Last week I decided to spend my column space talking about how fortunate I feel to be a part of this current MMO surge we’re in the midst of. The comments, shockingly, were mostly positive responses. But I feel like addressing something else, in what I hope is a non-controversial manner. This isn’t aimed at one person in particular, and I don’t mean any of what I say in an attacking sense. But I’m worried, folks. I’m worried about the doubtful gamers we have here on the forums. No, I don’t mean the delightful Edward Gorey tale “The Doubtful Guest”. That little guy is cute. These folks aren’t quite as cuddly and likable. The Doubtful Guest steals bath towels. The doubtful gamer steals joy.
I’m a cynic by nature too. Whenever something new is about to drop, I fight the urge to pan it as well. But I’ve realized something in my time on this plane of existence… that’s absolutely the stupidest thing I could do with my brief life. Why on Earth would I want to ruin what precious few days I get to experience the good parts of life by crapping all over everything that tries to give me enjoyment?
I understand when and how people make a turn for the worse and find themselves jaded and standoffish towards the promise of something better coming around the corner for their favorite hobby. With a swell of newly released games, and only such a very few showing any real advancement for the genre, it’s easy to get discouraged. There’s also a growing sentiment that the genre’s not really advancing at all, that it’s regressing and that no games will ever compare to Ultima Online, Everquest, Asheron’s Call, or Meridian 59.
I say fie to that.
If you were to look at the evolution of videogames as a whole and represented in timeline form, you will find yourself staring at a circle of innovation. New thing comes to market – new thing is success – many other new things copy the first new thing – eventually one newest thing makes an even newer thing… and then the cycle begins again. The problem that I think many of the MMO purists are seeing is that with the cost of development and the desire to conquer large audiences because of said cost, is that MMO games are becoming much simpler from a user’s point of view.
The only answer I have to give people who worry about this particular trend is simply not to worry. You’re still a recognized market. You’re still going to get your games. You just might have to wait a little longer than the folks who are currently the “hot target” for MMO expansionism. That’s my main creed in life thanks to Bobby McFerrin: don’t worry, be happy. And yes, I totally just went there. Don’t make me pull out Journey quotes.
I know I have a tendency to get preachy with these columns, but it’s not intentional. The opinion which I’m offering from this soap box isn’t that the doubtful gamer’s way of thinking is wrong. In fact there’s something to be said for being a little more negative towards new releases. Say, for instance, The Old Republic comes out and doesn’t suck so hard Dyson patents it. If instead The Old Republic comes out and is an enjoyable addition to the stable of fun and enjoyable MMOs, the doubtful gamer will be likely more pleased than those folks who have been claiming TOR is the Messiah sent to deliver us into the afterlife (hello hyperbole, have we met?).
So let’s wrap this up, as I’m sure I’ve already offended just about anyone who might have previously taken me seriously (all three of you). There’s a lot to love about our hobby. Thanks to the success of a few key games and the bold initiative to try new designs by a few brave developers, I firmly believe we’re going to see a swell of new game types hit the market over the next five years. Some will be failed experiments, while others will launch brand new trends, and thus the innovation wheel turns. You may not like these new games, and you don’t have to. But I pray one day the doubtful gamers of the world will find reason to get excited again.
One last example. I went to E3 this year for the first time. I was an E3-gin. I should delete that, not because it’s distasteful, but because it’s a bad joke. But it stays. I went to E3 this year, and I was a kid again. Every single booth was the shining Mecca of Christmas desires. I wanted it all. I guarantee you that about 90% of what was on the show floor will wind up as bargain bin software. Some of it will be deservedly so, and some of it will be a darn shame. But the point is that I was genuinely excited by what’s around the bend. Sure it helps that there were bright lights pretty ladies shilling it all, but at the end of the day all that really matters is that the videogame industry is thriving and MMOs are evolving.
Are they evolving slowly? Sure. But hey, Qeynos wasn’t built in a day folks.