Monday, September 10, 2012

Hi. MMORPGs are not games. (Part 2 of that other post)

at 12:49 AM
Well, that is that they don't belong to the video game medium as an artistic or entertainment pursuit. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with MMOers, except that they have autism, I'm just saying that calling them "gamers" is the equivalent of using that term to describe a little league baseball coach or a bowling enthusiast.

I think I've gone on record before as saying that masturbatory competitive headset-a-thons don't have anything to contribute to the experience of gaming. Actually, you can think of this as part two of my previous post about "games to experience" versus "games to I actually don't remember the other term I used". That post was pretty poorly put together and abandoned halfway-through because I didn't like that attack, so let's try again.

Let me give you a better metaphor. You know what movies are, right? Films? Motion pictures? Steve Spielberg? Okay. Now do you know what sports matches are? Baseball, football, hockey games? Olympics? Your answer should be yes. If not, go to jail. Now let me pose a question to you:

Is a football game a movie?
Well, it's a very boring subject for one.
Of course it isn't; each individual football game is meant to be undergone once in a lifetime and never again. It does not compose a continuous experience stored in one's brain, it simply leaves a single fact or handful thereof - essentially, who won? Every match contains events that will be repeated time and again throughout the collective entertainment medium of "football". There is no greater value in watching one game over another, except perhaps a favored contender or a weighty outcome. They contribute to the larger esoteric notion of a season or career and their worth is determined by how they fit into that continuum.

By contrast, a movie is built from scratch, with no pre-existing conditions or permanent outcomes. I'm presenting this contrast as black and white just to make the argument simpler, but don't think I'm unaware that this is an extreme. Like sports, movies can revolve around their contribution to a participant's career, they are often built around an exact framework with only minor deviations, and they may derive their draw solely from the inclusion of a popular intellectual property or famous actor. They CAN. Many DO - as a matter of fact, MOST do. At least the ones you're going to see with a wide theatrical release in the year 2012. These particular films are very much the equivalent of sports; your Bourne Hard 7 or Star Wars Episode -1. The point I'm making is that they don't have to be. There are and (hopefully) always will be those movies that attempt to make a creative statement and to be original. There are NOT football games that do this, because football games aren't meant to interact with an audience, they're meant to follow a predetermined set of rules and expectations.

So I guess at this point it seems like I'm coming down pretty hard on sports, like I probably hate them. That's not at all the case; I'm an international soccer follower and a fair-weather Orioles and Ravens fan. I can only take so much, but you better believe I can get into a match. All I want to establish is that there are multiple kinds of experiences available in the same basic format: a television screen.

Now that I've spent a million years on that detour, I kind of just want you to conclude the rest of my argument for me. That's what a good writer does, isn't it? Can you see why 'real' games are like movies and MMORPGs or multiplayer FPSs are like sports? Call of Duty can be basketball, Battlefield can be baseball, and Counterstrike can be ping-pong, because does anyone take Counterstrike seriously? Or swap those out for WoW, Guild Wars, and The Old Republic. Well, give it a try, and maybe I'll come back someday and finish my thought.

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