Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What are MMORPGs and Why Should I Care?

A game’s genre has nothing to do with how much fun the game will be. It may, at most, bias you towards certain judgments by putting a game’s content and mechanics into a different context.

Most often games that fail are those that take the concept of genre too seriously in their design. These games tend to be cookie-cutter cash-in attempts. Perhaps if you are Keen and want everything to be magically perfected before any innovation is tried, you’ll like such a world of look-alike and talk-alike games, but these games are usually not so well-received. Execution is the hardest part of game development. You’re more likely to fail by betting on a game that needs flawless execution than betting on a game that shows innovation.

But still, bloggers and commenters feel the need to post polemics deriding the trends that compromise the MMO-ness of a game that has been clearly and easily classified as an MMO.

Genre tag discussions are pointless:

  1. The people who are having the discussion have no actual use for the definition they’re making because they already understand the distinctions between games that the “better” genre tag would indicate. Only people who really care would even try to follow such a discussion. Never would such new terminology catch on, because only people for whom it is useless would understand the terminology.
  2. Genre and fun are independent. When discussing games, we should be talking about fun. As a player and game designer, genres are merely signposts at the most abstract level and give little to no indication of how fun a game may be. Debating the meaning of a genre will put “genre” in terms way too specific to be useful to the general audience that relies on such tags.
  3. Game design evolves. World of Warcraft is a much different game now than it was five years ago. If genre cannot even apply to one game over the course of its lifetime, how can it hope to apply to a universe containing thousands of games that may be in any genre at any one time? As developers explore the game design universe by making thousands upon thousands of games every year, the meaning of a genre will warp and alter. Trying to fix the meaning of a genre permanently is like, pardon the cliché, trying to nail Jell-O to a tree.

Consider these three reasons when you next think about arguing with someone about what an MMO is. I’d advise you to politely let the person know that they’re engaging in a pointless discussion, or you can simply move on to a more interesting posting without wasting your time.


Elementalistly said...

More Keen derision on ANOTHER blog?

Clearly no taste there in Keen world.

Ah well.

evizaer said...

There are many many more bloggers and commenters who argue similarly. I use Keen as an example because of his popularity.

Andrew said...

A well stated post. MMOG's are evolving all the time, and certainly are breaking far out of the mold that was first created by the MUDs and copied by EQ/UO.