Wednesday, September 09, 2009
The art of discussion
Nils commented in yesterday's threat that "As soon as you mention UO in the title people will respond that UO was either much better than WoW or that you should go play UO. If I were you I'd ban such people from the blog. They obviously don't even read the topic before commenting." Unfortunately that isn't a problem limited to UO. Pretty much mentioning any game results in several comments that are just about how the commenter loves game A and hates game B, without having any relevance to the actual topic of my post. Sometimes I deliberately try to keep names of games totally out of my posts to avoid that, but without examples theory is always a bit dry.
I was thinking about this earlier this week, when I was reading the news about the uproar over Obama's school speech. Because actually the phenomenon is pretty much the same. Some people just hate Obama and everything he stands for, so they are rather pulling their children from school as to let them hear something Obama says. That what he says is "study hard to succeed in life", which is hardly a controversial matter, doesn't matter at all. That presidents Reagan and Bush did similar broadcasts doesn't matter at all. Even the ridicule that sort of discussion causes in the rest of the world doesn't matter. People aren't even remotely interested in discussing actual topics. All that counts is gut feelings of unconditional love or hate for some cause.
So whenever I mention games like WoW, EVE, or Darkfall on this blog, I get predictable comments from always the same predictable people along the lines of: "WoW bad, EVE and Darkfall good, and the fact that WoW has millions more players than EVE and Darkfall together just proves that 95% of MMORPG players are idiots anyway".
Personally I would be interested in an intelligent discussion of how it would be possible to combine the good parts of many different MMORPG into one perfect MMORPG, if that is possible at all. But you can't have that discussion if you can't admit that World of Warcraft might actually have done some things right, or that EVE or Darkfall might actually have some flaws, or vice versa. Instead we have lots of defeatists bleating about how games can only be popular if they are "dumbed down", and claiming that good games are only accessible to a small elite, which then of course causes the game to be either shut down or have to make do with low production quality due to lack of financial success. I don't think that is true. I believe one could take a game like EVE, fix its flaws, and create a great game with many of EVE's strong points and millions of subscribers, without creating a "dumbed down WoW-in-space clone". And I believe there is a wide open space for many intelligent, good MMORPGs with millions of players, if only we dared to explore that space.
If that doesn't happen, we only have ourselves to blame. If we can even get an intelligent discussion going on what parts of a game are good or bad, but always insist on religiously claiming that the game we play is already perfect, and the game we don't play is absolute garbage with not a single good point, then how can we let the developers know what works and what doesn't? No wonder they end up making endless clones of the most successful games!
And the MMO blogosphere risks descending into being the equivalent of different versions of FOX News. Boring sites praising a single game and condemning everything else. When somebody dares to mention that game X has both good and bad points, he'll get hate mail/comments from both the game X haters and the game X fanbois. I've been frequently accused of BOTH being a WoW hater and a WoW fanboi, just because I strive to see both good and bad in that game. With nobody noticing that I can't possibly be both.
The religions of the world are already there. Politics are approaching the point fast. And now even game design is moving towards the point where there is no more discussion possible, but only people shouting at each other, endlessly repeating their fixed and unmovable believes. Is the art of discussion dead?