This is going to jump around a bit because it is a big topic. I will try to stay focused however.
So I had an epiphany this week.
It occurred while I was in vent (Ventrillo) with a few "friends" while playing my favorite MMO and working on some endgame content. The conversation had become a little bit stale, as it sometimes can when a group has been together for while and everyone has become a little tired, and so I asked what I thought would be a reasonable "chatty type" question. "So has anyone seen the new Batman movie yet?"
I'd figured that it was a safe enough question. It was the third in the series, Heath Ledger died making the second and all, Christian Bayle you know what I'm saying?
I was surprised however to find out that of the 8 people that were in the channel at that moment, not only had none of them seen the latest chapter in the Dark Knight trilogy, but not even one of them was even interested!!!
The answers that I got ranged from "I don't go to the movies" to "I'm not into that", with everything from "I'd rather watch some anime" to "I haven't seen the last three of those films" thrown in between. What was even stranger however was that no one thought that it was at least a little bit weird that we were all sitting in a chat channel, while simultaneously playing a fantasy game, and that only one of us was even remotely interested in movie featuring what must have been one of the greatest adult and children's fantasy characters ever created!!!
Now I'll tell you, I've never been one for genre specificity, so you can sue me on this point. I do not believe that there is much difference in the reasons for suspending your belief save for the fact that it is for entertainment purposes. To elaborate on that concept more, I believe that if you like dungeons and dragons type stories i.e. Conan, The Dragonriders of Pern, A Song of Ice and Fire, then there is very little reason that you shouldn't like science fiction type stories such as Star Trek, Star Wars, or anything by Phillip K. Dick, or likewise comic book stories, Superman, Batman, The Avengers, the Justice League, etc...
Many of these stories actually bleed together such as Thor, the comic book character being taken from Thor, the actual ancient god of worship who appears in the Unearthed Arcane of the Dungeons and Dragons game (2nd Edition) as a deity to be worshipped by players of that game, and who is the basis for many of the deity typed concepts used in many...many an MMO.
Robert E. Howard's "Conan the Barbarian" and Mike Grell's "Warlord" are two characters ripped right out of the pages of "fantasy" typed stores (as the term fantasy is currently defined) who were introduced to many a reader via the pulp comic book genre, and Conan went on not only to star in his own films, both past and present, but to have an MMO titled after him as well!
So without going on and on about this, I didn't understand it. How was it that I had found myself the low percentage in a group of folks who were interested in the Batman movie, or even movies or television in general?
My wife, known as Kaleina in the games, would solve this quandary for me with a little insight.
She said to me "You know how you're always complaining about how no one cares about the games anymore? How all you ever hear about are parsers, and who did the most dps, and how no one cares to explore the more intricate nuances of their characters anymore? You know how you are ALWAYS complaining about how no one wants to create a WORLD anymore!!!?!?!"
"Well now you see why? It's because the current generation of people that are playing these games right now don't even come from the same place as you and the other older folks that are playing."
In my wife's theory, there has become a demographics gap in the audience of the MMORPG that exists between those who were exposed to all manner of high fantasy from all different kinds of genre's, and those who simply selected to play these games for the sake of solving the programming puzzle set forth by their creators. The motivations of these players, less than flattering, at least from my perspective, when placed up against things like playing make pretend.
But it goes even a bit deeper than that. You see, there is still a lingering thing that keeps us all playing together, a thing that obscures the actual difference between types but that ultimately defines each types overall satisfaction. You see, the new generation is working on the game at the equivalent of an almost atomic level, while the older generation just wants to complete quests.
I recall my old friends Newton and Hardcore, and a conversation that I overheard one day while we were all grouping together.
Newton - We're not going to make it. We don't have enough DPS. My parser reads 100k, and we need at least 150K.
Hardcore - Well I guess that just means that we are going to have to try a little harder then lad! What say ye?
Newton - Ok, but we're not going to make it.
1 minute after the wipe.
Newton - I told you we didn't have enough DPS.
Hardcore - That's ok, as long as ye gave it your all.....You did give it your all didn't you?
Newton - ............Of course.
Of course we all knew that Newton had not given it his all. He had already had the data, provided to him by people that he felt were far superior than he was at playing the game, that had told him that he was going to fail at his endeavor. And so he had not wasted one more single effort on trying to prove that data wrong. Hardcore, on the other hand, not only did not have a parser installed, but had played the game for YEARS without giving any success or failure anymore thought other than that he would have to get whatever he was going after the next time.
Neither of these players were necessarily right, and neither were necessarily wrong, their play styles had just hit a wall that the demographic gap could no longer span. The believer in fantasy that of the breakdown in his troops, and the believer of technology that of the insistence of what he considered the less than educated.
So this is what we are dealing with now. And I shudder to think that the same thing might be going on inside the industry as well. In my understanding it might be a lot easier to program a game from the perspective of gaining the right items to throw enough of one stat at a creature in order to beat it, but it would also be a LOT more boring to do so.
But then again I am old school and still want to pretend that I am a wizard. So what do I know?
I'm not saying that you have to care about the Batman movie to be cool. I'm not saying that you can't like one genre of high fantasy over another. But what I am saying is that you should at least give make believe a chance.
In a world where many of your youngsters don't watch TV, don't have radios, and get to select exactly what goes into, and subsequently comes out of their brains, I believe we run the danger of losing the reason for genre at all. And in world without genre, all these games end up becoming are collections of wasted production built up by poor kids who are missing out on some really cool opportunities. The chance to overcome the insurmountable, the ability to actually feel good at something, and the satisfaction of working as a team are all things that us old heads have already gotten the chance to do repeatedly.
A kid or young adult should not be denied these pleasures just because they threaten the overall bottom-line of some accountants profit spreadsheet.
So to the developers, to the guides, and especially to the players.
Put down the parsers and pick up a freaking book or movie! You are living in never-never land, not in corporate America! Sure, the min-maxers can roll over any game they want to, but those are some boring mofo's compared to my stupid self.
Also, don't believe everything you read on the internet. The guys that put out all of that parse information gather it from going into these missions with a bunch of powerlevelled characters that they generally have no idea how to play.
You can do better if you really want to. And if you can't, it's your game creators fault.
Believe in fantasy. Believe in Fun! And don't let these creators off easy on either.
If the demographic gap really exists, and I believe it does, then let me be the first to draw the lines of battle here, and to say that it's going to be a really, really, boring, and long ride if all we have are quotas to fill in order to get through each expansion of each of these games.
In fact, if that is going to be the case, then we all may as well change our names to Sisyphus The Orc, and go and get customer service jobs. At least then, in my understanding, we would be getting paid for the same thing.