Hello everyone. A quick introduction before I get into my heavy-handed blog post for this week. My name is Beau Hindman and I have been playing MMOs for 15 years and covering them in some way for eight or so. I tend to prefer sandboxes over themeparks, but you can just as easily find me in a linear, quest-based MMO as you would in an epic open-world exploration game. I’ve written and blogged all across the internet and on many different sites (including this one, years ago) but now that I work for an MMO I wanted a more public place for my personal blogs. So, here we are. Read on!
I often wonder why I continue to be so fascinated with MMORPGs. I see other players come and go, some of them because they are angry at recent developments or because their favorite game left them burned out, but I continue to chug along. Along my 15 year journey in MMOland I have found other people who seem to enjoy them as much as I do, and these people often act as a helpful shield against the rage-filled landscape of bloggers and players who seem bent on destroying their own hobby.
I was discussing this topic with my wife the other day. The great thing about being married to someone who also works in the industry and who has been in gaming literally as long as I have (I brought home our first copy of Ultima Online in ’99 and haven’t looked back!) is that we can get right to the meat of the matter without explanation.
She brought up the holidays and the wintertime and described how it reminds her of World of Warcraft. She can remember taking off time from her job to play with the new expansions, usually around the fall and winter. She’d just bought the latest WoW expansion and we were discussing the reasons for continually purchasing the aging game.
I talked about how those feelings of nostalgia — helped by the time of year and the literal changing of the wardrobe — all connect with the game to help cement the event into the brain and memory and emotional core of the gamer. While both my wife and I have played so, so many titles over the years, we each have those special titles that really stick to us for some reason or another. She originally said that she was not going to buy the new WoW expansion as her work on another MMO tended to pull her away from all others, (and, let’s face it, Dragon Age Inquisition had something to do with her distraction) but the nostalgia and excitement pouring out of the internet — even the whinings about the problems with connecting to the WoW servers — made her very aware of her sudden need to buy it. So, she did.
These connections can be felt in other genres, sure. Perhaps you are a shooter fan who stands outside of a local game store to buy the latest chapter of your favorite shoot-em-up, or you are a Nintendo fanperson who obsessively collects digital stickers and virtual medals. MMOs, in my opinion, can form an even stronger, stranger bond between the gamer and the product because they are the only genre to offer the massive worlds that you might find in an Ultima Online, RuneScape, Defiance, Eldevin, Mabinogi or World of Warcraft. MOBAs are instant-on action and not much more; single-player titles offer truly in-depth character building, but generally only while the player is alone. Only MMOs offer that real-time, massive connection.
Consider also the look of your favorite MMO. It’s probably stayed the same for many years. It would be a safe bet to say that most of the MMOs you can think of have looked basically the same — minus a few updates to character models or tweaks to UI — for as long as you can remember. Think about the sounds in your favorite MMO. Imagine the gurgle of a murlock in WoW or that insanely loud DING from EverQuest. MMOs are some of the few games that can not only be played for years — if not decades — but that continue to look, feel, play and sound the same way for much of that time. When you a buy a new standalone title, you are often buying an entirely new title with new characters and mechanics, even if it is in the same IP.
MMOs are not just worlds that we visit, they are worlds that are contained within our real world. There are several layers of living that go on within an MMO. The player lives her life but comes home to live another while she is living the first one while she is making friends and killing baddies in the second one while she is eating at her PC in the first one. This layering creates not only a sense of nostalgia for the activity of playing the game, but nostalgia for the gameplay and the world in which it takes part. It’s fascinating, and will only become more fascinating as these worlds become much larger, more common and — hopefully — more original and interesting.
So, I sitll have many reasons to love MMOs and no matter where I find myself in life — attempting to write a novel, sinking myself back into art or trying to relearn the drum lessons I forgot — MMOs are a staple. The longer I play them, the more locked they become in my memory. I’ve tried other games, and MMOs are the only genre that make me feel so connected.