Tobold linked to an interesting article in The New York Times a couple of days ago, wherein “hardcore” marathon runners are rather dismissive of slower runners:
It’s an interesting take on things, but fundamentally flawed when it comes to gaming. At least, for some players.
To wit, not everyone cares about the rat race. (Link to Ysharros’ great article on gaming principles.)
Yes, in an era of Facebook, XBox Achievements and Blizzard’s new battle.net services, where players are competitors first, pride provokes participation, and ego is the raison d’être, the tacit assumption is that the biggest reason for playing is so that others know about it. This isn’t a surprise, but it is unfortunate. Gaming becomes less about the game itself, great game design, or even fantastic experiences, and simply becomes a way for nerds to feel like jocks.
This has all sorts of deleterious effects on sociality (the infamous Counterstrike “emotes” being an easy example) and game design (MMOs reveling in the rut of racing rats on treadmills, idiotic “achievements” that detract from gameplay). To be sure, some of this comes from reflexively being the contemptuous, confrontational CroMagnon cretins we are when internet anonymity facilitates and magnifies stupidity, but more and more, games are built around this impulse. It’s certainly profitable, but more and more, I find such a trend to be disturbing.
Perhaps there’s no going back to more innocent times when games were things to enjoy, not work at for the equivalent of a part time job that costs you money. There may not be a way to stuff the Gamer Score Genie back in the bottle. Pandora’s preening peacocks are noisy, obnoxious beasts, but we’re stuck with them. I think that it is unfortunate that they have such a significant bully platform, but perhaps that’s just the inevitable result of a society that manages to grow old without growing up.
Still, I’m sitting out this rat race. I still find much more joy in the journey than I ever would by finishing it before someone else. I don’t need someone else to feel superior to so that I can have fun in a game.
The “marathon to MMO” analogy works with the business model fairly well, though. People buy their entry tickets, and start running. They aren’t charged for each hour they run, or even for each mile they run, and they certainly don’t buy perpetual access to the route. They buy access to the complete route for a chunk of time, after which said access is summarily cut off. Is it any wonder why both the elitists and the hosts are troubled when these slower runners don’t play by the same unwritten expectations? It’s the exact same mentality as those who say that a subscription to an MMO is a “level playing field”. It certainly is, if you’re only looking at a couple of variables and assuming the rest, blithely ignorant of diverse goals. (To be fair, there isn’t financial impetus to acknowledge diversity. “One size fits all” pricing doesn’t have room for that sort of reasoning.) Slower runners don’t fit the mold, and will always be a problem for the race mentality, even though the administrators are more than happy to take their money.
Of course, such runners would often be better served by not buying into the marathon in the first place, if it’s just a race. Notably and naturally, I don’t buy into subscription games. My money would be wasted on such, since the nature of the beast runs contrary to what I want out of a game. Such oddball souls as I are better served by running at their own pace along the marathon path when it’s open to the public (GASP, Free To Play!), maybe buying lunch along the way (GASP! Freeloaders actually spending money in an environment!). Importantly, people who feel welcome have a tendency to return the goodwill, even if they aren’t running the race that the elitists define their existence by. (I cite again Daniel James of Three Rings/Puzzle Pirates fame: “Money can’t buy you love, but love can bring you money.” …as a Brit, I wonder if he was influenced by the Fab Four.)
Different strokes for different folks, to be sure, but in the end:
Not everyone is interested in the race. Some are only interested in the route and the roses along the way.
These people are not “doing it wrong”, they are not misguided souls in need of correction, rehabilitation and scorn, they are not denigrating the sport/game. If you as a game or marathon provider let them in and take their money, they are your customer. If you don’t want your experience soiled with their presence, don’t take their money and don’t let them in.
Fortune cookie version for the TL;DR crowd:
“He who dies with the most toys still dies“, “First means nothing without second“, and “It’s hard to smell the roses when you’re running at top speed“