Thursday, October 28, 2010

The End justifies the (e)Peens

If you asked a room of 50 people what the meaning or purpose of life is, the only answer you'd get more than once is "I don't know".   We didn't get a manual for our existence, we don’t definitively know what we’re supposed to do or if we’re doing the right things.  There is no clear definition of how to Win at life.  Most of us settle into what makes us happy and consider ourselves minor victors, but even still we’ll never reach that point where someone tells us: “You’ve won” (though we will all hear Game Over).

I believe this ambiguous purpose of existence –and I do mean ambiguous, not nonexistent- is one of the main drivers behind our attraction to games.  Games have clearly defined victory conditions, you know exactly what you have to do and how you can win.  They are –by mutual consent between developer and player- viewed as entire universes, separate realities, but the main difference isn’t the type of reality or its content.  The greatest difference is that you can achieve the ultimate victory within that reality, and you know how.  This is perhaps the true escapism we seek, not hacking trolls with a sword or shooting terrorists or racing our dream car, its being able to definitively achieve ultimate victory and completion of an entire existence.

And that is the exact problem with MMORPG’s.  Millions of people playing WoW for half a decade, and how many have Won? None.  The game doesn’t end.  Everything can be repeated, nothing changes as a result of your actions, and there is no end in sight. We opine that the problem with Endgame comes from the mathematical impossibility of Developers creating content as faster as players can consume it, but what if it’s the opposite?  What if the very promise of future content and further challenges is what cheapens the present content?  The excitement and accomplishment you felt when you killed the Lich King may have been 99% unencumbered, but at least a small part of you knew, this is not the end, I have not won forever, this is not how the world ends.

1 comment:

  1. If the game ended, it would only throw the subscription model into sharper relief. It works by staying under the radar, becoming a habit. If the game ended, suddenly it makes a lot more sense to monetize it like Guild Wars, as a game that has a beginning, middle and end (which is better for storytelling, incidentally). The endless treadmill is the whole point of the game; that's how they make the money.

    I'd love an MMO that ends and that I could buy with a single purchase an no other fees. I'd prefer the ending be a point in the story, though, rather than "oh, look, we're shutting down".