A Lack of Excitement
“Do you still get excited about upcoming MMORPGs?” asked Massively Overpowered today. My first reaction was to say something flippant, so I left the following comment. “As I’ve got older, I’ve swapped excitement for schadenfreude. The ROI is far better”. However, upon mature reflection I think there’s more to this enquiry than meets the eye and that it requires a more thorough response. Because the more I think about it there seems to be a total lack of excitement from my perspective about any new MMORPG currently in development and more importantly, for those that I currently play. Both of which (The Lord of the Rings Online and Star Trek Online) have released a road map for the year ahead. Is a lack of any excitement indicative of an issue with me or with the genre of games that I have made a major part of my leisure time?
Having been a regular MMO player since 2008, I think the most fundamental thing that has robbed the genre of excitement for me is hype culture and bogus marketing. MMORPGs have consistently failed to live up to their potential, have too often plagiarised the successful formula of World of Warcraft and has consistently failed to evolve, take risks or countenance anything truly innovative. So many titles have been released and hailed as a major paradigm shift within the genre, only to make the same mistakes as their predecessors. Furthermore, publishers have frequently mismanaged their players needs, failed to address problems groups and have generally eschewed any real responsibility for the communities they’ve contributed to creating. And then there is the egregious monetisation and the woeful mismanagement of loot boxes and similar mechanics.
Beyond the failings of the actual MMO games themselves, there are other factors that leech the joy out of the genre. The video games industry seldom covers itself in glory. Yes, there are good studios but we are regularly presented with details of the those who treat their employees poorly, have senior staff who hold questionable views and affiliations, as well as the general indifference to ethics, accountability and even legislation. Then there is the section of the player base and fan community that came to the wider public’s attention during the 2014 #Gamergate debacle. This loose cabal of professional malcontents, the socially dysfunctional and the extreme right continues to plague the gaming scene. It is yet another factor that keeps me and many other gamers from fully embracing and identifying with gaming culture.
And then there’s my age as well as my own journey of self-discovery and personal awareness to consider. Over time, idealism is often replaced with realism. I find that nowadays, my sense of excitement, anticipation and generally looking forward to something is far more restrained. I tend to focus upon things that I know are not likely to disappoint. Which is more likely to let me down? A cold beer or a multi-million-dollar video game that has been designed primarily as a “live service”? Excitement is all too often the unwitting bed fellow of naïveté. So returning to the original question, no I don’t tend to get excited about MMOs anymore, but that’s not down to some simple binary reason. It’s a change brought about by the evolution of the video games industry and my own life experience. Excitement still exists for me in a measured, targeted way but It is no longer a default reaction or something freely given. And that saddens me a little.