Sunday, July 29, 2007

Richard Bartle plays WoW

Sometimes the news comes from unexpected corners, like in a small footnote to a big story. The big story in this case is not a very good one: Richard Bartle, creator of MUD, made a bad joke in an interview and it backfired horribly with a "I'd close World of Warcraft!" headline in The Guardian. The real news is hidden in a blog entry where he explained the gaffe and said "I wonder if the fact I worked up 3 level 70s in WoW myself will save me?".

Now that is a surprise! Richard Bartle is part of the Terra Nova crowd of people discussing MMORPGs from a purely academic and designer point of view. In many discussions there Bartle took a very annoying "we designers made good games and the players ruined it" attitude, which didn't exactly endear him to me. (I believe player behavior directly results from game design, and is thus also the fault of the designer. It is a lot easier to change game design than to change human behavior.) That made me doubt whether he knew what makes a game fun. And now I find out that he must have spent at least 1,000 hours, and probably much more, playing World of Warcraft. So he *does* recognize fun when he sees it. He still says "I just want better virtual worlds.". Well, so do I, although our opinions probably differ what exactly would make them better. But in spite of all the discussion favoring "world"-type MMORPGs, he ends up playing the most "game"-like MMORPG there is. An interesting contrast of what he says MMORPGs should be like, and what he actually plays. I wonder if he realizes that.

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