I've never quite figured out why I am so intrigued by Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. I played the pen and paper games like D&D and Shadowrun for a long time. Its not something I ever thought I would continue to do as an adult, but find myself still enjoying them. Of course things have changed a bit, as a teenager it was an escape from my life, a chance to act out fantasies and leave the mundane behind. Now its more about getting together with some friends and acting silly. Really not that different than the traditionaly poker night or watching a sports game on tv.
But the computer version of these games have become something of an addiction, one I have only recently broken free of, and seriously doubt I am free of for good. I've played a lot of them, The Realm, UO, EQ, DAOC, AO and most recently City of Heroes. I think perhaps I find these things so compelling because ever since I've played video games I always thought it would be great to network them so you could play with people all over the place.
So now here come these games where you can actually log onto a virtual world with its own communities and social orders and play with people from all walks of life from all over the world. What a great concept. Problem is, I'm basically anti-social. I barely make the effort to know my next-door neighbors, why do I really care to meet people from far away. These games attract so many idiots that I spend the majority of the time soloing, or only play with people I already know from reall life. That seems to defeat the point of playing a multiplayer game.
Maybe its just the fact that I could interact with other "real" people in the game if I wanted to. Kind of like going to a crowded bar to sit alone, just to be around people, not neccesarily to actually talk to anyone. Maybe its the idea of a persistent wold, the game keeps going even when I'm not there to see it. It makes the game seem more real in some way.
In the long run though, these games seem like nothing more that huge time sinks. You basically perform the same repetitive actions to gain the same rewards. As you progress through the game only the graphics of what you fight change, the game stays pretty much the same. The roleplaying aspect of these games are mostly non existent. The whole point of all of these games is to kill things, get stuff, and level up so you can killer bigger things, get more stuff, and level up. Actual roleplaying is more of a hindrance to advancement then a viable playstyle, and the roleplayers are usually completely overshadowed by the power gamers that only care about numbers. There really is no since of community, nothing that exists for reasons of setting or social interaction.
There are some virtual communities out there going that direction, but they haven't had the kind of settings I've been interested in yet. I hope eventually they manage to combine good game mechanics with an interesting social setting.
For now though, I've finally broken free. I haven't played EQ for a couple of months and I quit City of Heroes after only a few weeks of play. With luck I may become a productive member of society again.
Who do I think I'm kidding.....