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Community Spotlight - Forums: What's in a Game?

Community Manager Laura Genender uses her Community Spotlight this week to talk about the different ways in which people can enjoy MMORPGs, and the ways in which some games are better suited to some play styles than others.

What's in a Game?

This week on the forums I read a thread started by long-time community member forest-nl. Entitled “how the MMO community ruin [their] own MMOs”, the thread dealt with the controversial topic of RMT and in-game exploits. Forest-nl expressed his frustration with in-game gold buyers and exploiters – why would players cheat a game instead of playing it honestly? “Are there still true gamers out there that wane accomplish things 100% for themselves without cheating or is it a dying breed?” Forest-nl asks in closing.

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In my opinion, to understand any argument, one must first attempt to look through the eyes of the opposition. After all, games can be played with different mindsets – one player might enjoy leveling, while another enjoys PvP, or raiding, or exploring, or griefing. It’s the same for any game and not just MMOs: some of us might play basketball for fun, while others might play it professionally. In the real world, though, we have a natural segregation of gaming communities due to location, ability, and goals. Someone who casually enjoys shooting hoops for fun is never going to find themselves on the same court as Michael Jordan.

In MMOs, the playing field is much larger and much more ambiguous. The hardcore levelers and casual explorers are placed on the same map. We are forced to get along despite our differences of definitions of “fun”.

Often our definitions of fun are in direct opposition. While PlayerA might enjoy fair competition, PlayerB just wants to win. PlayerC might enjoy exploring and roleplaying, but PlayerD likes to grief roleplayers.

We are all paying the same $15.00 monthly fee, and I strongly feel that every player is entitled to have their fun. This is where – now, don’t shoot me – EULAs are good. By paying that fee, we are agreeing to a world rule-set set by the provider. We are also promised that that rule-set will be maintained to the best of that provider’s abilities.

If you want to grief other players, that is easily found in games like EVE or Lineage II. If you want to buy gold and equipment for real money, there are plenty of micro-transaction games and even some subscription games (EverQuest II, for example) that allow RMT on certain servers. If you want to avoid all that, all you have to do is stay away from the games with features you dislike.

Sadly, that’s not how life works. Griefers are naturally drawn to unsuspecting victims; gold-buyers often want to flaunt their goods against less privileged characters. User RayCobra reminds that real life is not always so clean cut as my basketball example, “Why would in game be different than real life? People stab each other in the back. People let others do there dirty work. Sso again why would that be different in a game?”

As much as I enjoy the utopia vision of players staying in their correct communities, it’s user Anofalye that I must agree with at the end of the day. “The community can’t do anything wrong. Only devs can. The community is using/abusing the tools the devs give them, If the devs allow the community to shaft me, will I complain at the individual? Nope, I will attack the source of the problem, the devs who did it wrong.”

Now, this doesn’t mean that developers owe us an exploit and cheat free game. As nice as that would be, it’s rather impossible to expect a perfect product from a computer program that is updated constantly. Updates, patches, and content expansions means endless opportunities for bugs, exploits, and cheats. Anofayle suggests, though that “a serious dev would consider that in the player base, there will always be someone worser then anything he thought possible…so he would make the game interesting and nice enough, with cool features, to make sure normal players enjoy the game, no matter what the community is like.”