Changing Times, Changing Gamer

Changing Times, Changing Gamer

I’ve had a draft kicking around for a while now aiming to explore how I’ve changed as a gamer over time. But as this post sort of ambled it’s way through my mind I could never quite grasp the full form of it. Originally I thought it might focus on my change over time (in the MMO-world, at least) from being an absolute carebear to PvP evangelist to somewhere in the middle.

That’s something I certainly still want to explore but reading through both Bhagpuss’ ‘All Aboard for Funtime’ and then only a little later Pete’s ‘Playing Just Because It’s Fun’… Well, it occurred to me just how large a subject this actually is.

Complicating this further is that more than once I’ve found that my actual preferences in games had shifted, consciously unbeknownst to me, and became something different to my stated (and at some level, still believed) preferences. The PvP evangelist back to more of a PvE-leaning player was certainly an example of this.

Further, separating what has been an internally driven change in my preferences vs. what has been driven by the market might not be a task I can even do.

The Need for Persistence

Somewhere along the way, though, I started to require something more from games in order to feel satisfied by them. Some reward. Just playing isn’t enough. It might be gaining levels or earning loot. It might be unlocking Achievements.

I don’t like this about myself very much.

Pete (2019), Playing Just Because It’s Fun (Dragonchasers)

The added emphasis is mine — it struck a chord with me. I think because even though I don’t view this need as a bad thing myself, there have been other changes that once I became consciously aware of them I did feel a need to somehow reconcile them with myself.

What I hear in Pete’s article is a desire for permanence. For some degree of persistence and recognition to what has gone before. There could well be more to it, or I may have an entirely different set of gaming motivators from Pete and missed his mark completely.

But it lead me to make the following comment, which I don’t think I can materially rewrite in any better a form, so I’ll copy here with a small amount of tidy up for reference:

I remember being perfectly happy playing completely static and unchanging from round-to-round FPS’ like Quake World: Team Fortress back in the day.

…Right up until I got my first taste of an MMO. Which for me was Asheron’s Call. Many things about AC blew my young mind, but not the least of it was that I could log out and come back later and carry on building from where I was. What a concept!

When this started finding its way into FPS titles like the Battlefield series, a sort of unholy melding of round-to-round play but with persistent ranks and unlocks, I knew I could never go back to a completely static game environment.

I think what this offers us is a sense that what we’ve done matters. At the end of the day, it might still have ‘just been a game’ but there is something a little more tangible than time spent to point at and say, ‘I did that’.

Evolution of Taste and Tolerance

Bhagpuss spoke to the change over time in his desire for a realistic, weather matters, food matters, weight while swimming matters, low-magic RPG where there was narry a hint of rivaling God’s or Dragon’s, to being able to let go and buy into the trappings of the more standard RPG fare where power-spikes of the players lead to such encounters becoming relatively common place.

“I was paying far more attention to whether I was enjoying myself than whether I ought to be. It turns out that being powerful and winning all the time is fun.”

Bhagpuss (2019), All Aboard for Funtime (Inventory Full)

The journey is one I can relate to as I have been through the same, albeit over a relatively shorter period of time.

My tolerance for demanding games has dwindled to near zero. But I suppose I should clarify ‘demanding’ in this context. Because I’m still all for challenge in games. I’m good with beating my head against a raid boss for several hours a night with friends, and in a similar vein I’m perfectly happy to play through titles like Dark Souls that have the potential at least, to be rather punishing of poor play.

But I simply will not sit through another game that demands that I eat and drink every 60 seconds. And looping back to my straying away from PvP evangelism? There was a time when I was all for the full-loot, winner takes all style of Asheron’s Call: Darktide. I loved the concepts of base-building (and loss) of Shadowbane and Darkfall. Territory control in EVE was an amazing draw.

Now I can be easily frustrated if a player in PvP manages to dislodge me from a quest or hunting spot, even if there is no other real consequence.

This was one of the changes in myself that I had trouble with. I couldn’t with any certainty finger-point at a specific time, place or reason for this change in myself and what I wanted out of a game.

It might’ve been the disappointing executions of both Shadowbane and Darkfall. It might have been the then result of being more open to trying WoW and its relatively light implementation of world-PvP.

I don’t know, but I do know that when I realised it, that I couldn’t really tolerate my own previously-preferred style of play any more, that I felt quite like a fraud. There I had been espousing the virtues of such PvP implementations. The player-stories they offered, the increased power and meaning of social interactions through the steadfast allies and deadly nemesis’ you’d come to find… And I’d lost the will to engage with it?

I think in some ways I might even still be looking for the answer to what happened there. There is some part of me that would like to be back in that world — but it just isn’t me any more.

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8 thoughts on “Changing Times, Changing Gamer”

  1. I have a series of old posts about PVP where the problem with it is the relative power curve in PVP games (that have MMO roots). The base argument was that the current PVP power structure is that a level 60 in WoW (for example) could kill 5000 level 1s (or indefinite). Imagine if the sum of levels was balanced in PVP? That 6 level 10s could give that level 60 a good fight? or 2 level 30s? or a level 45 and a level 15? The balance was never there in the MMO – PVP games I tried to enjoy it was just a high level gankfest which is only fun if you are the high level.

