Tobold's Blog
Friday, December 06, 2013
 
How can anyone say that's bad?

Chris is asking the question why people who spent hundreds or thousands of hours in a MMORPG then go and only ever say bad things about those games. Quote: "I’d say you lose the right to call a game bad after its entertained you for 100 hours. Or 1000. If we go by sheer hours, WoW might be the most entertaining game ever made." I think the answer to Chris' question is extremely simple: Rationalization.

What happens is basically this: We start playing a game. The game is good. It entertains us for hundreds or thousands of hours. But then inevitably we get bored. And we are unable to admit that falling out of love with that game might be our fault. Thus we need to blame the game, finding a rational sounding explanation of why we don't want to play it any more. If we don't like the game any more, the game must have become worse. If the game is still the same, we blame the community that has gone downhill. But in a MMORPG there fortunately are patches, so we can blame the patches for having made the game worse.

In the end we arrive at the situation that if you believe what people write about let's say World of Warcraft, Blizzard has spend the last 9 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to produce dozens of patches and five expansions, each of which has made the game worse than it was before. And of course, as others will tell you, the game wasn't much good to begin with. So apparently we have a massive brainwashing conspiracy going on, in which a shitty game which continually got worse is the most successful video game by earnings ever. And only those critics who have taken the red pill can see the reality!

Me, I find the rationalization theory far more convincing.

Comments:
To judge overall experiences by their last or freshest memory is perfectly human (if not very smart). we do this all the time - hence also the virtue of "finish strong" that is being practised in some professional branches. just think of eating out in restaurants and the way people tend to judge the food over the course of an evening of dining; even though you can have the exact same number of good and bad courses, the groups that had a great dessert (and overall an order of meals that kept improving) will rate the restaurant higher than the group which enjoyed a great starter and went downhill from there.

MMOs are longer experiences and bound to have fluctuations. they can't finish strong, because they never "finish". :)
I always disliked how some explayers would condemn WoW the way they do, after having played for years. I mean, if WoW is so horrible what does it say about them playing it for so long? ; same thing as badmouthing an ex-lover, really.
 
People need to come to terms with the fact that no single thing keeps you entertained forever. But I think the subscription model just makes this worse. The developers want to keep you subscribed forever, but when they eventually fail in keeping you entertained, you feel cheated when you didn't get the next month's worth of entertainment out of the game. Especially if you paid for several months in advance. That can easily lead you into chasing sunk costs and becoming even angrier when you inevitably fail to do so.

The ending problem identified by Syl also contributes to this. If you play a traditional game (paid up-front, has a definitive end), you can evaluate whether it was worth the price when you're done with it. And if you were entertained for the duration, great. Any extra entertainment you get from it is just a bonus, and there is no nagging feeling left anymore telling you to enjoy it more or you lose something.

With free-to-play games, the dynamic is different. Because the startup cost (mostly time) is small, any enjoyment you get is judged against that small startup cost. And if you enjoyed it more, you reward the developer by buying more content as you see fit, and those pieces of content are judged only against their individual prices.
 
I do think there is a "conspiracy": the games were originally designed by enthusiast gamers themselves who made it as good as they could. Sure it was full of bugs and mistakes, but the main plot was good. Just look at the recent indy games with horrible graphic. Minecraft is positively disgusting even by 2000 standards. But it sells as candy because the main gameplay is good.

Then the marketing guys entered and demanded more and more changes that will get non-gamers in. And by making a game appealing to non-gamers, by definition you make it bad for gamers. The goal of design is to convert people who don't like games into customers.

Once upon a time games were built by gamers for gamers. Now they are built by non-gamers for game-haters.
 
Its also a well know fact that people remember the bad stuff more easily than the good stuff. Its the reason we have lots of crime reported on the front page of the news and very little positive.
 
I prefer to think of it as a short-term success now finishing up its cycle. Facebook games like Farmville are starting to crash out of vogue too.

Now, on one hand, you can say that these games are successful, having a huge audience and made LOTS of $$$ within their lifespan, and I would not argue with you there.

On the other hand, and in the same breath, one can also criticize them for unethical design decisions meant to provoke a certain behavior in their players.

I suspect the most bitter players are the ones who got sucked in, paid a lot (either with time or money) and now regret what they spent. Thus they can't remain objective and fondly rant and badmouth instead to make themselves feel better. Would one call that rationalization?

Those who felt that their experience was worth what they paid are less likely to see the game in only a negative light.
 
I suspect the most bitter players are the ones who got sucked in, paid a lot (either with time or money) and now regret what they spent.

I have a problem with the concept of "paying a lot of time". Isn't the purpose of a game to waste time? Basically time has a negative value when it comes to entertainment, and the more time you "spend" on some form of entertainment, the better it is.

