If you’re my brother in law or my “RL” friend, don’t read the rest of this until after Christmas. It’ll just spoil the surprise. Of course, if you don’t mind that…I’ve recently purchased three more copies of Guild Wars. (Thanks, Amazon and Black Friday! $5 for the Game of the Year edition was a steal!) One will go to my wife who has expressed interest in playing with me (it’s still a bit bizarre to me, but I’m grateful). One will go to my friend who lives a few miles away. The other will go to my brother in law who lives a couple hundred miles away.
These are people that I would love to keep in touch with, and gaming has been a part of our shared history back in the good old carefree days. My friend and I would play things like Smash Brothers for hours every week, and my brother in law and I thoroughyl enjoyed our StarCraft LAN parties. My wife wasn’t nearly the gamer that any of us guys were, but she does like games to a degree, and I deeply appreciate that she wants to share time with me.
My brother in law is just so far away, and my friend and I don’t often have matching schedules, especially where I have two little ones. He and I have played Puzzle Pirates often enough that I think there’s a precedent to try another online game for those times when we can’t just get together and hang out.
If it were an option, I’d actually try to get them into WoW via this sort of mechanism: Private Servers. (Yes, Chris, I love the idea, and will link to it whenever appropriate.) I like both WoW and Guild Wars. I think that we’d probably have more fun with WoW, but the business model and stupid online gits put me off into GW territory. I like that GW is largely instanced. I only have to deal with random idiots in towns and outposts. If I could get a legal private server of WoW, especially if it were only a one-shot “database snapshot” version (there’s plenty of content in vanilla WoW for my purposes) with concurrent one-shot fee, I’d pony up the price in an instant. Heck, I’d get a server computer station and host the dang thing myself. (Yes, I know that’s what pirates do. I want to do it legit, and give Blizzard money for the right to do so.)
So why play an online game when I dislike most of the players and most “massive multiplayer” mechanics? One, the game mechanics are interesting for the designer in me. Two, the games are fun to play. Three, I like seeing what is big in the industry, even if it’s not my type of game. Four, and the point of this particular post, I can play with friends and family in remote locations. As we grow up and spread out (geographically, though sadly the waistline could apply too), it’s nice to keep in touch. Games have been part of our lives, so it makes sense to use them to maintain good relationships.
That, to me, is why I sprung for three more copies of a game that I’ve been hesitant to play for years. (Beside the whole “no subscription fees” bit and stellar price.) I’m using the game as a tool to maintain good social ties that already exist. Sure, I’ve made a few friends in Puzzle Pirates (hello, Pletoo, Fivestars, Fattyhaha, Phoenix Warriors, Nasty Drunks, Phillite and Nordenx!), and met a fascinating young person in GW the other evening (an aspiring game designer; always a treat to talk to someone serious about the game, rather than another leet speaking idiot)… but this is different. It’s not something that I’ve thought of before, and I’m a bit surprised that I didn’t.
Here’s hoping that it works. In a world of Facebook, GoodReads and MySpace, I’m looking forward to something with a little more meat to it than a stream of consciousness social network. That GW itself is actually fun to play and pretty to look at are certainly part of the bargain, but I’m hoping the shared efforts in a grand questline might just be worth more than digital loot.
That, to me, is part of the true promise of the MMO genre. They are more than just StarCraft online, more than the Sims Online, more than Facebook, more than a tired old DIKU treadmill. At least… I hope they are. I guess we’ll see.