It's All About Me
A quick look into my feelings as to why I, and possibly other gamers, have become disenchanted with the MMORPG genre and the nature of this complex beast.
I want to be The One and Only!
So here I find myself again. I'm staring at the loading screen of World of Warcraft once more and I find I'm desperately trying to justify the action to begin with. But why?
I can still remember back to the “vanilla years” of the game where I felt great anticipation at logging in and levelling up my character to explore and experience the next part of the adventure. I couldn't get enough of the story and would converse excitedly with my friends on what we would find in the next dungeon or where we thought the plot would and should go.
There were so many moments of wonder to go through and with all the eye candy surrounding me and the promise of doing great things in the future I thought I was in heaven. In my mind I had created my own little history and story for my character and I couldn't wait to see how she would evolve from a high spirited adventurer into the climactic saviour that had become synonymous with the ultimate ending in a great, story driven RPG.
So, the months flew past, the body count grew higher and my character began to look damn sexy in all that newly acquired loot. Yet, if I stood in a major city I quickly realised I wasn't alone in rocking such fine threads. Indeed, if it weren't for the name tags I'd be hard pushed to pick out any of my online buddies from the other myriad of doppelgänger's crowding the streets.
I was still enamoured by this point but it was just starting to tarnish the whole affair for me. Not only did I now feel like the least conspicuous storm trooper at their annual battle armour convention but I was getting a little jealous of the NPC's treatment towards other players. I mean, seriously? You gave me the accolade's for killing General Drakkisath but now you love some random mage I never heard of for doing it too?!
Now, I can't quite say where the honeymoon period wore off completely but I'm pretty sure it was somewhere near end game content; because there was no end. Couple that with the fact the story and game was never actually about me.
That has become the crux of the matter for me and why I fail to even start any more when it comes to MMORPG's. I want the story to be all about me and my experiences. I want the world that I have traversed through and changed to acknowledge everything I've done and proclaim me the ultimate hero. With a game that has no definitive ending and a massive player base all interacting in the same environmental sphere this is something that I doubt can be achieved.
We can't all be “The Chosen One” after all.
Now, I'm in no way saying that there is nothing enjoyable about doing things online with other people who's company you take pleasure in. Go knock yourselves out and have as much of it as you like. This is certainly a crucial aspect of my online enjoyment also. The winning formula for me though was having a single player game such as Diablo II or Neverwinter Nights that offered you the option of bringing some friends along for the ride. In the end though, you and your merry band were still the hot sauce in that specific story.
What jades me, however, is that even after defeating the ultimate boss of that specific month in any given MMO, I always feel like my well-loved avatar is still just another face in the crowd. Add to that the knowledge that tomorrow I go do it all over again and there would still be no final conclusion to give that buzz of satisfaction that I triumphed and made a difference.
I've given this matter a lot of deep thought and I've tried many things to recapture my original giddy infatuation with this genre. I've tried to slow down the levelling process, read through all the quest text fully and take time out to just explore. Yes, I realise the games are now going further to allow you to make your character look unique. Heck, I've even tried proper roleplay in-game to try and bring back some meaning to my existence in the world but nothing ever works.
This is the nature of the beast and I'm more than fully aware of that fact. As far as I can see there can never be any other way for this type of game to exist. It plays on the human conditioning to carry on doing a repetitive function to gain reward and, for some, this behaviour is so ingrained they will literally grind anything to fulfil that mental state.
It's also inherent for humans to want to band together and be a collective. Being one of many isn't a bad thing.
To each their own and I'm in no way trying to say that many of the millions of subscribers to this genre are not enjoying themselves. And to be fair, most games utilise said structure to a degree but it’s the way it’s currently presented that turns me off.
I play a game to escape my real life and when one is surrounded by hundreds of other real life people all doing the exact same things as you it breaks the fantasy. It removes all importance of character and renders you little more than a spectator who's occasionally allowed to play with the real hero's toys. It doesn't even make me feel like the loyal sidekick and even that would be far better than the feeling it provides at the moment.
Perhaps this feeling of total disconnection is something the rest of estranged MMORPG players finally succumb to. Somewhere, deep down we are all desperate to be the one in the spotlight. We want the honour and notoriety that we never get in our own lives and I believe this is a large pull to gamers. It takes us that one step closer to being someone we’d like to be.
So call me egotistical if you must but to conclude; I want my larger than life, spectacularly glorious ending and it had to all have been about me.