MMO wanderer on various aspects of the online world. Subject to content of whatever other topic happens across my mind as well.

Author: KirinShadow

It's time for the community to upgrade.

Posted by KirinShadow Friday October 9 2009 at 5:09AM
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First off, Kudos to the new writer, Jamie. Your column is hands-down my favorite on MMORPG.com so far. Not only are you writing well thought-out articles, but you're continuing to discuss them in a reasonable manner after they're posted.

 

As Jamie's first article said: Everyone is a critic. At least insofar as everyone has an opinion. This does not imply that all players of MMORPGs have a solid understanding of argumentative logic (I'm reasonably certain that I don't). It's the logical equivalent of trying to speak foreign language out of a phrasebook. While we certainly understand the individual concepts of the games, we "discuss" by collectively flinging our opinions at one another, injecting fallacy, insult, and whatever other devices we care to link them together with.

In the thread discussing the "Stale Comparison" column, there was a brief argument about whether games qualified as art. This got me thinking, primarily about understanding the difference between the technical merits of a work and the enjoyment someone derives from it. I propose extending this idea to three axes: Technical, Enjoyment, and Fiscal (Business success)

First off: Technical. If we remove subscriber counts and personal opinion from the equation, we have characteristics like performance, graphics, and individual gameplay mechanics that can be compared fairly. This is important because it allows us to get a very real idea of the sorts of trade-offs that may have to be made when improving upon a certain feature. If you understand this, you are far better equipped to say "This game should add feature X", because you can make your request a realistic one. As a software developer, I can tell you that a request from a customer who has clearly made an effort to understand the technical side of things is much more likely to receive a second look from me. I can only assume that the same goes for the community managers who typically bridge that gap. 

Second: Enjoyment. This is really just a matter of maturity. Understanding that everyone is an individual leads most arguments about this to end with "Play the game that you like". Since this conclusion doesn't give us any universal basis upon which to compare two games, put it on its own axis and let it do whatever it does.

Third: Fiscal. This axis is where WoW gets its deserved place as the gold standard of MMOs. Here we can compare subscription numbers against some standard (be it WoW or whatever else) and have a reasonable idea of what will or will not work in today's market. Observe that this really just tells us how "niche" something is, and not how "good" (that's technical), or how "fun"(enjoyment) it is.

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Why can this way of thinking help to bring us out of the "Stale Comparison" stage?  Simple. We are quite capable of being heard, and we have functioning brains. Communities like MMORPG.com, individual game forums, and others, have no shortage of information to offer. It's what separates us from the business statistics. However, the effectiveness of these communities suffers because much of this information is not useful. If we, as a community, can embrace truly rational discussion and can work together to better define the various facets of an MMORPG (Such as I have attempted to do above), we can actually model our ideas and opinions in a way that developers can take hold  of and run with.

In closing, I just hope that those who read this will take a moment to stop and think. It's no secret that we as a community want our opinions to matter. While it may seem impossible to actively communicate with those monolithic entities "The Developers", that very goal is not so far from our grasp. We have the data, we just need to formalize it.

 

MMORPG.com writes:
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