I was watching that “Secret Millionaire” show on TV recently. I know, I’m a sucker for crap like that. But I watched these community organizations on the show do some truly amazing work for people that really needed help in their lives, and it got me to thinking about how much I have to be thankful for in my own life. I mean, when the worst I have to worry about on a daily basis is how much longer I have to wait until I can go home from my day job things can’t be all that bad. So for this week’s List I thought we’d try a little exercise in perspective and talk about the ways in which MMO gaming could be much, much worse. We all spend a lot of time on this site hypothesizing the many ways in which our games of choice could be better, and we spend a lot of time decrying the lack of this and that in our pastime. But for now, let’s just find some reasons to be thankful shall we? Granted most of this is absurd, but they should serve as a reminder that at least our MMOs try to be entertaining escapes for us all. No worries, next week we’ll go into the ways MMOs could be so much more.
5. More Realism!
How’d you like to have to worry about your children’s safety in World of Warcraft? How about balancing your adventuring life with a family life? How about knowing when or when not to pee (because public urination is somehow always frowned upon)? Of course there’s the ever popular perma-death that some folks want, and really as long as it’s an optional thing, I say add it in. But darn it, that’s as far as I want my realism to extend, okay? I know there are people who love games like Xsyon and that’s just fine. But for me personally, I’m really glad that many games are jaunts into fantasy and I want to keep it that way, not make MMOs into something akin to The Sims.
4. Pay Per Hour
There has been a lot of talk about the F2P trend, and the Pay-to-Win worries are just. But at least we don’t have to pay a service charge for every hour we log in. Imagine our games working something like a cellular phone bill, where you’re charged only for the amount of time you play. Surely this would benefit some players who might only play an hour here or there, but I’m betting there are plenty of people here who might need to take out a second mortgage or start selling body parts to pay for their habits. So while the experimentation of new revenue models is scary, be glad that the industry started with a standard subscription and not some prorated model that would siphon our wallets dry.
3. Commercial Breaks
Eventually someone will realize that MMOs offer a chance to advertise to millions, and that’s when our hobby will become as annoying as network television. “Quick guys, everyone get ready. The boss is just around the corner…. Oh wait. No it’s okay; we have about five minutes worth of Fritos commercials before we actually get to fight. I’m actually kind of hungry now that I think about it. Maybe I have some Fritos nearby.” Don’t think this sort of thing couldn’t happen either. As costs of development and sustainment climb, developers will be looking for ways to gain revenue. Advertisements are a very real future for our games, and I mean in a more substantial way than the fringe games they already exist in. Soon our potions will be Pepsi Max and our mounts will be Ford Fiestas. Just wait and see.
2. Anonymity Lost
One of the most meaningful ways in which MMOs make escapism possible is that we can truly drop our real world selves when we enter these worlds. This kind of goes hand in hand with the Facebook stuff above, and of course there’s the Battle.net brouhaha from 2010. I know the upside of having “everyone know your name” is that people will be less prone to make a virtual ass of themselves, but I can’t help but think the answer for that problem is an in-game policing or reporting system and not something that makes sure everyone knows who I really am. Sure we’d all like to know if we’re in the same guild as Brandon “Superman” Routh, or if we’re slaying dragons with Curt Schilling, but for them maybe the anonymity is key to their enjoyment. And I’d wager that all of us, celebrity or not, are thankful we can just be “Rhaegar the Bold” and not Steve Smith Jr. for a few hours at a time.
1. The Facebook Syndrome
I’m sure some of you have dabbled in Zynga’s games or some of the others. In each Facebook game there’s a trend that involves the player “inviting” his or her friends to try the game out or to help them find a home for some lost animal, gather enough supplies for a new shelter, or something along those lines. Basically these games force you to advertise for them by constantly begging your friends for help in some way or another. Now imagine that our MMOs start to do the same thing. Some game, quality though it may be gains revenue through ads or some sort of purchasable content. In order to then obtain revenue, it needs a high number of players signed up for its game. Next thing you know, all of your friends that have your e-mail address or your Facebook account are spamming you to help them collect the 1,000 rat tails needed to offer the Priestess of Nothingville and make their way to level 10. At which point they’ll need your assistant to harness, shoe, and de-louse a horse to use for their mount. Do you see what I’m getting at? I know it’s a long shot, but it could happen. Let’s be thankful it hasn’t.