While there are certainly a few extreme cases of Free2Play whales, I would say that in general the cost per hour for a MMORPG is tiny compared to other forms of entertainment, so I have trouble believing in the theory of buyer's regret.
 
One could certainly argue that WoW has changed, and gives a different experience now, which a given player might not like so much. Of course it's difficult to be objective. Relationships end, with games too.
 
I agree with this except "And we are unable to admit that falling out of love with that game might be our fault. Thus we need to blame the game,"

If I have been watching a TV show for six years and stop midway through year 7, is that "my fault?" If I have been going to a restaurant a couple of times a month and then cease, is that my fault? Certainly the responsibility for providing a product I want to consume lies with the vendor. In episodic entertainment content, if it is "still the same" then that is usually perceived as bad & boring. Nothing appeals to everyone or forever. But if one wanted to use the word blame, then if someone quits consuming an entertainment product, I would not place the "blame" on the consumer.

--------

I think a corollary of Gevlon's comment is that "gamers" always want gaming companies to make less money. Which is why I don't understand why the forum warriors would expect that listening to them would be in the game companies best interest.


 
I have a problem with the concept of "paying a lot of time". Isn't the purpose of a game to waste time? Basically time has a negative value when it comes to entertainment, and the more time you "spend" on some form of entertainment, the better it is.
I don't know whether this response raises more questions about your views than how much it explains. People are forgiving. They want to be entertained, and will give the content producer some slack if they believe the content will get better later. Sunk costs and all that.

And if it doesn't, what then? Do we claim that they are deluding themselves and the content was actually good? Or do we mock them for voting with their wallets and call them locusts?
 
Sometimes we do change and a game no longer appeals, or we consume the game to the point where we get bored and stop playing. But there are also times where the game shifts its target audience or adds features you dislike. In that case, our feelings on the game are stronger than if the game had never appealed to us in the first place.

Consider the Mass Effect series. ME1 is a very different game from the other two. Going to ME2 and again to ME3 they greatly improved some areas of the game while pretty much cutting out others. No more inventory management or loot drops or weapon customization, vastly simplified progression paths, a greater focus on point and shoot instead of preparation and tactics. The changes greatly appealed to many, and disappointed others. In the net, the game made more money and appealed to a wider audience, so that's good. But on an individual level, I'm more disappointed in the mass effect series for 'going bad' than the indifference I feel towards the latest first person shooters I don't care about.

It's silly to think that WoW hasn't shifted it's target demographic over the years, and the people no longer targeted are more embittered than those who were never targeted in the first place.
 
Well it's kind of a goofy line of argument.

If an ex-alcoholic says excessive drinking is bad for you, do you say he lost the right to say that when he spent twenty years destroying his liver? Or do you nod your head and think "He should know."

I don't think WoW got worse over the years, in fact I think it's basically objectively better in every way However, it doesn't change the reality that the MMO genre relies on getting players to endlessly repeat even the fun activities until they lose all entertainment value, which is why there's whole industries dedicated to letting you pay someone to play for you. If you don't believe me, run a mental experiment where a WoW server had no rewards of any kind; no gold, no XP, no gear, but you could go anywhere and experience the gameplay and lore of the whole game just for the fun of it. That server would be a ghost town.

As a secondary reason, MMO design seems to prevent an interesting modern gameplay style. Gameplay is designed around minimizing server load and not on, you know, being fun.

Having spent enough time to realize that the sensation of advancement and community people get from MMOs are illusions really increases the credibility of the speaker in this case.


 
I am with Hagu. Think how offensive it would be if Blizzard started telling players who quit, "it's YOUR fault you're quitting, not ours!"

While I'm sure there is a certain degree of rationalizing, that is only done AFTER the decision to quit has been made. MMORPGs in general are more addictive, and built to keep you playing essentially forever. You have a reach a much higher level of dissatisfaction before you will quit compared to other games.

The amount of time you spend playing MMORPGs also makes you more familiar with the game, and thus more familiar with what you like and dislike. It is not surprising that players who no longer enjoy the game would be able to articulate why.
 
Well, if you keep adding bread to a BS sandwich, it takes longer to eat it. Does that make it less a BS sandwich?

I think you both ignore how the game exploits the idea of 'hey, just tough it out' (which is part of many games, both video, board game and sport) to get people to tough it out - and in the end it didn't lead to anywhere but to more toughing it out.

If we took a bad movie both of you would walk out of and stuck some grinding mechanic on it (ie, not passive entertainment anymore), I wonder if you'd both instead say it gave X hours of entertainment?
 
If we took a bad movie both of you would walk out of and stuck some grinding mechanic on it (ie, not passive entertainment anymore), I wonder if you'd both instead say it gave X hours of entertainment?

I am pretty sure I could identify a bad movie within an hour or two. Do you really believe somebody sticks to a bad movie for 1,000 hours, hoping it gets better? People aren't nearly as idiotic as you say they are.
 
