I don't care what you're doing in your MMO

| Thursday, August 15, 2013
What you are doing is the same as what everyone else has done. You are going to do the same content, in possibly slightly different order, as every single other person. You will run the same places, play the same races, roll the same classes, as everyone else has. This isn't your fault; it's the game.

The twist will, of course, be social. That won't help much. Most likely you're going to interact with random people, strangers. Odds are you'll have neutral or negative reactions. Those range from "don't care" to "heard it a million times; we don't like people either". Maybe you'll really mix things up and play with friends and have drama! Ooh! We still don't care. We simply lack the context for any of it to mean anything. The other day I saw HJ for about the third time that week. You don't care, do you? If you knew who he was, you might, but you don't.

In short, you have no story to tell.

If, however, you're playing a game that is prone to unexpected and significant events, events which are unlikely to be repeated by anyone else, then I might have some interest. Of course a round of Calvinball would feature many expected events which will never be repeated, so clearly there is something more to look for. Perhaps a common set of rules from which events may grow would do the trick.

Perhaps a game of chess would suffice. Yet I feel this is not the right game, for while it is widely known, it is not widely understood, so many significant events would be lost on the audience. Beside that, it is a little too abstract. Perhaps if they were animated knights who beat up one of your friends, and you were a wizard, and then of course it is too specific and we've already established that we don't care about your friends getting beat up.

What we need is a game with rules that create events, which can in turn be woven into a narrative. There could be twists and turns. Or perhaps just the brute force of domination, writing the history books as you go. Perhaps... might a 4X game do the trick? I do believe so! One could take a 4X game and write a bit of history with it, removing some dull bits, adding those side boxes that doesn't quite fit into the narrative but somehow still seems fitting, and there you go. Suddenly, I do care what you're doing in your 4X game.

Maybe I can enjoy the narrative itself. Maybe I can learn strategies from it. Maybe I'm playing a drinking game in which I take a shot every time this simple-minded blogger with the vocabulary of a newt uses the word maybe at the start of a sentence, seemingly incapable of setting up the general concept of a series of possibilities and running with that, but instead needing to constantly remind the reader, who is doubtlessly of little greater intellect, and who therefore should, but does not, appreciate the, as they say, "dumbing down", of the writing.

Of course what this all comes down to is this: I'm rather enjoying Syp's Master of Orion series, despite initially thinking that it was an exceptionally stupid and self-centered idea. It's not stupid.


Marta Tornero said...

I agree with you. There's lots of writing going on lately in the blogosphere about game sessions of SWTOR or GW2 and I find all of them dull and pointless - a description of what you would likely play yourself if you took up those games. On the other hand, there were some time ago a few bloggers playing vanilla WoW or other more sandboxy games, and they always had some interesting anecdotes to share. And it was not just nostalgia, before you quip :).

I've found myself full of little anecdotes as I play Morrowind, many more than when I played Skyrim. It might be the fact that Morrowind is such a harsh game that it will be placing you in uncomfortable, tale-worthy positions on a daily basis. Like today: I was traversing this death mountain on my way to a vague 'north-east from the lake opposite from the fortress of FPS-Wreckage' and I stumbled upon an NPC whose intentions I was not cognizant of, and I unsheathed my sword. She was too quick with her spells and threw a horrible green ball of what I thought was slime because I suddenly moved at a snail's pace. I made quick work of her, but then... My speed was at 0 and I was slower than at the painful start of the game. I had to walk back to the nearest village (far away) and pray that there were alchemists with restore speed potions, or a shrine that would cleanse it. But Morrowind is a self-conscious abomination with a very spiteful lore which commands that shrines of the Tribunal do not restore attributes, but Imperial Shrines do. I had already gotten used to my crawling auto-run when I found enough potions to cure that curse. Since then, I am an ambulant pharmacy.

Skyrim would have dispensed me from the pain altogether. Very nice of it, but what would I be recounting then about my adventures, other than the endearing bugs of sky-rocketing saber cats?

Klepsacovic said...

I've not played Morrowind, so I can only counter with this: shield-charge-launching contests. I wonder, could someone play as a pacifist? Spam block and healing to level it up, then launch everyone off cliffs. It's not the shield that killed them; it's the stop, and that's not my fault.

As best as I can tell, it is the rough bits, those areas that haven't been sanded down so nicely, that make for stories. I've gradually noticed, then eventually internalized an important lesson: That which does not kill you makes for a good story later on.

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