There are many ways to get high

| Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Addictive. I think we use that word too easily these days. Or alternatively, we use that property too easily these days. We make addictive games rather than good games. On the grand scale of learning, it's only relatively recently that we discovered that doing something again does not mean we enjoy it. I could make you stab yourself to death if I implanted a dopamine-giver tied to skin damage. Or I could sell you heroin and do it a bit less literally and a bit more figuratively.

Normally we look at destructive gaming addictions from the perspective of the player. We see the shocking stories of someone dying after playing for literal days on end, neglected children, lost jobs. But what if this virtual drug was too powerful? As much as we like to call drugs poisons, as far as poisons go they're not especially powerful. Sure, an overdose can kill a person, but strangely, that's often caused not by the dose, but by the location. It's an oddity of the mind and body, that a location primes behavior, and chemistry. So a bit of practical advice: if you're going to use a drug, use it in the same place, under the same conditions, or your expected resistance might be lacking. But I'm wandering...

Is Blizzard's drug too powerful? I think so. It grabbed and drained and killed. It is figuratively killing its subscribers. They're quitting, leaving, losing interest. The high was impressive, but we developed resistance to it, so they made it stronger and stronger. Finally we burn out. Not from raiding, not from guilds, not from trade spam, not from trolls or even remade troll raids. It's the drug itself. The cycle of loot, of more and more. And it works. Oh it does work indeed. And then it stops working. A subscriber dies.

I remember when WAR was coming some people called it a WoW killer. Others laughed. Some said something weird: only Blizzard can kill WoW. I usually thought that meant their next MMO replacing it. I think I might have been wrong (I often am). I think it is more direct: Blizzard is killing WoW. The drug is too strong. It draws in players and it spits them out. They have to keep tinkering with the formula.

Blizzard had its own addiction and its own pattern of resistance. Subscriber numbers. They always had to be higher. We can't blame the devs for this. The validation they needed as humans, the satisfaction of a job well done, is I believe a more steady number, a smaller number, which doesn't grow very quickly. But addicts make addicts and someone is addicted to money and that someone wants more subscribers. So Blizzard pushed for more and more, making it more popular, pushing it in the playground, marketing and advertising and tinkering. Finally everyone had taken it. And then it didn't work anymore.

Blizzard cannot get the high anymore, so it's filling the syringe and injecting and another and injecting and it's still not there. Shit.

I'm not sure how the analogies crossed and conflicted and quite possibly failed entirely. In the end it was just a long way of saying that WoW is the only WoW-killer and it is the sort of slow, sad suicide we'd see in a movie, or for some unfortunate few (but too many), in friends and family.

As for myself, I'm a bit high right now. No drugs, just that my brain think I'm supposed to be asleep by now, so it's working on the dreaming state a bit. It's sometimes a nice feeling, but I'm not often a fan of altered states. I get confused too easily. I have trouble grasping concepts, a problem since my brain refuses to stop until it has it figured out to some liking. Sometimes it's geometry or mathematical patterns, which I find utterly fascinating, until I finally break them down and realize the particular pattern was too simple to be much fun at all.

Earlier I gave 'advice' on drug use, which was not inaccurate, but I sincerely hope is never of any use to you.


Syl said...

I have been browsing at least 7 or 8 blogs today where the author declared in each that he already canceled his wow subscription or will be. it's almost scary.

and I loved this post. I'm not sure I want to use drug analogies or addiciton terminology much with MMO gaming, but in the context you presented it (blizzard 'overdosing' their playerbase) it definitely worked. and like you, I used to think that Blizzard was the only one that would put an end to Wow; I think we've all been a little naive there. it might take some people longer than others, but everyone overdoses at some point if he's constantly fed the same shit (pun intended).

Syl said...

"...I used to think that Blizzard was the only one that would put an end to Wow BY launching another MMO.."


Fidjit said...

This Penny Arcade comic comes to mind:

Klepsacovic said...

That comic seems sadly accurate.

Spitt said...

Blizzard IS killing WoW. It's making it too easy. When WoW was first made, Blizzard originally thought the game would be Free to Play (f2p), then during beta, they realized it could work on a subscription based model. And it took off. I mean it really took off (as we all know). WoW Fever was at a high... but it took forever to level 1-60. And really, there was no end game. So when TBC was released, they made 1-60 a bit easier added flying mounts and found other little shortcuts, to bring more players in. Each expansion, makes the previous expansion, that much easier. Thats the problem. The game is too easy now, might as well call it Free Realms or Fly For Fun. The game is sooooo easy, even a kid can play it... but now the adults look at the game, realize it's marketed towards kids, and thats what kills the subscription base. I stopped playing before Cata, began playing more "adult" oriented games... so have others.

Let me rephrase and shorten... WoW is killing Blizzard.

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