Tuesday, July 01, 2014

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The MMO is Dead; Long Live the MMO

ESO Templar Archer
Janine "Iris Ophelia" Hawkins' ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style

Paste Magazine's Games section is home to some of the absolute best gaming-related content and criticism on the internet, making it one of the go-to sources for the gamer who doesn't mind turning the gears in their head for more than just a particularly tricky Picross level. This week, Ian Williams posted a piece there about the current state of the MMO. While many think that MMOs are a thriving genre just being held back by their pursuit of World of Warcraft's holy grail, Williams posits that the genre as it stands is a relic of a time and a set of needs we've moved past. As Williams himself says, "It wasn’t the game, it was the moment; not what MMOs were but when. "

World of Warcraft introduced me to a level of internet socialization I hadn’t experienced before. Moreover, I couldn’t get it anywhere else in 2004. There was no Twitter or Facebook, and certainly no hordes of people using that social media which was available. Free video chat with any sort of efficiency wasn’t feasible. It was, in terms of social interactions, a completely different world. [...] We’re older now. We have kids and mortgages and serious jobs. In the time it takes to log in and get something set up with MMO friends, you can swipe your fingers a few times and be both engaging thousands on Twitter while videochatting with your friends at the same time. And if you really got into MMOs for the “ding, grats” style gameplay, it’s worked its way into games of every style and genre, with hundreds of mobile games offering a distilled version of it directly to your cerebral cortex.

Be sure to read the full article on Paste, which explains how some more recent MMOs and notable exceptions fit in to the picture.

Mixed reality iris 2013Iris Ophelia (@bleatingheart, Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times, and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.


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Arcadia Codesmith

Oh poppycock.

The author is conflating networking with community, and they are two VERY different beasts.

And while WoW is everybody's idea of a profitable MMO, it's nobody's idea of a great one. WoW is a glossy pastiche of the MMOs that came before it, well-executed but ultimately short on substance.

MMOs (and non-gaming virtual worlds, for that matter) may never be "mass market" commodities. But in an increasingly fragmented and targeted media environment, all forms of entertainment stand to lose share. And that's okay. Better to produce a work that is highly appreciated by its loyal fans than one that is universally regarded as mediocre but watched by millions because there's nothing else on.

I think there will be an evolution in the MMO space to bring production costs down to Earth. Tools are emerging that allow small studios and even individuals to produce "AAA" titles with little or no budget beyond sweat equity. Balanced well, you can have a quite wonderful and sustainable MMO with a community of hundreds or thousands, not millions.

The bean counters may see that as death. I see it as taking the power away from the bean counters and giving it back to player-creators, which is where it belongs. The worst thing we as geeks ever did was to sell out to the suits.

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