Daily Archives: July 4, 2008

A Series Of Unlikely Explanations

So my theory, which is mine (and not Anne Elk’s) is that people tend to try an MMOG (maybe from peer pressure, maybe a dealerpublisher offers a free trial, maybe they see MMOG use glamorised on TV), then either hate it and get put off them for life, or become hooked, play that game for a long time, finally get bored, then flit around from other MMOG to other MMOG, trying to recapture that first hit but never quite finding it again.

It’s that old, old story of boy meets MMOG, boy falls in love with MMOG, boy plays MMOG unceasingly to a frankly unhealthy degree for many months, boy starts to tire of MMOG and starts looking around at other MMOGs, boy furtively subscribes to other MMOG (while still logging in to the first from time to time) and secretly enjoys it more, boy unsubscribes from first MMOG, boy suddenly finds the second MMOG isn’t so different from the first after all and rapidly tires, boy moves on from MMOG to MMOG never recapturing that original feeling and realises that first MMOG was his True MMOG, boy returns to that first MMOG but finds it’s moved on, expansions have been released, rules have changed and it’s not the MMOG he remembers, boy is spurned by first MMOG, boy is disconsolately on the verge of abandoning MMOGs for good when, in a hugely emotional finale, a “Classic” expansion is released for that first MMOG returning things to the way they were and boy and MMOG ride off into the sunset to live Happily Ever After.

(Richard Curtis can acquire the rights to Four MMOGs And A Classic Expansion Pack for a small fee.)

(And we’ll ignore the bit after the final credits roll where boy gets bored with the classic expansion pack after a week.)

I got prompted to thinking about it after unsubscribing from Age of Conan and going back to City of Heroes, so I scribbled down my MMOGing history, as per the previous post, and it did seem to suggest an ever-shortening MMOG attention span. Can anything recapture those first joyful stumbling moments getting to grips with a totally new idea, that all those people running around are *actually* *people*, fumbling with strange concepts like “aggro”, that moment when you realise that “grats” is actually a contraction of “congratulations” rather than some derivation of “gratitude” and the party chat around the time people levelled suddenly makes a whole lot more sense? Once you fire up a game, cast a jaded glance at the interface and say “there’s the health bar, there’s the mana bar, there’s my hotbar of abilities, she’s the tank, I’m the healer, he’s the DPS, those are mobile bags of XP and loot, let’s gain some levels”, is there any going back?

So I thought I’d see if other people followed a similar pattern, thanks very much for the responses. I can now confidently conclude, through the Power of Statistics, “yes and no”. (Well, I say “confidently”, based on the sample size and estimated population of players the confidence interval is approximately… erm… 0.00034%, but never mind.) Guido and Elf have a similar trajectory so far (which isn’t guaranteed to continue), but Melmoth, Stargazer and Jon vary significantly.

As it happens I’d been looking at my list again, and my longest subscriptions, City of Heroes and World of Warcraft, are the two games where, at various points, I’ve hooked up with other people, either small groups of friends or guilds that really worked. The rest I either played solo, or found guilds via forums/in-game chat/random blind invite that never quite clicked (the latter cases not being terribly surprising, it’s not a good sign if a guild’s prime criteria for membership is “standing within sight of somebody with invite privileges”, but sometimes you have to give it a shot for a laugh). Maybe it’s not the game so much as the people? I should’ve asked people to list whether they were in regular groups or guilds for the games they’d played.

And then I thought: people, that’s a social thing, Socialiser… Bartle type. Your play style must affect how long you spend in a game; if primarily an Explorer, it depends how large (and varied) the game world is, if an Achiever, how long it takes to the level cap (if such a thing exists) and what avenues for advancement there are after that, if a Socialiser or Killer, it’s all about the people (to talk to/mercilessly slaughter, delete as appropriate). I should’ve asked people to list their Bartle type as well (or an even more in-depth assessment of motivation).

And *then* I thought: that’s not entirely incompatible with Theory Mark I. I might’ve been lucky and started with a game that happened to suit my playing style to start with, or maybe that first game shaped my expectations for everything that followed? I could be particularly impressionable, though. What we need is government funded study of a large group of people who have never played an MMOG, put them through an in-depth assessment of motivation of why they might want to play an MMOG, start them up in a variety of games, then test them again after six months to see if their results change.

And then I thought I’d been thinking altogether too much and I should leave this stuff to psychologists or possibly psychiatrists, so I played a bit of Guitar Hero instead. Oh, is there concrete all around, or is it in my head? Guitar solo!