No, not that Ownership Society, arguably a significant part of the psychology behind the housing boom and bust (and other problems in the economy). I’m talking once again about MMOs and video games. In an age of great sales via digital distribution, subscription games and ever dwindling PC game sections in stores, the landscape of game ownership is varied and interesting.
I’ve written about this sort of thing before, but Gordon over at We Fly Spitfires is my reference this time:
I wholly agree that character customization is a significant part of giving players some ownership in a game. That’s a big part of establishing a relationship that the player wants to maintain, maybe even at the cost of a subscription.
What interests me is the cognitive dissonance between giving players ownership, all while running what amounts to a lease, wherein once the monthly cash drip is pinched off, ownership dissolves.
Of course, as in the discussions that inevitably come up about difficulty, it’s been noted that players don’t really want difficulty, they want the illusion of difficulty, and a pat on the back or some loot. So, what do players really want from their characters? What do players really want from their gaming dollars?
I don’t think there’s any one right answer. (Yes, that’s an obvious statement, but I do feel it needs to be noted. Challenging the status quo of MMO design is sort of a hobby of mine.)
I just know that for me, ownership of a game is much more than customizing a character. I want to play it whenever I want, however long I want, without incurring a cost to do so. I’m happy to pay for a game I like (as my wife will attest to… like Andrew, I probably have more games than time to play them). I don’t want to lease a game.
Likewise, ownership of a character in a game is much more to me than picking a class at creation and mucking around with talent trees. I want more out of my gaming time than conforming to a dev’s script. I’ve written about this before, and likely will again.
Perhaps it’s not so much that I want a sandbox game, but rather, I want a sandman character. I don’t mind some structure to my games (after all, a sandbox is still a box, and you can’t think outside of it until you know where it ends), but I want to have flexibility in how I approach the game’s challenges. I want to really own my approach to the game, to leave my stamp on the experience. Not because I want bragging rights, but because it’s simply more fun to me to do things my way. I want to make my own memories, tell my own story, and have my own fun.
Because, well, that’s what I want for my money.