Politics is a hobby of mine. Don't worry, this is NOT going to be a political post. I prefer to keep my recreation free of topics that tend to make people want to kill each other. No this post, and this blog, will remain about MMO's and gaming in general but this post is inspired by an observation I have made about the political world as applied to the MMO community. If you are interested in the broader political and social implications, feel free to let me know in the comments and I can reply privately. But I very much want to keep the public discussion related to MMO's and gaming. It comes down to something that I find sorely lacking in politics today... compromise.
If Everyone Gets a Little of What They Want...
Once upon a time, in a world where common sense actually was common, there was the concept of compromise. In this world, I don't get everything I want, you don't get everything you want, but we both get a little of what we want, and at the end of the day we both can walk away satisfied. But it would seem that this "world" no longer exists. Today compromise has become synonymous with defeat. Victory must be complete and absolute or it is the same as losing. Giving up even the tiniest little bit is unacceptable. Unconditional surrender of your opponents is the goal and nothing else will do. Again I don't want to make this about politics by listing examples. I'm sure you can think of examples off the top of your head without too much difficulty. This pretty much describes the political landscape of the United States today. Scorched earth. Victory at all costs. How does this relate to MMO's?
... Everyone is a Loser?
Just as our political leaders are unwilling and unable to adjust their points of view, incorporate the needs of others, and craft solutions that meet the needs of the largest number of people... so too have MMO enthusiasts become unable to see "past their own fence" in a sense. I read a lot of gaming blogs. I visit a lot of gaming websites. I lurk on a lot of gaming forums. And you know the one thing I almost never see? A comment like this:
"Well, I don't really like Game X but I see that you really do. I'm glad you enjoy it but I think Game Y is better and would rather play that."
I know, sounds trite doesn't it? What do you see instead?
"omg u noob... Game X is trash. Game Y is the shit and 10x better. I hope every looser who plays Game X dies in a fire."
It is no longer enough that one's game of choice be perceived as superior. No, as with the political analogy, the "victory" must be absolute. Not only does your game have to be better, other games and their fans must suffer total defeat. The game must be a failure. Its fans must be seen as foolish, ignorant fanbois. Just look at the parade of "WoW killers" that we have been subjected to over the course of the past seven years. Even the term itself implies a victory or defeat scenario. And how many of those games could have been successful on their own if it were not for the "competition" with World of Warcraft? Was Lord of the Rings Online really that bad? How about RIFT? Age of Conan? All perfectly serviceable games. Perfect games? Certainly not, but not the "failures" they were consigned to be after they failed to topple the WoW juggernaut. Or so goes the conventional wisdom.
How does this "tribalism" benefit the MMO community in general? Is it better for MMO's that only one game is successful and the rest fail? Ok, WoW fans could argue that the success of that game has opened the MMO genre to vast number of potential customers. I won't disagree with that. But does labeling every other MMO a failure do us any favors? I would say certainly not. I would say that every failure chips away at whatever success WoW and other "mainstream" MMO's have brought to the genre. Every game labeled a failure makes it that much harder to make the next game and so ultimately we are left with fewer games, fewer choices, and less innovation. I believe this is bad for everybody whether you yourself are a fan of a successful game or not.
Just to be clear, there is nothing wrong with being a fan of a particular game, and there is nothing wrong with being critical of a game. But if we claim to be fans of gaming, I think a line has to be drawn somewhere. I think a sort of compromise needs to be made. I think there needs to be an acknowledgement that the more games in total that are successful, the more it benefits fans of every game. Tearing down a particular game and its fans does no one any favors. So by all means, have constructive debates about whether Call of Duty is better than Battlefield, or whether TERA is better than Star Wars: The Old Republic, but don't try and wish Trion Worlds would go bankrupt just so you can say that The Secret World is better than RIFT.
On that note, our best wishes to the former employees of 38 Studios. Here's to hoping you guys catch on somewhere quickly, and perhaps Project Copernicus can still come to fruition elsewhere. This is a perfect example of what I was talking about. These guys going out of business helps no one, and potentially robs us of an MMO set in a fascinating world that we will never get to explore. There is no winner here.