Sep 23, 2009

[The Dark Side of Happy Memories]

MMOCrunch has a breakdown of the archetypes of forum whiners on MMO boards. I'm sure we've all seen iterations of these people (or been one of them ourselves) in many games. His description of 'Whiner Type #4' is a counterpoint to my previous post on MMO memories, in that it shows what happens when 'nostalgia goes bad':

"This is someone who mentions their old games because they are desperately trying to recapture their experience with that “magic” MMO… which is typically the first MMO they played that actually hooked them. Now, they miserably shamble from game to game, almost enjoying them, but never quite getting the high they got from THAT game, which ultimately leads them to complain about THIS game. I have a friend for which City of Heroes was his first game and it was quite an experience for him. Now, no game can ever come close, so even though he is bored to tears with CoH, he can’t really get into other games because they don’t compare to the mythologized version of CoH he has playing in his head.
Of course, the irony here is that no game exists that can compete with that first game… not even that first game. Once you cut away that thick coating of nostalgia, most of these folks would go back to their perfect game, quit after a week, and post on the forums about how the game they remember had been ruined by some phantom patch. In reality their love for their game was based less on mechanics and more on the novelty of the MMO experience."

In other words, this is the kind of person who is confused about what they loved about their MMORPG experience. They can never recapture that 'magic', because the magic is in the PEOPLE and COMMUNITY more than in the game mechanics. Unless the appropriate investment is made by them to interact with people positively and build their own community in a new game, they will claim the game 'has no soul' or 'is lacking some hook' and will quickly grow disillusioned. Such people are stuck in an endless cycle of trying to find a GAME that inspires the kind of feelings in them that only other PEOPLE can create. They're related to the 'MMO Burnout', who hates all new games that are not similar enough to their preferred game while hating any game that is TOO MUCH like that game because "it's just a clone." It's a recipe for perpetual disappointment.

[The Good Old Days]

Gestalt Mind takes us back to his first memories of EQ and how they revisit him to this day.

Your first MMORPG really does seem 'magical' when you look back on it, doesn't it? Stepping out as a freshly-minted newbie in a world that seems so big and strange and cool, and your first days exploring and learning all about it. Halcyon days, those were! I think that's seriously why WoW has that affect on so many people -- the affection of your first MMO stays strong for a long time.

It's WoW's fifth anniversary, and I've been in Azeroth from day one on the same server in the same guild -- I've seen many changes both ingame and 'IRL' across these five years. It's kind of overwhelming to look back and realize how many memories and adventures I've had in this one game with the same group of people. Some of those people left long ago, but others are still there and still going strong. I stepped away for other games several times, but always came back to WoW in the end. So many memories and friends are hard to make a break from. But those games showed me, a newbie MMORPG-player, other ways of playing and other types of communities. They helped me discover my 'true playing style' and affected my view of what the 'perfect MMORPG' would be. It's a testament to how important I think free trials are, imo. =P

I don't know if I'll be coming back to Azeroth anytime soon. But I will never be able to look back on it without affection born from many happy memories of playing with great people. In the end, they're what make MMORPGs so special and so lasting in our minds, regardless of whether it was WoW, EQ, or any other game. That's the reason we take pictures of our guild's first kills -- not to brag and show off to others (though many do) but so we can look back and remember how exciting it was, and who was there with us when all that group preparation and effort has paid off. And THAT feeling is the true magic of MMORPGs.

Above is a shot of my guild's first Magmadar kill, way back in the MC era. Many folks in that pic that no longer play WoW, but I still recognize their avatars. Those were good times with good folks. =)