A Matter of Time

Time is a funny thing. It never stops, it creates change in our surroundings and our perceptions, and it allows us to create memories (the past) and dreams (the future). When it comes to gaming, time is a finite resource, one that any gamer knows is hard to spread around.

In my early gaming days, I had more time on my hands. This was due in part to having either no school/work to attend to (very early years), or only having school and a few chores that didn’t eat up too much of it. As a result, I had many hours a day to devote to gaming. Unfortunately, not having an income hindered my ability to buy new games, so the small library on hand was it, at least until the next holiday or surprise gift.

I started off with platformers, arcade titles, beat-em-ups, shoot-em-ups, and that sort of thing. Those games either kept you playing because they had an insane difficulty that caused you to start over from the beginning repeatedly until you got good enough (memorized patterns) to finally complete them. Or, they didn’t really have an end, just a high-score chase. Later, I would move on to RPGs and games with more depth, where beating the game didn’t mean it was over, or it took a lot longer to complete. 60+ hours was a long time in my young mind. Even still, I remember when an RPG would come to an end and I would wish that it would keep going forever. I didn’t want it to be over, I wanted to stay wrapped up in its world. I also eventually got a job and had a little more disposable income to allow for the purchase of new games. This was still done at a brick and mortar though, and wasn’t done very often.

Enter the age of MMOs. Games designed to not only be a huge time sink, but also designed to theoretically go on forever. They also came at a time when spending $50-60 on a box was the only money you had to spend, but with those games having an end, meaning you had to continuously buy new games to stay entertained. This meant that playing an MMO would actually save you money, because $15/month is a lot less than even buying one new box per month. Many people (myself included) stopped buying new games, and simply paid the $15/month to have everlasting content. The single player and small multiplayer market took notice and started adding on parts to their games that would give you that endless feel, while still churning out new games designed to get that $50-60 from you more often.

Today we have a mixture of all three. There are single player and small multiplayer games that have a single cost, and have an ending. There are multiplayer lobby games like Call of Duty (and many other iterations) and MOBAs that don’t have an end, and are designed to be repetitive but still different because of variables (different characters/builds, every match is different regardless of if the rules are the same each time). Finally there are MMOs, who are still designed to be “forever” but do have an end dependent on your playstyle. Most of you understand this history and the market in general, so I’ll get back to my main point.

When I was young, I played simple games and then desired complexity. When I got the complexity, I desired continuity. When I got continuity, I ended up bored. Now I desire simple complexity. Does that make sense? I have come full circle. I more often than not enjoy games that can be played in small bursts, that don’t take up as much of my time, so that I can experience many different titles in a shorter amount of time. The depth that comes with and the commitment required for serious MMO play doesn’t vibe as well with me. I know that you can still make progress in those games with only an hour or two a day, but you alienate yourself from the crowd you used to be a part of, the hardcore who actually make it to end game and progress in a way that had become the norm. The norm seems to have shifted, and it’s not new generations that caused it, it’s my generation. The ones who were there at the start and have seen all of this come to pass. We’re the ones who no longer devote all that time to just one game. Who want smaller scale games that we can complete and enjoy and then move onto another. This is a generalization of course, but it’s how I see it.

When I had all the time in the world, I wanted something else. When I had less time, my values changed. Somewhere along the line, I’ve become a nomad, a sampler. I still complete single player games. I still play multiplayer MOBAs and Death-match style games. I still play MMOs. But I don’t commit to anything for long periods of time anymore. I still don’t understand how I played only one game (for the most part) for over two years. I remember being completely content with that choice too. Now I feel overwhelmed by the options, and the desire to try everything. I might not like it and move on, I might like it and not finish it for a long time. I guess the only part that matters is if I’m having fun, and I’m definitely having fun all of the time. I just don’t understand how it has come to this.

I talk about the future of MMOs and what I’d like to see. I get hyped for new games coming out. But when it comes down to it, will there ever be another MMO that I’ll play exclusively for a number of years? I somehow doubt it. I guess I’ve become a filthy casual. But I still have a hardcore mind.

#blaugust #perception #casualvshardcore