Jul 15, 2013

[Are There Just Fewer Stories to Tell?]

  I've been musing over the recent wave of posts from some of the more established MMO bloggers decrying the death of the 'MMO blog', but after reading various bloggers' takes on the issue and watching this (rather brilliant) presentation on the culture of narrative and player/content dialogue in games, I think I understand a large part of the issue (and it's the culmination of something I started feeling dissatisfied about years ago back when the only MMORPG I had ever played was WoW).

  It's not that the MMORPG genre in particular is dying per se (the term 'MMO' has expanded to include so many variations of games precisely because it's grown so much). I think part of it is that nowadays there are fewer stories you can tell within it. Why blog about your experience doing heavily scripted/cut scene'd content that will be experienced in the exact same way by everyone else who's ever done it (or watched a Let's Play)? That doesn't lead to interesting or compelling player stories. Aside from navel-gazing and pontificating on one's personal taste in gameplay or following the latest dev studio drama, perhaps the recent field of MMORPGs just doesn't lend itself to much in the way of compelling personal material of the sort that inspires people to want to write much about it.

  This is not an issue unique to MMORPGs. Modern games have been struggling with this issue of how to engage players and bring more meaningful experiences for years now. So far, the idea has been to 'AAA' up the game and make it as cinematic as possible (apeing movies) and completely overlooking that the procedural aspect of 'worldy' MMORPGs is what makes them so compelling to people in the first place. The result is a heavily homogenized experience that may be fun enough for the individual, but without those unique, unpredictable flashes that make recounting the experience to others interesting.

  It's only natural that as most games have moved toward a painstakingly streamlined, heavily-guided game experience, that bloggers would find less incentive to talk about it. Generic gameplay info and reviews are better presented via YouTube videos and fan forums. Individual dialogues on a specific game or essays about one's adventures in it are harder to present in a unique or interesting way. The fact seems to be that there are now thousands of perfectly adequate MMOGs out there lately, but few that are worth regularly blogging about.

Related Reading:  The Blogs Reflect the Genre
                          Retro Servers and the Light at the End of the Tunnel
                          I Don't Care What You're Doing In Your MMO