MMORPGs: A Recurring Talking Point
Last night, I hosted the recording of the latest TGEN Tribunal, a quarterly roundtable podcast made up of members of The Gaming and Entertainment Network. Myself, Syl, Braxwolf and Brian discussed several subjects, one of which was regarding the MMORPG genre. The initial question was quite specific but the discussion soon expanded to cover wider aspects of online multiplayer games. Overall it was an interesting debate, as all present have been playing MMOs for years and have certainly seen their relationship with them evolve. When we finished recording it occurred to me that the subject of MMOs has been a major theme of many of the podcasts I’ve been involved with over the years.
For myself and many others, the appeal of the MMORPG lies in the concept of a persistent world that can be shared and explored with others. Although the inherent novelty of the multiplayer aspect of the MMO may have lost its lustre over the last decade, I still from time to time pause and reflect, whenever in-game, that all the other avatars around me are players like myself, sitting at their computers and looking for fun and engagement. The MMO genre also lends itself to strong narratives, often stemming from the intellectual properties they create or license. This is a major attraction. Then there’s simply the fascination of people watching. MMOs mirror aspects of real life with their economies and social hierarchies.
Over the years the genre has evolved, as have the communities that spring from them. The MMO has changed from a complex, time sink that was funded by subscriptions to a more casual and flexible experience. Free to play caused outraged, as did a move away from “hard core raiding”. But the genre still survived and the player base adapted. Allowing more players to participate with alternative business models certainly did have an impact upon content and the quality of some players. Certain MMOs that prided themselves on the rectitude of their player base, found out the hard way that not everyone was amicable by default. Yet regardless of all the challenges that have emerged and numerous prophecies of impending doom, the MMO endures and along with it so does our interest.
I played my first MMO in winter 2008 and I was not exactly an early adopter. By then, many of my peers had cut their teeth on titles such as Ultima Online, EverQuest and World of Warcraft. However my initial MMO experience came at the right moment, when I had the time and inclination to indulge my passion. And because my initial experience with LOTRO was so positive, I subsequently tried all major MMOs that were released thereafter. Thus between 2009 and 2014 the MMO genre was effectively my game of choice. In light of such an admission, it hardly seems surprising to see that enjoyment and affection reflect in my writing and podcasting. In more recent years it has also become apparent that my relationship with the MMORPG has changed, as the demands on my time mean I can no longer commit to a game in the same manner as I did a decade ago.
So, is there a point to all this introspection? Yes there is. After last night’s recording, I decided to search through my archive of podcasts that I’ve created over the last seven years. I found a roundtable discussion, similar to yesterdays. It was recorded in summer 2012 and features my regular co-host Brian, Merric from A Casual Stroll to Mordor and Syp from Massively OP and Bio Break. The show was specifically about the “future of MMOs” and although it’s very much couched in the context of the time, it still has some interesting and relevant points to make. Listening to it again, has certainly highlighted how I’ve moved on in some regards, yet in others I’m still quite enthusiastic. One thing does stand out for me; the fact that LOTRO is still a constant.
So I’ve reposted the podcast and added it to the Burton and Scrooge feed on SoundCloud. If memory serves, this show was well received upon its original release and now serves as a quasi-historical document, in so far as being a snapshot of the MMO fan base at the time. At the very least it may raise a wry smile from among those who originally participated in the recording. Perhaps we could even do a retrospective of our own show at some future date and discuss what we got right and what we got wrong. In the meantime the MMORPG still endures and adapts to the modern gaming market. Perhaps it is that propensity for survival that makes it such an interesting subject to return to and explore.