Saturday, September 15, 2012

For some time now, I’ve been on an interesting foray into the world of Massively Multiplayer Online Gaming. By that, I mean I’ve been playing a lot of Dungeons and Dragons Online.

I’m a writer, I swear, it’s just research for a novel! Haha, I kid, I have actually been designing MMOs for a good decade now as a hobby, so it is kind of research.

Anyway, I’ve encountered something interesting and kinda sad. Now, we all hear the stories about the obsessed World of Warcraft players who wear diapers, pee in bottles, etc, and laugh it off, because it’s funny. But when you actually reach into these games, you realize that there is something deeper, sadder, and unfortunately very true.

It manifests itself particularly on the web-forums. I never used the Blizzard forums in my WoW days, but I spend a fair amount of time hanging around the DDO forums because I cannot actually play the game at work. A lot of other denizens of the forums follow a similar habit: this is what they do when they can’t play the game.

And what manifests here is a series of players for whom their self-worth is dependant, not on their own accomplishments, but on seeing the possibility of those accomplishments denied from others. The basic belief that, if you do not play as much as they, you are not entitled to have as much fun as them, and that it is somehow hurting them for you to have something they worked for, without working as hard.

The problem, of course, is that this is just a freaking game. Its not even a hobby, it’s a diversion. I model and write, so when I want to challenge myself, those are the hobbies I focus on. When I just want to watch things die in a video game, I move over to something like an MMO.

And apparently that attitude infuriates some people. For them, the game IS their life, and if you do something they did without being so involved, they hate you for it.

Let me give you an example: Players in these games are allowed to form groups called guilds. Turbine(the makers of DDO) have a level-system for the guilds(guilds earn experience), called Renown.

Now, Guild Renown is a funny thing. Unlike literally every other facet of the game. There is a complicated(its DnD!) formula that calculates how much “renown” is lost on a daily basis, and you loose that. If you loose enough to go down a guild-level, then you go down a level. If, like me, you don’t play every single day for hours on end, this can be a problem.

What it basically amounts to is that my little guild consisting of a few friends hasn’t a hope in hell of hitting the higher hallowed rankings. Alliteration: a-live it, a-learn it, a-love it. Anywho, we’re stuck forever and always at the lower levels.

So, naturally pissed about this, I went on the boards and joined the screaming hoards of other casual players running small guilds, who dislike this system and would like it removed.

We were met with a rapid, vocal horde of players who basically told us “we don’t like you for playing less than us, so we don’t want you being able to level your guilds”. I promptly decided to screw the whole thing and went back to playing the game for fun.

But what amazes me is how I don’t find this sort of thing in other hobbyist communities. I have spent easily twice as much time making 3D models as I have playing any MMO. Lately, I don’t put as much time into it. It’s something I am passionate for, but I have other interests. I go on hobbyist communities occasionally and chat with other modelers, exchange tips, get feedback, etc.

And at no time has another modeler ever hated me for not spending as much time as he does working with 3D. I have never been told that I shouldn’t be allowed to use some feature of MAX because I “only spend” a few hours a week working with it.

I’d be willing to bet that, be it John Dear tractor-enthusiasts or underwater basket weavers anonymous, no one has ever told someone else they shouldn’t be allowed to participate because they don’t spend as much time on it as others. Even if, and I stress IF, your hobby requires some sort of time commitment, the sort of anger I see in these communities would not be expressed.

Games have always been about enjoyment to me, not challenge. I am, apparently, alone in this feeling.

This will likely be my last post until I move my blog to a new service. Blogger has a "new interface" that is absolutely abysmal. Much like I left gmail, I now, too, leave blogger.