MMOs - Look to the Future, Not the Past
My local High Street has numerous restaurants of all varieties. A few years ago one such establishment changed ownership and re-opened serving traditional Italian cuisine. It was family run and subsequently had a great atmosphere with a very personal touch. The food was excellent and the chef endeavoured to do things differently, rather than slavishly churn out the usual UK interpretation of Italian cuisine. Naturally this had an impact on prices but I was happy to accommodate this because I felt I was getting a superior product and experience. Sadly L’Angelo’s closed because it couldn’t compete with the chain restaurants that subsequently opened up. Quality and ambience fell victim to corporate market domination.
I read a post today over at Wolfshead Online regarding the decline of the traditional MMO. It covers a lot of familiar ground and does so well. It is an article driven by emotion and a personal ideology. Furthermore I’m sure a lot of gamers will share a similar world view and I am not going to argue that such an outlook is totally wrong. However the author’s arguments are based upon the notion of games being more than just products and that they should aspire to be more than just mediums of entertainment. He argues that virtual worlds should live up to their name and offer some sort of meaningful social contract with the player. It’s a nice concept. Sadly it is highly unlikely to happen within the current free market system.
There are many noble ideas and concepts that are impractical in reality; unilateral disarmament, non-selective education and universal state pensions. Gaming is no longer the preserve of a select few but a mainstream industry. It is no longer solely driven by concepts of art or creating the best game that you can. Those days are gone, the same way the movie industry has moved on from the seventies and the concept of the auteur director. It’s all about brands, franchises and maximum monetisation. A good game is a secondary consideration. It’s a sad reality and I am not necessarily endorsing it. However it is a reality that I accept and as a result I have changed my relationship with the MMO genre.
I think most entertainment industries go through a period where creativity and artistic aspiration briefly reigns. Our perceptions of such industries are also contextual so many gamers opinions are shaped by when they started gaming and the era they experienced. Although I am aware of this bias, I try not to be governed by it. I prefer not to let my heart over rule my head and philosophically always try to look forward rather than back. Yes there are deficiencies in the MMO genre but there is also scope for positive change. Those changes will simply happen within a smaller market. It’s true that many of us feel we haven’t gotten what we wanted but such is life. Do we not have to eventually reconcile ourselves to this concept? So although it’s prudent to consider what “may have been” with regard to this genre, it’s not ultimately beneficial to dwell on it excessively.
I started this post with an anecdote to illustrate a point so I’ll close with one. I use to drink in a pub in Bromley in the middle eighties that showcased a lot of live music. There were several ex- musicians and individuals that at one time had worked within the music industry. A common refrain from many of them was that the music of the time was “not as good” as it used to be. Yet the eighties are now considered to be a decade with a rich and diverse music history. Regardless of one’s stance all things change. It’s something else we have to come to terms with I life. I don’t see any benefits in being the gaming equivalent of the old Muso, habitually looking back or pondering “what if” scenarios. If we all adopted such a stance nothing would ever change, for good or ill. Sometimes it's good to draw a line under something and move on.
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