One of the buzz words I get sick of seeing is "innovation."
Many players spread across forums and blogs seem to think that MMO's are not so innovative these days, some going so far as to declare innovation dead. Some seem to think that nothing is new, and everything has been done. While I agree that some things HAVE been done over and over, there are hundreds of examples of games and game systems that not only shine as examples of innovation, but are fun to play as well.
Players need to remember that just as with music, innovation sometimes only comes along when the crowds demand it. The longer they buy the same-old-same-old copies of poppy disposable artists, the longer that type of cloned music will be around. Look at the prime example of the music industries answer to innovation: American Idol. There was a time when music was something cherished, artists HAD to write their own music, or at least perform the music with real guts, in order to stand out in a crowd of actual performers.
Now we celebrate a show that not only "creates" an "artist," but deems them "idols" as though the simple ability to be in the right place at the right time is a talent. They quickly brand them with an image ("gothy," "rock n" roll"), give them a back up band of studio musicians, and tell them how to tweek thier performances to blend in. It's actually kind of sad to watch the show, to watch all the money poured into such a crappy, glossy machine of poop.
Poop music, I mean.
And why would MMOs' be any different? If we continue to not only buy MMO's that are the same-old-same-old, but to give some kind of authenticity to terms like "grind" as though we are "forced" to play in certain ways, then why should we expect developers to develop anything but games that require those kinds of play?
I say forget it. I'm done, and have been for actually quite a long time. I will not do anything in a game that feels like a job, and I will not play unless I am having fun. I will try out every game I can, and will give a chance to every game that I can, because I want to find enjoyment. I don't listen to only one artist, or one type of music, so why would I only play one MMO? And if we all did this, if we all played in different ways, pushing the boundaries of what you could do in a game, wouldn't create an environment that didn't just encourage innovation, but demanded it?
Stop and think: do you play in some way that is pretty much like a job? Are you scheduled for gaming sessions, and find yourself wishing you were NOT scheduled for those sessions? Do you find yourself playing games just because there's "nothing else to do" or do you find yourself bored within the game because you think you have exhausted every possibility the game has to offer?
I assure you, you haven't. Even the cruddier MMO titles out there give you some level of freedom to experiment...to role-play, to explore, to create your OWN way of playing. If you did it, and it became something that others would like to do, there's no saying that it wouldn't become the next big thing in gaming since "grinding" or "raiding." Hopefully, though, YOUR activity will actually be fun.
Clicking around on the tube the other day, I stumbled across a discussion between hip hop artists as to where they thought hip-hop was going. Some of them seemed way to comfortable with the same thing, over and over: a gold tooth, a D.J. and boring rhymes about money.
But a few members of the panel seemed to think that the next big thing wouldn't be the same old thing, but would simply be just one guy playing something differently and in such a cool way that everyone else would do it. The cycle would continue.
I hope that MMO's do not become as stale as hip hop has. To help it along the path of innovation, I think players bear plenty of responsibility, and need to be aware of what messages they are sending to developers. After all, if you keep consuming the same-old-same-old, they will keep making it.
Do something different. Host an event, make up a game within the game, form a guild based on a set of creative laws.
And no, do not say that it is solely the responsibility of the developers to create the next big thing. Musicians rely on their audience for inspiration and guidance, and so do developers.