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MMOWTF: The Extinction of the Nerd?

This week, Dan Fortier waxes philospohical about the extinction of the "nerd" as he / she has always been known.

The Extinction of the Nerd?

Editor's Note: This is an edition of a weekly column by Staff Writer Dan Fortier. The column is called "MMOWTF" and will look at some of the stranger or more frustrating events in MMOs as seen by Mr. Fotier. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of MMORPG.com, its staff or management.

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Sometime far in the future a group of Anthropologists studying relics of the First Age of MMOs will come upon a very strange sight while investigating a LAN party dig site. Among the debris and filth, one of them discovers an array of strange books inside a primitive tote bag. The pages are yellow and on the verge of collapse, but some ancient American writing can barely be made out on the cover above some pictures of man in armor wielding swords fighting a dragon: Dungeons and Dragons!

The student takes a deep breath in shock as he contemplates what this must mean. Just then another of the scientists calls out from the other side of the room with an urgent yell. The group gathers around a skeleton of a human laid out in front of one of the computers clutching a copy of "PC Gamer" in one hand, wearing a pocket protector and a pair of eroded glasses still perched clumsily on his face.

"What in the name of McQuaid does this mean?" one of them gasps.

"Well Gentleman, it appears we've found our missing link between gamers and nerds. These poor fools were probably the last of their kind. I can't imagine any of them dating past the release of World of Diablo II. Let's head back to Freeport and get a team down here on the double!"

Sure, this was a bit of satire, but it's not hard to imagine what future generations will think about the transition that gamers have made from the first MUDs, to what we have now. It used to be that anyone who could boot DOS from a disk was some kind of techno-wizard who people flocked to for advice on how to fix their computer or how to make spring come early. These days, we have idiot-proof designed cases and an OS that alerts us when we open a Windows folder. Even generations who missed the first wave of fancy electronic do-dads can now surf the web and IM their grandchildren with practiced ease. All this has changed the way people look at computer gamers.

Back in the day, everyone had an image of a computer geek as a hopeless shut-in who rarely bathed and was branded so that no girl would ever speak to him. Now that MMOs have come into their own and are starting to get some mainstream appeal, that perception is not so commonplace anymore. Now that everyone and their sister is playing WoW, it's not so easy to mock those who enjoy a night of raiding instead of a night on the town. Obviously, things aren't so black and white and most folks fall into a grey area somewhere in between a gold farmer and a casual player of Toontown Online.

While the current popularity of online games has removed some of the stigmas associated with gaming, it still has a downside. In the rush to make a game with mass appeal, games like WoW have lowered the bar so low that game companies see there is no need to try and get the 'hardcore' crowd in order to be a success. In fact, games that appeal to dedicated players are struggling to keep their player base. As a consumer I'm a bit worried at this development, but only time will tell whether this ends up being for weal or woe for gamers who enjoy challenge and depth in their games.

Something similar happens to all great inventions. They begin as an exclusive or expensive diversion for an exclusive group until greed or necessity brings it to the masses sugar coated and watered down for the lowest common denominator. I'm sure that if Prometheus was a real person he would probably work for Blizzard. On the other side however, you have to give some respect for a company that managed to release a product that actually works and is properly tested, which is more than I can say for most of the so-called 'hardcore' MMOs to be released this decade.

Hardcore doesn't have to mean an epic grind or massive high-end content however, and many games with deep game play and compelling storylines have neither, but that's a discussion for another week. Want to praise me to the cherubs or vent your wrath about today's topic? You guessed it . . . hit the link below and pound out a witty reply. As always, I'll give you another six days to recover, so use it wisely.