What does an MMO mean to you?
What does an MMO mean to you?
If you’re reading this, you know what an MMO is. You’re a current, ex, or prospective gamer of some sort. Everyone knows what an MMO is. The question I pose to you, dear reader, is: what does an MMO mean to you?
There are dozens upon dozens of MMO’s of various genres which have had varying successes and failures on the market. The market is extremely competitive and undeniably ruthless. One mistake and the company can be unfairly branded a failure with a terrible product, and regardless whether they fix it or not, the damage is done. Launch is probably the biggest test of any product for a company. Vanguard being the prime example in this case: An amazing game that had a terrible launch and was branded a buggy, unfinished piece of trash.
Vanguard never managed to recover from the damage reviewers and gamers did to its reputation. I remember I was playing EQ1 rather heavily at the time of Vanguards release, and having not really cared to keep up with other MMO news I didn’t know much about it. My friends and guild mates had an ongoing joke, however, whenever one of our raids or groups wiped and we were trying to recover or make a second attempt. ‘This could turn it around for Vanguard!’ we’d say, in mock enthusiasm. MMO humor is always dumb, but it was just in fun. Only later on, when I actually played Vanguard and learned a lot more about it myself did I fully understand what the sarcasm was all about. I personally fell in love with the game the first time I tried it and thought it was a huge tragedy that Vanguard got shit on so harshly at launch as to never recover.
It may seem like I got sidetracked from my original question, but I assure you in my jumbled mess of a mind it all makes sense – I’m trying to make sense of what an MMO means to me. Yes, if you want to be clinical and sterile an MMO is nothing more than a game. Yes, it’s a fact that it’s a game, and games shouldn’t be taken seriously as they’re just a means to enjoy oneself and/or the company of others. However, MMO’s aren’t just a game. They are a means of communication and expression for millions of people, and since the birth of the internet they have drastically changed the way the online world and business model works and have had a profound effect on the younger generation they cater to.
For some people an MMO is a means to escape reality and live out their fantasies of role-playing whatever they want in whatever genre and setting they find attractive. For others MMO’s have become an unhealthy addiction that has ruined lives, arguably caused murders and suicides and countless relationship woes and divorces. Some do in fact just play them casually and they are nothing more than a means to have fun and relax after a stressful day. Others still find solace in the anonymous, yet meaningful bonding that can take place online when put in situations forcing strangers to work together cooperatively or competitively. People have made lifelong friends they otherwise would have never known existed thanks to MMO’s. Marriages and relationships have blossomed and flourished, families brought together and people connect on a deeply personal level.
Now when I talk about MMO’s I’m not specifically talking about the RPG variety, as the type doesn’t really matter. There are hundreds of MMO’s of different types and styles (RTS, FPS, RPG, etc.) and they all strive to do the same thing. Massive Multi-player means exactly that. Put dozens, hundreds, thousands, possibly millions of people from all over the planet, all in the same environment with a set of rules (strict or loose) and boundaries to obey, and people seem to thrive. Even given little guidance or no obvious goal, people still manage to thrive. Eve is a good example of this, as is Second Life.
My entire point being that I believe MMO’s have had a dramatic affect on the world since their creation, and they mean something different and possibly very meaningful to everyone. Some people may very truly be able to state the best times of their life have been in an MMO playing with their friends, and I think that’s perfectly fine. If you’re one so inclined to believe gaming is a waste of time and a waste of life, I’d ask you to consider professional sports, or recreational fishing, or virtually any hobby anyone can possibly think of. By definition a hobby is just something you do in your spare time and generally isn’t for profit.
Many people say the best times of their life were their youth, hunting or fishing or working on projects with their friends, in bands, doing drugs and partying. I’m not going to judge what people do for enjoyment, but that’s also my point; what makes it better to do any of those things than to stay at home gaming with your friends, when you honestly get just as much satisfaction out of it?
You have no life!
You have no real friends!
I disagree. I think people can have the best, most trusted friends they’ve ever known without ever meeting them in person. And I believe everyone is entitled to live their life as they see fit as long as it does no harm to others. So who’s to tell me that I have no life? I believe that people can have the best experiences of their life while gaming. And I don’t think that’s pathetic, as others might be so inclined to think. I believe that’s just the way the world works now, and having grown up in it, I for one am used to the idea.
So tell me, dear reader, after all that: what does an MMO mean to you?
For me personally any MMO begins as a game. If I find the game not to be engaging, it will become an game I play no longer. It may in time develop to be a place where I do things with friends. Then it ceases to be just a game, or entertainment, or timewaster (though it remains all of those). Then it becomes a place, a location, like a pub or restaurant, or bowling alley, or criket pitch, or cinema, or anything which is the background for friendship.