Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Table in the Round - MOGsball

The Round Table asks how MOGs (massively multiplayer online games) are like single-player games.

The idea being, I suppose, that highly-connected games should utilize some kind of wild and innovative new system. So why don't they?

I can see the value in asking what kind of new play structures might be created. But I also can't help but be a little cynical. What makes MOGs so different? Shouldn't they look like single-player games? In other words, don't all kinds of games look like games?

Well, either way, Corvus makes a good case. And pretty much nails why it so often feels like I'm all by myself when I'm online with thousands.

But here's my case:

WoW is a Sports game.

Or, rather, WoW play most resembles a sport. A highly-mutable sport with varying goal conditions.

Consider. There is no real win condition, no final boss, no end. Why can't you beat the game? Isn't that like asking why you can't "beat" tennis or golf? People play and play those games; They seem unconcerned with closure of the game state. But in MOGs there are often calls to "fix" their open-ended natures. In fact, it seems that this hankering for finality is a prejudice carried over from single-player games.

Consider. People who play endlessly compare their stats. "My +int bonus is twice my base int." "What's your crit rating?" They talk about the best gear. Discussing daggers versus maces may as well be wooden bats versus metal. Talent builds are swapped and compared and debated.

Consider. You can face off in one-on-one matches. Or you group up, form a team with varying strengths. Everyone has a position. Tactics are refined. Sometimes a group just gets in "the zone" and tears through mobs. Other times it seems like an instant wipe.

Grinding is like training, pushing through in order to get to a level competitive enough for a specific challenge. Right now I'm trying to make 35 so I can continue leveling my cooking and first aid.

Like many sports, the players end up setting personal goals within the framework provided by the rules and overall play structure. A ballplayer might try not to miss any games. A fencer might look to medal in all three weapons. Likewise, an Eve player might try to start a multi-billion ISK corporation. A City of Heroes player might try to organize a Hamidon raid.

Instance runs are like Championship games.

A 40-man raid is like the Super Bowl.

Other people provide motivation for your own advancement. Watching a character ride off on a mount makes me want my own mount. This is no different than a bunch of weightlifters in a gym pumping iron because they want to be as good as the next person.

WoW Battlegrounds or Dark Age of Camelot's Realm v. Realm play are just more explicit extensions of the already-existent sports structure. Sport within a sports model, you might say.

There are many more examples. Depending on your job, WoW conversation might replace the seasonal sports talk. I know it does in my office. I've had talks about outfitting and spec'ing my Priest that are just as in-depth as a training regimen for marathon runners. I've seen people argue Horde versus Alliance just as passionately as any soccer rivalry.

That's the paradigm I apply to MOGs.

If you change the way you look at the game, maybe it can shed some light on how to change the game itself.

So does the sports metaphor work for anyone else?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sports metaphors, eh? Sort of how you like to juke left when faced with a Round Table topic? Well, at least you always get to home base with your discus. *kniw*

Not being a sports fan, I find comparing anything to a sport to be a bit of an anemic metaphor. That doesn't mean it isn't accurate, just personally unfulfilling. Of course, ultimately unfulfilling is how I'd describe MOGs, so it's a valid comparison I suppose. It would also explain why so man people seem to like the gameplay which leaves me rather cold.

Incidently, I'm glad you use the Round Table as a launching point rather than a restrictive force. After all, sometimes you just have to slap the goalie and dig for the net!