PVP in MMOs
There has been an interesting debate this week about PVP in MMOs among several of my fellow bloggers. Syp AKA Justin Olivetti wrote an article for Massively OP referencing “gankbox culture” of EVE Online which then garnered a series of reciprocal posts from the likes of Bhagpuss, Jeromai, UltrViolet and Wilhelm Arcturus. Good points have been made by all but I think Bhaggie hit the nail on the proverbial head when he said that the term “PVP”, like so many in the gaming lexicon, is ill-defined. Player versus player can manifest itself in many forms, such as duels, arenas and zerg against zerg. Some games do offer an open world were players can be preyed upon or “ganked” but it is usually regulated to some degree. However, the thing that came out of this discussion that was of the most interest to me was why some people dislike PVP so much?
Cowardice, risk aversion and conflict-phobic are just some of the terms used by my blogging colleagues to explain as to why some players do not like PVP. Some have argued more simply that the mechanic is just a question of taste. However, I think it is more complex than that, as PVP isn’t a passive game mechanic like a buff or a DoT; something you endure due to the design of the game. PVP is another player impinging directly upon your gaming and I think this is the key to the issue. A lot of gamers do not like the idea of another individual having such a tangible impact upon their experience. Especially if there is nothing they can do to control it. The loss of items or experience is one objection but I believe the most fundamental issue is that no one likes being a victim.
I personally have no objection to the PVP mechanic in principle or its presence in MMOs. As long as its optional and consensual or in a bespoke zone then it can be an enjoyable gaming experience for those who pursue it. Duelling, competitive game play and league tables are legitimate modes of play and totally acceptable in other pastimes. Let us also dispel the myth that PVP is the exclusive province of sociopaths, malcontents and the dysfunctional. My experience of group PVP in games such as Overwatch, Battlefield or Call of Duty, has been broadly positive. Sadly, there is a certain type of person that spoils this overall experience and skews the wider reputation of PVP. A minority of players gravitate to this type of gameplay as it offers a platform for bullying and bragging. PVP is seen by some as a rite of passage and a means to bolster their self-esteem.
I play games for fun. Yes, I like a degree of challenge and to work towards specific goal but overall, they are a form of recreational entertainment. As in real life, I do not want to be inconvenienced by others or for them to have a negative impact upon my experience. I want to be segregated from those who could be potentially problematic and I wish to control as many of the variables as I can. Thus, I do not care for open world PVP, where I could be preyed upon at any time and lose items. Plus, another honest reason why I don’t pursue one on one PVP in MMOs, is that I don’t like losing. Who does? I prefer the safety of the zerg or being over powered. Let us not trot out these tired old arguments about “building character” or “it’s the taking part that counts” because neither hold up to close scrutiny.
There is another factor that impacts upon our attitude towards PVP and that is financial. Most games involve some sort of payment and the majority of players meet those costs at some point. As soon as money enters the equation, the dynamic of our gaming experience changes. Being a customer radically alters your perception of what is and what isn’t desirable. The loss of items and XP have a financial cost, as does the time spent earning them. The appeal of being “ganked” by someone and having to pay for the “experience” alludes me. However, we all ultimately view the world, gaming and thus PVP through the prism of our own experience. I’m sure there are bloggers whose opinions are the polar opposite of mine. As for PVP, I am happy for it to be part of gaming, as long as it is never forced or inflicted upon those who do not want it.