Deserve vs. Earn

Had a little chat with a friend over a blog entry over at Elder Game. As I expected, he wasn’t in agreement with that blog post, at least not entirely.

I’m going to paraphrase him because most of my readers don’t have the required translator skills to get through his typos and misspellings (that and it’d hurt to put the quote up here in tact).

He agrees that tricky controls are bad, but also strongly believes current games have a sense of  ‘deserving’ the content rather than any sort of willingness to ‘earn’ it.

I somewhat agree with his somewhat agreement, but I also agree with the Elder Game post more than he does.

You see, he’s the type of guy that really loved EQ for all the barriers it put in front of the player. Reaching end game wasn’t an expectation, it was a goal. He’s one of those guys that doesn’t mind sinking time into an elaborate crafting system or gathering up a group of people to sit in a dungeon for a couple of hours hoping something spawns and, should you kill it before someone else does, hoping it actually drops that item you need. He’s all for forced grouping and harsh death penalties. He likes tracking food, drink and ammo.

It separates players from those who can overcome the barriers and those that can’t. At least that’s the common belief.

Now part of that is he sees the bigger picture and can see each one of those as a potential thing to overcome as a part of a reward. For example, finding an item that creates food or drink for you is suddenly of value and it feels good to find it. Having a magicial quiver that reproduces ammo instantly – effectively eliminating the need for ammo – is something that is rewarding and sets one player apart from another.

He also sees the value in creating friendships through grouping and sharing experiences as you level up. You make friends and those friends help you overcome other limitations or barriers such as travel. Make friends with a druid or wizard in EQ and suddenly you had an easier time of getting around or (prior to Soulbinders) getting a quick bind at a new town. It makes sense.

He sees all that and he likes it. He also sees it going away (because of WoW) and he doesn’t like that. I don’t really blame him but he’s in the minority.

One of the more frustrating things about talking with this friend is that I think he’d really like WoW if he could get past the misconceptions that it’s all easy or handed to you on a silver platter (or around the thought that the graphics are cartoony).

My thoughts?

When I buy a game, I deserve to have fun with it – I’ve paid for it. I’ve earned the right to play a game by already working in real life to be able to afford buying the game (and possibly paying the subscription). You shouldn’t have to earn getting at the fun parts of a game – you’ve paid for it. But just because you bought the game doesn’t mean you immediately win. I don’t want to pop the game in and then work at having fun.

Does it make sense to have a game where work is involved before getting at the fun? Did it make sense before there were computer games Where did it even apply before computer games?

How much work was involved in shuffling a deck of cards or gathering up some friends? Setting up a board of Life? Sorting out the Monopoly properties or cash?

Sure you could argue that playing a sport might involve work, but ultimately you’re right into the game doing the fun stuff. You don’t have to pump up the ball everytime, sweep the court, install the posts, set up the backboard and hang the net, do you?

One of the few games I can think of that involves a fair bit of work to play is Dungeons and Dragons (or other pen and paper RPGs). You had to build your character, sustain it, track things, etc. But then I don’t need to buy a computer game or pay a subscription fee to play that, do I?

I think that is where all this ‘hardcore’ types come from. They played D&D (or some similar RPG), picked up AO was an online version then migrated to EQ and now they don’t like the advancing convience. They still want to walk uphill, in a windstorm, in forty feet of snow to and from school.

All that said, paying a subscription for WoW doesn’t mean you get everything handed to you and I think that’s a common misconception for people who haven’t actually played WoW. Someone who puts a lot of time and effort into their character will come out ahead of someone who doesn’t. I really think a lot of the folks that never played WoW understand that.

You still have to play the game, you just get into the fun sooner.

It’s no different from other games in that regard; if I buy Call of Duty Black Ops, I don’t just win because I have it, I actually have to play the game. And it’s fun doing that – there is no ‘earning’ the fun.

Why can’t MMOs also be focused more on the fun aspects?

Would Black Ops be as fun if you had to do all sorts of admin and planning between each of the missions? It’d make it a deeper, involving and realistic game, but also close the door on people incapable of that or who don’t enjoy that aspect.



4 thoughts on “Deserve vs. Earn

  1. I think many people confuse “earn” with “endure”. Many of the early concepts in EQ that individuals felt helped to seperate the really good players from the average players and the hard-core players from the casual players were just things that a person could endure.

    And I would go on to suggest that the “really good” players of any MMO are always really good. They are able to adapt and overcome game mechanics to achive the highest goals possible. Those who endured supid game mechanics and who now hide behind those as some kind of badge of honor, are simply kidding themselves – they aren’t great players.

  2. BOOM?

    I think that’s the case for some people while others genuinely like tracking stuff or having to worry about mechanics that can make the game more tedious. As I noted above, sometimes those tedious mechanics end up being overcome and that can be rewarding… but I still wouldn’t say ‘fun’.

  3. re: around the thought that the graphics are cartoony…

    There are some great studies on this phenomon.

    In 1978, the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori noticed something interesting: The more humanlike his robots became, the more people were attracted to them, but only up to a point. If an android become too realistic and lifelike, suddenly people were repelled and disgusted.

    The problem, Mori realized, is in the nature of how we identify with robots. When an android, such as R2-D2 or C-3PO, barely looks human, we cut it a lot of slack. It seems cute. We don’t care that it’s only 50 percent humanlike. But when a robot becomes 99 percent lifelike– so close that it’s almost real– we focus on the missing 1 percent. We notice the slightly slack skin, the absence of a truly human glitter in the eyes. The once-cute robot now looks like an animated corpse.

    If a character is very simple, more iconic than realistic, it’s much easier for people to pour themselves into it — to view it not as a third party, but instead as a personal avatar.

    From Jeff Atwood’s blog here :

  4. I believe that players today either forget or don’t know what WoW was like at day one. If you look back, it’s the outcry from casual players that facilitated the changes in WoW. Those who were either unwilling or just couldn’t invest the time for the end game wanted change.

    I think WoW has become more and more accessible with each new expansion, but it still takes time and effort to level, to learn a class and how to play it. Maybe I’ve been away too long and have forgotten what it’s like. Personally I don’t think the old ways of EQ, AO or even DAoC would be successful in today’s MMO market.

    It’s tough for developers because you want your game to be challenging, but you also want players to enjoy themselves and feel rewarded for the time they invest.

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