Two recent online articles highlight the darker side of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG). Remarkably, neither focused on the soul-sucking addiction associated with such games. One discussed how the games are designed from the outset to be frustrating and aggravating, yet compellingly addictive. The other enumerates some of the shortcomings of MMORPGs.
The first, posted to slashdot, talks specifically about Everquest. According to Sanftenberg, ‘Everquest is a game full of people who want to “win” and “be the best” at any cost. This includes griefing you and your guild, making your gameplay miserable. Why not simply quit then, you ask? If the game isn’t fun and sucks this badly, why would anyone play it? Well, because they are addicted. They are addicted to the mobs, to the loot, and to the social atmosphere with other people in their guilds.’
With many of the advancements requiring highly repetitive actions, prolonged waiting, or other time-wasting elements, the time commitment and drudgery seem to actually enhance the addictiveness as it robs the fun of the game. Mr. Sanftenberg lists a number of other serious grievances that certainly sound legitimate.
A couple of commenters noted that Star Wars Galaxies is being created by the same developers that made Everquest.
The second article, was posted as a comment to the original article. It goes on to say, “… it’s very difficult to do a reasonably good plot-based multiplayer game. I can’t think of any multiplayer games that use plot to much advantage.”
This most telling comment in the article really defines one enormous difference between MMORPGs and Alternate Reality Games such as The Beast.
Both games have some elements of story, but the focus on plot in ARGs rather than attaining levels (or status) lets players compete or cooperate more evenly, regardless of their experience level. Also, the cooperative elements in ARGs foster progress for everyone rather than the potential detriment of one party. By ensuring the mutual success of all players, ARGs will tend to have less player-induced sabotage than occurs in Everquest and it’s ilk.
With that said, I’m on the fence about the impact of prizes on player groups and how it affects immersive gameplay. It seems that the majority of players tend to view the prizes, regardless of value, as a bonus and remain focused on the game and community. Time will tell if this remains true.
Even though both types of games reward players for time commitment and involvement, a well designed Immersive Campaign (aka ARG) should let players jump in at any point without significant penalty.
As more and more traditional computer games and console games make their way online, the choices for online gaming will be staggering. The Beast, as grand and critically acclaimed as it was, has not resulted in any commercial successes in the Immersive Gaming genre.
Ok, I’ve rambled way off topic with no summary in sight. So, in conclusion, what do YOU think?