MMOs: Those Who Fail To Understand History…

PeabodyYou know, I’ve come to realize that you get clueless fanatics in all walks of life, not just religion.  There’s a small but vocal faction of the MMO community who are old-school gamers, people who started with Ultima Online and Evercrack and they just can’t understand why the gaming world doesn’t still revolve around the same kind of gameplay featured in those games.  Now granted, I started playing at the same time, but unlike them, I understand that things change and evolve and that relying on one and only one type of gameplay forever is ridiculous.  I’ve tried to explain why things are different, but they don’t want to understand and typing it out over and over and over to an audience with their eyes clenched tightly shut and their fingers in their ears, yelling “I can’t hear you!” is frustrating.

So set the Way-Back Machine, Sherman, we’re going to go back and deal with a bit of reality.

See, back in the old days, the newfangled computer game genre now known as the MMO did, indeed, have a particular audience in mind.  These were the geeks and the nerds.  They weren’t targeted for their geekdom, but  because they tended to have the powerful computers necessary to run the games and, most importantly, they were the most likely to have access to the higher speed Internet that the games required.  When these people got together in the games, they tended to have similar interests and thus, naturally gravitated toward online in-game socializing.  There was a time when you could hardly join a group where you didn’t have something in common with them.  I remember discussions about Star Trek, the whole group quoting Monty Python and the Holy Grail simultaneously, etc.  It was very commonplace because most people were from the same socio-geek group.

However, along came World of Warcraft, which just so happened to hit a “perfect storm” in Internet technology.  See, before that time, broadband Internet was relatively rare, but at the time WoW came out, it was just starting to go mainstream, thousands and millions of normal, everyday people got high-speed access in a relatively short period of time and all of these people were looking for something to do with this sudden explosion of bandwidth.  They turned to WoW by the millions and the MMO industry realized that it didn’t have to rely on a few tens of thousands of nerds, they could have millions of paying subscribers.

Socially, of course, this caused problems.  Instead of having a single online gaming culture, the mainstream audience that came to take over the industry brought dozens or hundreds of different beliefs, interests and ideas.  No longer could you rely on getting into a group of like-minded individuals, in fact, it was rare that people in a random group would have anything, other than the game itself, in common.  You couldn’t talk about music, TV, movies, you couldn’t be sure anyone else would like  George Carlin or Red Dwarf, groups largely went silent because there was no point in trying to have a conversation about those formerly-common geek topics.  Instead of knowing you were mostly playing with guys living in their mother’s basements, you could be playing with grandmothers, wives or 8-year olds.  All of the geeky dirty jokes and innuendos went right out the window.  MMOs stopped being for nerds and started being for everyone.  In fact, it was around the same time period that video games in general stopped being for nerds and started appealing to the mainstream.

But that’s the thing, the nerds didn’t want to accept that a genre they considered their own personal property no longer valued them as their exclusive customers.  These people still want to believe that MMOs are made for them alone and that anyone who isn’t willing to play a game 12 hours a day shouldn’t be playing MMOs.  Yet that just isn’t the world we live in anymore, whether they like it or not.  We live in a world where casual gaming is the norm, where obstacles and hassles in games are eliminated to allow more efficient gameplay in a shorter amount of time, and this is the big one, people want to be able to play on their own so they are not stuck in those uncomfortable groups where nobody has anything in common to talk about.

Yet that doesn’t stop the old-school geeks from fantasizing that if only they could force everyone at gunpoint to do what they want, if only they could make the games difficult and time consuming and make everyone group up, that it would all go back to the way it used to be in the good old days.  They don’t understand that the gaming landscape has forever changed and can never go back to how it was.  The gaming world is fundamentally different than it was in the pre-WoW days.  It would be like demanding all cars go back to crank-starters and if only people didn’t have a choice, they would soon embrace old technology.

Sorry, that’s just not how it works.  Old school gaming is largely dead.  If you really want it, you can go back and play Ultima Online or Evercrack.  They’re still limping along, but they, too, have had to change to deal with the new paradigm, which sets off a lot of old-timers to claim that there are no games left for them.  Maybe they’re right.  Maybe, like the  dinosaurs, the world has changed to such a degree that it’s time for them to go metaphorically extinct.  The planet advances whether you like it or not.  I just wish they’d stop whining endlessly about it.  Don’t like the games out there today?  Go find something else to do.

2 thoughts on “MMOs: Those Who Fail To Understand History…”

  1. Wow. I've said the same, about gaming and it's community, for years now. Like you, I played UO and Everquest. And like you, I've also seen this fossilized attitude of some of the old-schoolers and their imagined Camelot of Early MMO gaming (and PC gaming too).

    I even got nostalgic myself and even tried to go back to both UO and EQ (and add DAOC) on my woolgathering-nostalgia-trip in 2011… I also got some DOS-Box/adapated old-school games like Civilization, XCOM and System Shock 2…

    Honestly, those old MMOs sucked as games… And the PC games were so primitive and clunky… They were horrible… Bad controls… Bad graphics… Shallow game play… Good for their time, yes, but games (and technology) have evolved as have my expectations.

    So, as an 'old school' gamer (1980s for PC gaming, earlier (1977 (or 78) & Pong) for console…) I welcome the changes. It does mean I have to be a little more careful in some genres (role-playing tends to be worse). But many genres are far, far better…

    1. I really think that people need to evolve as time goes on and these old-schoolers are people who have never evolved and refuse to change from the games they started on. The old-school games just weren't that good back in the day, they were just the only things that were available and a lot of people "imprinted" on them to such a degree that they can't imagine playing games that are any different. Unfortunately, I think my expectations have evolved far beyond what's currently available, most of what's out there just aren't any fun, mostly because they're social games filled with people I wouldn't be caught dead socializing with.

      But there you go.

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