MMOs are not dead because people aren’t forced to group or because people can’t commit 18 hours to camping a spawn anymore. MMOs are dying because the generation that loved them is growing up, had kids, and generally has other things to do. The newer generation visits MMOs but doesn’t live in them the way we did.
Maybe it’s time for a new paradigm in online gaming.*
I posted this as a comment on Facebook earlier today and am wondering if maybe I hit a nail on the head, at least as far as my own MMO experience goes. I play them, but I don’t live them anymore like I used to; and even then, I don’t play them nearly as much as I think I’d like to.
(It’s like the person who keeps waiting for that other person to call because they said they would, but they haven’t yet and it’s been 3 weeks. If that person wanted to call they’d have done so by now. We make time for the things we find important.)
I still call myself a gamer, I still keep a bunch of games around, and I even keep some of them up to date, but I don’t really actually play all that much. I do way more thinking about gaming and talking about gaming than actual gaming, and even the thinking and talking are down to an all-time low compared to, say, 2009 and the heyday of this blog. (Man, time really flies.)
I suspect MMOs will end up being a mere blip on the evolutionary landscape of whatever gaming is turning into, because whatever it becomes it’s clear gaming itself isn’t going to go away anytime soon — it just probably won’t look like what the dinosaurs from the turn of the millennium think it should or would.
In the meantime I’m downloading The Elder Scrolls Online again, mostly because of this fascinating article that a friend linked on Facebook and that led to the above-mentioned comment. Sometimes MMOs are a cynical labour of trying to screw as much money out of people as possible, and sometimes they’re a hopeless labour of love, but they’re almost always made by at least a few people who are literally pouring themselves into something that usually doesn’t have a whole lot of chances of succeeding, or not for any length of time. And when someone cares that much, it makes me want to take another look at a game I tried and cavalierly abandoned after a few weeks — not because it was awful, but because it didn’t galvanise me the way Asheron’s Call and the early MMOs did.
The problem is, no game can. One can’t go back. Maybe it’s time for me to admit that, move on, and find my own new paradigm.
PS: Yes, I’m still mad at World of Warcraft.