Is It Me? Or Is It Game Design?

One Ring from LOTRI’ve been reading a few blog posts and articles lately about how the MMO population has started to age. I’ve read nostalgic posts about how great MMOs used to be and how there used to be that One Game to rule them all and now there isn’t anymore. I’ve decided that it isn’t so much the game design changes that are to blame for my malaise as it is my own changes that are to blame.

I’m old(er) and while I still spend a lot of time playing games, many of my former gaming friends have taken long breaks to raise children, work multiple jobs and live their lives. I have a lot more chores that need to be done now, so when I do play games I’m really picky about how I spend my time. This is the case with my friends and my guilds, so I’m endlessly faced with a semi-revolving door where people just can’t give the same endless hours to a game that they used to give. And let’s face it, there are a lot of really high quality games to play both in MMOs and in standalone formats.

cat you kids get off my lawnI certainly don’t tolerate childish behavior as well as I used to. I want to play with other adults, but this means putting up with the time constraints that other adults face. It also means I won’t spend my time trying to support or assist children who come play in my MMO. In fact, I go out of my way to ignore and avoid any game or element of a game that force-feeds me childish behaviors. This means I don’t tend to PVP and I only do group content within my guild or with RL friends. I don’t support random dungeon finders and I hide general chat where people might be asking to group up with others so that I don’t have to see the garbage that gets spewed in those channels.

I do think games have evolved to try and keep up with changing patterns in what their paying customers/players want and how they play. I’m glad they have. Rather than lament those changes, I have to accept that they are why I still play MMOs at all. At the same time, the same games that are trying to keep me playing are trying to gain new players. If we think our games have become kind of schizophrenic, they probably have due to divergent player bases.

What I miss the most is being immersed in something along with my online friends. But that hasn’t been the case for a long while now. People game hop and play more than one MMO, trying to recapture those glory days. We have changed, our tastes have changed and our ability to play the way we used to play is gone.

I have to wonder if MMO design will continue to evolve enough to keep me playing, or if I will lose enough of my joy in it that I spend my time and money on other forms of entertainment. I also wonder if nostalgic players will allow evolution or if we have become too averse to change while game companies become too averse to risk. My lack of enthusiasm for the upcoming MMOs does seem to indicate I’ve become jaded. And yet I still keep track of them, read about them, listen to others enthuse about them. I guess I still have some hope left in me.

Yet I worry that game designs will try to cater to a younger audience, making them something I can no longer enjoy. Will they instead continue to evolve to accommodate the majority of their aging players, while other game styles work to capture the younger generation? I suppose the response to MMOs coming out in 2014 will make that picture more clear as the titles in question have very different styles or attempt to reboot long standing, beloved games with massive nostalgia factors. Should be interesting to see, and I’m certainly waiting to hear how much fun (or not), my gaming peers have playing them.

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