How Massively Multi-Player Online Games Have Affected the Gaming Industry

24 04 2009

A small re-write of my article on online multi-player games.


It is quite amazing how far gaming has come over the last twenty years or so. What was once a field full of arcade shooters, platformers, and side-scrolling adventures, is now populated by first-person shooters, yearly sports titles, and of course, MMOGs. The most popular of the MMOG genre is the MMORPG, which is an online role-playing game where thousands of people collaborate together in an online world. At first, the genre seemed like any other, but the concept of online play has definitely put the MMORPG into its own classified area of video gaming. Role-playing itself is very addicting, but adding a live virtual world full of real people definitely adds to that addiction. It is a genre that can lead to dangerous happenings if not managed correctly, and is a genre that truly has affected the gaming industry; both in a good and bad way.

Now we see the positives of a fun online world where players can consistently play together, but there are some problems with the genre. First off, the most glaring weakness in the game-play is the repetition or “grind” factor. Ever wonder why people play these games for such a long period of time? It is because the character progression is that of a level-based system. Every level requires a certain amount of experience points to advance to the next one, with new monsters, items, and objective along the way. Combat is generally very simplistic, requiring only one or two unique attacks to dispatch foes. While this might not sound so bad, the problem is that you will have to kill hundreds or even thousands of these same type of monsters to continue gaining more power. And after a while that progression will feel like trudging through a swamp based on the extremely slow pace.

Yet people continually pump out monthly fee after monthly fee, primarily due to their addiction to their virtual character or “avatar.” This is bad for the gaming industry in a way, because these same people will neglect other games. Based on previous experience, I can safely say that when you are involved in an MMORPG, you will not bother with any other game. No matter what the quality of console single-player games that emerge, you will be so addicted to that online world that every other game will feel awkward by comparison. Does this mean the MMOG game is perfect and has no flaws? The answer is no. The games in this genre are probably more flawed than any other genre. Repetitive combat, lack of good music, and mediocre graphics are usually the culprits, and one would think just how these people can play these games for so long. The answer is simply mental . . . a mental addiction.

No matter the case, MMORPGs effect on the genre has been good in that it has pushed the bar for future online games. Yet at the same time bad because of the attention it draws from other quality titles in different genres. Online gaming uses tempting lures like free trials and invite-a-friend to get you into their world, where they then hook you with the bait. Online gaming is a continual “carrot on a stick” facade that keeps you playing with additional content; giving you the expectation that you will one day get the best gear and become the most powerful player. However, it is all for naught. Online games are a huge time sink and are not really worth the money and effort. Despite this, games are all about fun, and as long as you manage your time correctly, any title and any genre can be worth giving a shot.