So I find myself in the unenviable position of being forced to defend World of Warcraft, Champions, Elder Scrolls Online, Dungeons & Dragons Online, Wildstar and every other MMO out there right now. Alice O’Conner wrote up a brief discussion of the new Wildstar open Beta and I’m really struggling with her comment below:
MMORPGs are theme parks, carefully guiding us through their make-believe worlds and making sure we see the expensive setpieces; it’s okay to go home after the Magic Kingdom Parade.
The problem with this kind of attitude though, is that you miss out on Space Mountain, Toad’s Wild Ride, The Teacup spinny thingies, It’s a Small World (your mileage will vary), and EVERY other thing in that theme park. I don’t know about the author’s hobbies or habits, but I love theme parks. I love going to them and I love going back to them repeatedly. Never mind Disney World, or the Universal theme parks, but even the smaller ones are great. And I say this with the full knowledge that I am terrified of roller coasters. You couldn’t drag me on them with the promise of sex. This notion that somehow once you’ve gone and seen the big parades and the center peices once or twice and then it’s over and done, is really a disservice to both theme parks and MMo’s. And it speaks a lot more to the attention spans of the author then it does about whatever MMO they’re currently trying to review
That may be an unfair shot, but this analogy is broken. It’s another bad meme propagated by the Internet that’s become generally accepted. And while I’ve used it myself on one occasion or another, it’s really shortsighted to sit and talk about MMO’s as though there’s only one or two big things worth going for and then you’re done and can leave. This analogy could be extended to any video game just as easily. The worlds of Mass Effect, Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Assassins Creed, Halo, etc., all push you through this make-believe world with linear story telling tools so you are sure to see the big expensive setpieces. Once they’re done, the game is pretty much done too. Sidequests? Who has time for that garbage. They’re not as good as the big deal stuff so why bother? Enrich the experience you say? No way!
I can understand why this attitude has taken hold for MMO’s specifically. World of Warcraft has for years, focused on doing one thing and one thing only. End game content to be seen and done by end game characters. And when you get a game that’s released such that only a small subset of features get added for a small subset of the game population, you can see why that mentality has taken hold. It’s one of WoW’s greatest crimes, honestly. But not all games behave in this manner. Not all games shoehorn all the new content into a tiny subset of the game that is available only for people who doa certain thing. Later games have learned a lot about adding new experiences across the board as opposed to just at the end game and it is worth hanging around to see what new things they make available. But even if they DID behave just like WoW (looking at you, Wildstar), that doesn’t mean that once the big stuff is done you should go home.
I’ve never played every single quest in WoW and I doubt I ever will. Lots of things in the game get repetitive but that doesn’t necessarily make them unentertaining. Unless of course you have to have something new and shiny and amazing in order to hold your interest. But, the ability to explore, interact, and engage with the game content with other people in an MMO is one of the big draws of the genre and shouldn’t be dismissed quite so quickly. In fact, the people factor is where the whole theme park analogy really breaks down. After all you don’t go to theme parks to hang out in the lines with all your buddies. Don’t you realize how those guys smell after they’ve been waiting for 2 hours in the Summer sun to get on Goliath? Seriously.
But you do go to MMO’s to interact with people. They’re great places to meet people and hang out with. One of the reasons why I haven’t found another MMO “home” yet is because I’m still hanging on to the hope that I can get my whole community to land with me on the game that I’m hoping will eventually replace my old home. But if I dive into a new game and a new community, I’m afraid I’ll lose that chance. So yeah, no thanks. Any game that would make me take that risk would have to be REALLY special. and so far, nothing comes close.
So yes, go to the MMO’s and enjoy the big shinies. Check out the Huge Roller coasters and see the big show at the end. Check out the parades and enjoy the best it has to offer. But don’t forget to check out the original glass blowers working in the shop off main street. Those guys are miracle workers with fire and sand. Don’t forget that there’s great things to see and look at and experience inside the castle. (Though if a teenage girl asks if you or your daughter would like glitter, grab her and run! That shit will stick to you and all your stuff in ways that will make you wish for beach sand). And yeah, though their voices are really annoying, step inside to that short small ride and check it out. At least it’s a nice cool break from the heat outside. And don’t forget to grab your friends, or go and make some new ones and check out what they like to do as well. While it’s fun by yourself, it’s always better with more people. Damn it! Now I want to go to the Magic Kingdom again. Somebody call ahead and book my flight, because these guys are awesome.