    There is a lot of “virtue” arguments in games and what constitutes a fully complete game versus an incomplete game. For me it all comes down to if I am having fun or not. Which is how I dropped money on Landmark (and loved all my time there, wish it was still here!) while others were angry that it was a lost leader cash grab. The preferences are so different from person to person we will never, every find that sweet spot.

    I also have a post about AAA games, which was short, and sweet, and really relevant. It’s a self-determined rating without any unbiased measures – studio stock price? Price to create? etc.

    Gamers will never agree on anything as a big group, but there are enough echo chambers to help them think that what they think and feel is right.

    • I’ll do some searches on your blog and see if I can find them later. :)

      The power-curve in MMOs has certainly been an issue, especially for games like WoW. Some other titles have handled it in various ways.

      Asheron’s Call’s power curve flattened out fairly significantly later on. Sure, a level 1 would nigh always be rolled by anything level 10 or higher, but a level 50-60 could stand against an 80, and 80 could standard against a level 120.

      The higher level would have an edge to be sure, as I think, should be the case. But it wasn’t a decided done-deal before the combat even started.

      EVE took a different path, in making newer players useful in fleet battles as long as they focused somewhat. Also, length of play in EVE equated to a bigger tool-box of skills, more ship types you could pilot, etc. But there were only so many effective skill-points you could have within a single ship, so it wasn’t too bad to ‘catch-up’ to a competitive level.

      In terms of Virtue — I agree with you on the most important measure being whether you’re personally having fun or not.

      My use of the term in this post was meant more along the lines of, ‘By power of having PvP…’ then you could have more meaningful social interactions, territory control became a new emergent aspect of the game, etc. Rather than to say I thought that PvP itself was necessarily virtuous.

  2. Ahh the question of persistence and progress.

    For me, this is tied to age. Younger me took more risks, but they were risks with much less impact. Older me takes less risks, but the choices themselves have a much larger impact. The whole concept of risk/reward has been re-wired in my brain.

    That combined with the experimentation phase of youth, when you’re still trying to find footing, and what makes you tick. We’re much more apt to try new experiences, and if they go south, no big deal, onto the next. Nowdays, I know exactly what I like and prefer to stay in that comfort zone.

    Finally the concept of time. Younger me had a whole lot more of it. Piles of it. Today, I have a job that keeps me busy during the daytime, and many evenings weekends are planned out weeks ahead. I don’t need a new tie as a gift, I need the gift of free time. Because I value time so highly, what I do with that time, and the return on that is of greater value.

    Quite an interesting topic.

    • Maybe you’ve hit the nail on the head with this one, that at least one of the driving factors for this change, if not perhaps the biggest one is changing life-conditions.

      When I was heavily into full-scale PvP I certainly had a lot more time on my hands. No kids, a job that ended in my thoughts when I walked out the door — or earlier still, no job to worry about at all! Oh how I wished for School to be done with. … what a fool I was. ;)

  3. Here’s my question about your first section on persistence: Is what you’ve done in an MMO still tangible and significant if the game shuts down?

    • A really good question. The first one that came to me is, “Does it matter after you’ve stopped playing?”

      When I was younger, the answer was a fairly definitive ‘No’. The persistence was important for continued motivation to play, but once I was done — eh.

      Of course that may’ve been quite different had those two events overlap. If I was still playing at the end of an MMO’s life, even back then I would have wanted to some how commemorate the time that had come before. But the motivation then would have been slightly different, I think.

      More sentimental in nature, perhaps.

      Now, even though it wasn’t one of my original conscious thoughts for returning to blogging, when I read Wilhelm’s about page on TAGN and his desire to create a record, a history of things, I was fairly shocked at how well that resonated.

      I’ve blogged before, and I’ve been sad at the near loss of those times (thanks to the web archive project, it isn’t as complete as it once would have been). Heck, even just forum posts from the past.

      Still I didn’t put the things together on my own. xD

  4. This is turning out to be a very interesting discussion across a number of blogs. It gets right to the heart of what seems to be a very widespread current concern, namely “whither gaming?”. I think quite a lot of people who’ve been gaming for a long time are begining to question and re-assess their motivations and what the hobby is doing for – and to – them.

    That’s a big turnaround. For the longest time it was non-gamers asking those questions, usually in mystified, outraged or dismayed tones. Now the questioning is coming from within. I must say I don’t really recall seeing much of this kind of self-interrogation from lifelong, habitual moviegoers, music fans or fiction readers, for example. I think all of these activities and pastimes could stand considerably more rigorous self-examination than they tend to get, rather than being treated as unquestioned universal goods.

    I’m not sure how far the discussion will get. It’s a topic that fully justifies funded academic research rather a few blog posts, but is fascinating as far it goes.

    • A longitudinal study of gamer attitudes and preferences would be fascinating. I don’t know if the interest is there though yet, beyond what ‘screen time’ more generally does to developing minds.

      There is more to this than I was able to cover in this post too though, a shift in attitude (or rather, a DESIRE to shift in attitude, to some extent) from that of a more hardcore gamer to one of being able to enjoy a more casual play style, for example.

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