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An Open Letter to the Game Industry

Lisa Jonte Posted:
Columns Fair Game 0

Dear Game Industry,

I hope this letter finds you well. I’m not so happy, myself. In fact, I’m downright unhappy; that is to say, vexed, cheesed and more than a little miffed. With you.

Now, we go back a long time, you and I. From those heady early days of Pong, when one could find joy in the movements of rectangles and squares across the TV screen, through text-based adventures, quarter-sucking arcade games and beyond. Today our romance continues through the many-splendored landscape of many an MMO. We’ve had a good ride.

Unfortunately, you’ve developed some habits of late that are really starting to put a crimp in our relationship. I ignored them at first, thinking they were just a passing phase, short-term quirks that we would one day laugh about. But no longer. Below is a list of grievances that must be addressed, or our relationship may be beyond help or hope.

Don’t get me wrong, Game Industry, I still love you with all my heart, but enough is enough. It’s not me, it’s you…

Why for you no heal us in last raid?

1.    Stop treating me like a moron.

I’m not stupid, you know. Sure, sometimes I might need a helpful tip, or to be pointed in the right direction, but allow me the courtesy of asking for help. This new habit of yours, wherein you insist not only on telling me where my quest destinations are, but of auto-pathing me right to my quarry’s doorstep, is irritating. Knock it off.

Part of the fun of playing a game is stretching my brain, sorting out the puzzles and clues for myself. If those clues are too obtuse and I find I can’t manage, I’ll let you know. Until then, lay off.

2.    Love may be eternal, but games shouldn’t be.

More isn’t always better. There comes a point when a player character just can’t get any more awesome, or epic; when they can’t buy one more house, housing item or piece of cool armor. Appetites alter and once a player has gone off a particular game, let them go. Or better yet, give them something else to play. Endless increases to the level cap does nothing to relieve boredom. In fact, after awhile it starts to seem kind of desperate, and that’s a total turn-off. I wasn’t kidding before when I talked about finite and consecutive games. Think about that.

And while we’re at it, a longer grind is not the same thing as “added play value”. If, in your desperate need to keep the old romance alive, all you’re doing is adding more grind-quests, don’t bother. Whatever you may think, you’re not making the game more enticing, you’re destroying its allure by marching it straight off a cliff.

Seriously, the training wheels have to go.

3.    Back away with the training wheels and no one gets hurt.

In all those years of besting your puzzles, defeating your legions of monsters and villains, and crafting until I was purple, when did you ever get the impression that I was such a huge lazy-ass? When did you decide that it would be a great idea to start making everything so easy that I wouldn’t even need to be there? Why would I even be willing, let alone interested, in signing up for a game that plays itself? Auto battle? Auto path? Leveling while I’m offline? Pay to promote? What’s the point?

Seriously, cut that right out. I’m not some frail flower that can’t mash buttons for herself. You’re not impressing me with your gallantry, you’re being dismissive and condescending; convincing me that you think so little of me that I need to be spoon-fed everything.

4.    Be honest about your games.

You know, I’m not a prude. If you want to create a game filled with naked, giggling nymphs who engage in jiggly pillow fights at every level gain, and set it in the magical land of Boobitopia, go right ahead. Knock yourself out. But for Pete’s sake, at least have the cojones to call it what it is: Tits and Ass.

Don’t insult my intelligence by trying to tell me it’s built on some innovative new battle engine. Don’t try and sell me a bill of goods about how in-depth the world building is, or how strategic the raids are. Don’t try to convince me it’s scifi. Don’t even try some lame half-truth by making up a genre like flesh-punk; we both know what you’re main selling point really is, so just say so. If I want to give it a try, I will. If I don’t, then no amount of semi-socially-acceptable faux-vertising is going to change my mind. In fact, it just pisses me off.

Your BoD: Surgically removing the fun from your day since 1653.

5.    No more games designed by the corporate BoD.

The Board of Directors, you know what I mean. There’s a place for everything and everything in its place. Logos? Check! Licensed characters? Check! Generic action sequences and completely forgettable scenarios? Check! Total working package that has all the elements but is completely soulless and dull? Double check!

I may have a soft spot for certain pop-cultural icons, but that doesn’t mean I’ll sit still for a game that’s little more than an extension of the marketing campaign for the movies those icons appear in. If I’m that desperate to see a particular character every day, I’ll buy the lunch box. My spare time is valuable, I only spend it on games that engage me, not games that try to pander to me with pre-packed, licensed fluff.

Well, that’s about it Game Industry. I hope this little talk has been an eye-opener. I don’t mean to be cruel, but if our relationship is going to continue, changes must be made. But hey, if you think I’m too high maintenance to keep around, that’s okay. I’m perfectly willing to spend my money elsewhere.

And now, a few responses to last column’s comment thread:

Lostscout5 said:  “I think we don't see that much of it because Dev's are usually rushed for time. When you have to ship a game by a certain date and you have to pick which is more important, fixing a game killing bug or adding "flavor" to the environment, hopefully the bug gets fixed.”

I don’t dispute your point, but I think a rushed deadline is often used to justify all manner of shortcomings in games. Maybe, as consumers, we should be less accepting of that old excuse.

Po_gg said:  “OP, maybe LotRO?”

Yes! LotRO has a far more developed cultural undercurrent than many MMOs. Part of that can be attributed to Tolkien, but a lot of it was created by the Devs, and to good effect.

Until next time, may your escort missions be few and your drops plentiful.

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Lisa Jonte

Lisa Jonte / Writer, editor, artist, parent. Currently reviewing games and writing the column, Fair Game at MMORPG.com. One time (print and web) comics creator, and former editor of the webcomic enclave GirlAMatic.com; now a secretive and hermit-like prose writer, (and not so secretive nor hermit-like blogger.)