People. In an MMO you need them to keep the game-world thriving. Sadly, more often than not this comes with the caveat that not all people are really worth one’s time. Most games house a fair amount of fine players, but for whatever reason the more visible ones are always the smack-tards that make you want to hurl your monitor out a 5th floor window and say you’re done with the whole online gaming experience. The gameplay of the titles we spend so much time with is only one of many reasons we keep at them. One of the others is usually the people we play with (though admittedly this isn’t the case for everyone). I’ve stayed with many a game far longer than I normally would have just because the people I was playing it with were worth the extra effort.
But that’s not always the case, is it?
Some will quickly blame World of Warcraft for ruining our little party. Blizzard’s behemoth shone a giant spotlight on what was a very niche genre before WoW. Granted, compared to some other sects of gamers, the MMO crowd is still relatively small. But the runoff of millions and millions of people playing WoW and finding themselves looking for their next MMO seems to be setting a trend of game hopping that I only ever used to apply to console gaming. It astonishes really the way in which so many drop World of Warcraft for some new game, get tired of said new game, and then go back to WoW to await the next messiah. I just don’t get it. Why even leave Azeroth in the first place, then? Or if you’re sick of WoW to be looking for something else, why go back to it when the “new shiny” doesn’t deliver? Why not just play nothing until something else comes along?
I’m sorry, I got a little off track there. This influx of players has upset a lot of us, I think. We liked the way things were. We didn’t ask for all these new people, and dammit we liked knowing everyone in our games. MMOs before WoW were a lot like a small Midwestern town. Now, the genre’s akin to a city… not a really cool city like Chicago or New York, maybe more like Cleveland – The Cleve. But in any case we have to deal with it now. The word’s out. Online gaming is a blast when done well. Other people, even if you’re not playing with them make for a far more dynamic and ultimately satisfying experience. The whole world is catching onto this simple fact.
But the whole world is filled with a-holes. And therein lies the problem, friends.
We all know that a great game is truly made to shine by its community, and that said community doesn’t need to be large to be vibrant. But what’s becoming increasingly apparent in this industry is that these games continue to cost more and more money to make and maintain and therefore need to attract a larger player-base than games such as Asheron’s Call do. If we want new? If we want the genre to continue to evolve, we must put up with these new folks coming in and making things a little more… difficult to endure. The beauty of most games is that wonderful and saving /ignore feature studios put in for us. Use it. Love it. It’s your friend.
Another problem that must be simply dealt with? The audience for our favorite games has expanded greatly. It’s not just the few hundred thousand that started it all back in the 90s anymore. Because of this, that small community feeling we had is forever gone. Sure we may find it in some games, but by and large it’s pretty much a thing of the past or maybe relegated to one’s guild. That’s just the way it is. Here to stay are the folks who are rude constantly when adventuring in the wild, and those who will quickly tell you all about how they did something carnal with your mother in general chat. Face it. They’re here. They’re going to make you use selective reading and ignore features. But chances are you’ll be around a lot longer than they will.
I don’t want to turn this article into a discussion on the way the games have changed in terms of mechanics either. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of making things accessible for everyone. Given my two jobs and my lack of free time, I treasure that developers are aware I’m not the only one with limited time but still the same amount of desire to play. But I understand just as well how these developments cause community to take a back seat. But maybe it’s not that community is being forced out. Maybe it’s just changing altogether. That’s what happens in any medium, really. When more people catch wind of something, it changes. More hands get into the pot and add things, stir things, and in general the ingredients become vastly different from what we started with.
As we move forward, more and more high quality releases will be coming out. Maybe the way in which these games are funded and how they’re made will change too. If that happens, we’ll likely get to see more community driven games that don’t require the needs of many be catered to. But until then, if we want to keep playing these games, we’re going to have to get used to the noisy folks coming in and making asses of themselves. Just remember, that they’re pretty easily ignored when all is said and done. Don’t let a few bad apples spoil your fun.