Last Friday, Jon Wood's opinion piece entitled Reading Comprehension grabbed my attention somewhat more than usual since it seemed to connect with a couple of other things that had taken place recently. One was the preparation of my previous column, which dealt with the other side of the proverbial coin, writing about MMOGs. Among the tips I chose not to include was trying to be as clear as possible at all times, in part because there are people who seem all too willing, indeed eager, to misinterpret or ignore what they read when doing so serves their personal agendas. Being explicit doesn't stop them, but it's the best we can do.
I wrote that piece the day after returning from a reunion of my grade and high school classmates. As it happens, one of the things we did amid much reminiscing was to sign a new book one of them wrote. Now a university professor in history, he had decided to donate a copy of his scholarly tome to the library, and asked us to add our names as a dedication to our one of our old English instructors. To the best of my recollection, he was a man absolutely none of his students ever liked. Nonetheless, he managed to teach us language skills that, in quite a few cases including my own, turned out to be infinitely more valuable over the ensuing years than we imagined at the time.
The issue of miscomprehension is exacerbated in the free to play space due a combination of factors. One is the incomprehensible - to me at least - level of emotional negativity it arouses within some people. This can and does manifest itself in the intentional spreading of misinformation. This is especially easy on the internet. While it's a marvel overall, it does have drawbacks, one of which is that all it takes to put opinions forward repeatedly on message boards and forums is sufficient time and determination.
Unfortunately, what can happen on occasion is that for some readers, after they've seen a particular viewpoint multiple times, the distinction between fact and opinion becomes blurred. To a certain extent, this is understandable. I've caught myself falling into this trap more than once; when I don't pay enough attention to an issue, it can be quite easy not to distinguish clearly, to assume that something I've seen repeatedly is completely precise when it reality, it's either only partly so or, sometimes, inaccurate.
Another consideration stems from the concept of perception being reality. For many here in North America, F2P is akin to an iceberg. They see the small portion that's above the water, and while they know there's more below the surface, they aren't aware how much. Compounding this, subscription MMOGs tend to receive proportionally more media exposure, both through editorial coverage and advertising. As a result, it can seem that this sector comprises a larger portion of the total market than it actually does.
Sadly, there are also a few people who seem all too willing to speak up without informing themselves, either well, adequately to the task at hand or, occasionally, at all. If you need confirmation, read Jon's column, then check out how many of the reader comments don't fit with what he said near the end. It's a minority, thankfully, but definitely more than I liked. And while it may be a somewhat jaded comment on my part, I'd have been more than mildly surprised to see none.
Near the end of his piece, Jon states, "it's important to try as hard as we can to understand the whole context of the information that is presented to us. This means not just reading the bullet points, and understanding the words, but actually reading and understanding the articles that are presented to us." This is especially critical if you want to have a reasonably accurate picture of the MMOG space and especially the MMOG sector, both here and even more so, globally.
Be a thinking reader. Actually, I'd like to think that the large majority of you who have read this far are. One of the reasons I started writing about games was that I wasn't finding enough that was different, and that I really wanted to read. So, if you don't accept everything I write as gospel - and I hope you don't since this is, after all, an opinion column - great. I will continue trying to give you a food for thought. Regarding F2P in its various permutations, all I ask is that you make up your own mind, and keep it open since the space is changing, and more rapidly than ever.