Ebert @ the MMO

I finished Fallout 3 – very quickly. I probably spent 10 hours on side quests, and 5 on the main quest line – and it was over. I finished at level 12 (I hear there are 20 levels, but I didn’t figure that out). The end was a bit of a dissappointment, but at least I have replay value. Going through it again, but this time I am going to be a goody two shoes. I didn’t get a friend in that game, and the dog stuck around with me for a bit before he hit a chain of landmines. Instead of burying him a la “I am Legend”, I scavenged the dog meat and moved on. I was thinking about how good of an experience that game is and immediately started thinking on the ways I would have liked it to be different.


I caught myself and asked that question. I don’t go to the movies and want to change the movie. The movie is either good, or bad, or somewhere in between. I don’t come to my blog after watching 007 and say “boy, that James Bond movie was SWEET! Too bad the Aston Martin didn’t have a built in grappling hook. Or that part, where he shoots the guy in the foot and does a round house kick? That would have been SOOO much better if only he shot him in the face and then kicked him in the nads. And the camera angle when he was hanging off the bottom of the chopper should have been from the left, not right. And if only they changed his spy name to 009 – haha, then it would have been a GREAT movie!!”

We don’t think that way. I suppose it is because movies (and television) are passive entertainment. You pay, you eat popcorn, you watch, you enjoy. Maybe you don’t enjoy, but you observe. At the end, you are $25 bucks lighter and had an experience, good or bad. Games are move active entertainment. You control the hero/bad guy, and you go out and shoot your own movie. Movies are also “one offs”, you know you can settle in for 90 minutes and it’s done, where in gaming it is a much larger time commitment (for the most part) and you have to invest that time, and money, to advance your entertainment. My final point is that I prefer gaming as entertainment to the traditional passives, and I want to see better choices made.

Why do we do it? Did I miss anything important?

4 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I disagree, people ARE that critical of movies. It just depends on what you really like. My movie geek friends DO critique movies to the extent that they criticize the camera work and fight scenes etc. down to the most nitpicking of details. However, they generally aren’t as analytical of games like those of us in the MMO blogosphere would be.

  2. Games are unique in entertainment in that they are interactive. They have a great deal of potential as a result. Perhaps that’s why I care so much about the design and implementation of games… and why I’m so terribly disappointed in the state of the industry at present.

  3. @Lars: Thanks for the comment – I probably should have clarified a bit on my comment. There is a whole industry critical of movies (agreed), and I should have taken better ownership in language use (I, instead of WE). I will stand by the comment that as passive entertainment people will critique their level of enjoyment, but less (in comparison to MMO’s) on specifics. I think you hit the nail on the head with your details vs analytical comparison – especially with us MMO blognuts.

    @Tesh: Potential is the key word. I have heard for so many years how games don’t reach that potential and I suppose the slow way they are progressing is what drives me to enable change. Question is, is anybody listening? Or are we all wrong?

  4. On the whole, I don’t think that it’s the developers or the players are to blame. To some degree they are, certainly, but I lay the lion’s share of the wasted potential at the feet of the shareholders and boardmembers. The insane quest for ever-increasing returns kills any business, and the game industry is so relatively infantile in its business education that it’s eating itself alive. (Consider the ea_spouse HR debacle and that most companies still don’t understand that crunch kills your company.) Some of it is symptomatic of the whole American Wall Street fixation and the systemic poor business practices that focus on the short term and perpetual growth, both to the detriment of the long term and innovation.

    I think that players would embrace great games, and I think that devs would love to create them. In my experience, it’s the businesscritters that are killing those desires. That’s why I look to indie devs for innovation, including “free” MMOs and other “non-AAA” titles. Tellingly, the only MMO companies that have received my hard earned cash have been Three Rings (Puzzle Pirates) and Arena.net (Guild Wars). I do indeed vote with my wallet by not supporting the monoliths who throw out as little as they can while reaping disproportionate rewards.

    If we as players want to see games reach their potential, we need to support those who are trying to create games to realize it.

    Mirror’s Edge, for example, is a fascinating piece of work. I have concerns with EA as a company, but I’d be inclined to support those devs for making something that’s unique, interesting and highly polished. (Of course, they could flub it up still, but I think it’ll work out at this point.) Even trawling Whirled or Kongregate and supporting small indie devs who do great work is a good way to foster the sort of potential we wish for.

    On a personal level, if I were independently wealthy, I’d be making the sort of games I keep wishing for. As it is, I have to work for a living, so I just do what I can by being a loudmouth and voting with my wallet. Someday I’ll have the “street cred” to take common sense to companies and kick something great out of them, but for now, with the U.S. economy as borken as it is and with the game industry as idiotic as it is, I’m just trying to position myself well by gaining experience and business acumen, so I can find the right spot of leverage to really move things the right way.

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