Well, many people join cults. While it may be rewarding initially, the reward is based on a deception.

The deception of MMOs is the since of achievement the game creates with levels, 'achievements' for doing things that vary from the trivial to insane, gear tiers, rank, and all that.

I don't get why the tendency for people to get addicted to MMOS and spend far too much time on them is now being heralded as proof that they are actually really entertaining. It's a variant of the Philistine's argument that popularity equals quality. In this case time played equals quality.

MMOS are good at fostering addictive behavior in certain people, but not especially entertaining in the sense that a game like Call of Duty or FIFA or something is entertaining. And by that sense I mean actually entertaining. The ration of fun to tedium in MMOS is the lowest of any genre of video game I've ever heard of.
 
since=sense
 
People aren't nearly as idiotic as you say they are.

So you're saying casino's don't work?

Besides, you say idiotic, not me. I say businesses exploit peoples weaknesses.

If you think you could spot a bad movie, here's a question - if you were just watching a mmorpg being played, how many hours before you gave up watching it?

Now stick on a grinding mechanic where you play it - how much longer would you stick around?

The same amount of time?
 
Wasting time and being entertained are entirely different things. Depending on your viewpoint, there may be some overlap. But there is a reason why the MMO genre has evolved and cut out time wasting features like long trek times, corpse runs, deleveling, and added features like LFG tools.

Do you really believe somebody sticks to a bad movie for 1,000 hours, hoping it gets better? People aren't nearly as idiotic as you say they are.

I have heard "I continue playing because my friends play" more times than I can count from MMO veterans. You're underestimating how much more fun things can be with friends than as a solitary experience.
 
You're underestimating how much more fun things can be with friends than as a solitary experience.

No, I don't. And to continue the movie analogy, I've been to horribly bad movies with friends and had a great time making fun of the film. But that is for 2 hours, and then I don't go and plan seeing the sequel.

If a MMORPG offers you a platform for a fun experience with friends, aren't you getting your money's worth? If you are tired in the evening and just want to mindlessly grind some mobs or hunt ore nodes or fish or whatever, and your MMORPG lets you do all that, aren't you getting your money's worth?

Nobody, absolutely nobody, started World of Warcraft thinking "I'll grind this for 1,000 hours, and then I'll get epic rewards." We all started playing with just a "let's see if this is fun" expectation. And then it WAS fun, and we played, and played, and played some more, until it wasn't fun any more. And now you go and try to rewrite history, and retcon all this into "I was fooled into playing". Sorry, it didn't happen that way. At some point you liked the game. And you're STILL hanging out in places like these to talk about these games.
 
It's bizarre how clearly people will fritter away their rent/food money on a one armed bandit, with all the 'entertainment' it 'provides', yet this mmorpg entertainment argument still persists as if anything anyone does for a long time must be entertaining.

No, games can provide an addictive system that is in the end quite vacuous.
 
While rationalization is very much a thing, you're both oversimplifying and well off base. In the case of WoW, it's really not the same game it was 10 years ago. For some folks this is a Bad Thing, some take a more ambivalent stance, and then there are those to whom it is a Good Thing.

If you play a game, and put hundreds or thousands of hours into it, and it changes to the point where it is no longer the same and is disagreeable, then it's bad. Same name, same basic overall play, but enough is altered to where it's no good any more. To illustrate, we'll compare to food; more specifically the grilled cheese sandwich.

You start off with a very basic American style grilled cheese. White bread, sliced american cheese, a little bit of butter. You eat them like this for a while, and eventually it gets changed; whole grain wheat instead of white. Still good, but not the same. More time, another change; now it's got ham on it. Still more time, and now instead of American, it's got some other sort of cheese; we'll say swiss. Then the bread changes again; now it's sourdough. Ham swaps for corned beef. Swiss becomes Gruyere. And now you're at a point where the sandwich, while good, maybe good to some others, simply isn't a grilled cheese any more, and it's not even a sandwich you like. You stop eating it, and declare it awful. No rationalization needed at all on the part of the person who hates it, and the changes were wildly successful for a lot of other folks. But not everyone who started eating it after various changes is still eating it either.

The simple explanation you're looking for, Tobold, is that people have individual tastes. Some are more adaptable than others. Further, even if you take the changes away, it's entirely possible that you can just stop liking grilled cheese sandwiches, and that doesn't require rationalization either; eat enough of them and you get sick of it. In other words, their tastes no longer match the product at hand.

As for the declaration "I’d say you lose the right to call a game bad after its entertained you for 100 hours. Or 1000.", this is also faulty logic. If you eat a thousand grilled cheese sandwiches, then decide you're sick of them and that you no longer like them(they're bad, you hate them, etc), your opinion is not invalidated by the fact that you've eaten a thousand of them. It's a subjective opinion, after all, not an objective fact. To declare that it can be invalidated by anything is ridiculous on its face.
 
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