Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fake escape

Let's play a little game, a small quiz: I'll give you a list of 5 games, and you tell me which 2 of those 5 resemble each other the most. Ready? Here we go:

{Call of Duty Modern Warfare - World of Warcraft - Pro Evolution Soccer - Shogun 2 Total War - Rift}

Too easy? Maybe try a harder list:

{Rift - Puzzle Pirates - World of Warcraft - Ultima Online - EVE Online}

Hmm, still everybody giving the same answer. But even if further narrow down our list to lets say {Lord of the Rings Online - Age of Conan - Warhammer Online - World of Warcraft - Rift}, most people would still pick out WoW and Rift as being the most similar games on that list. In fact it is kind of hard to come up with a list containing WoW, Rift, and three other games and have the majority of the answers pick WoW and another game but Rift.

That is not to say that Rift is a "WoW Clone", or that there aren't significant differences between Rift and WoW. But it is hard to deny that there are also significant similarities between the two games. Fortunately the MMO blogosphere is full of masters of denial; and so it isn't uncommon to find blogs in which a blogger who spent considerable time to tell his audience that World of Warcraft is fundamentally flawed as a game concept now praises Rift as being the greatest game ever. That has more to do with some people's need to rationalize their game choices than with any real fundamental differences between World of Warcraft and Rift.

Therefore I am highly sceptical of the advice often repeated in the comment section of the Cataclysm replayability thread: Combatting World of Warcraft burnout by switching to Rift. Not because I don't believe that Rift isn't a good game, or that I'd deny that by nature a new game has more fresh content than a 6-year old game. But because I doubt that Rift is *sufficiently* different from World of Warcraft to not have the same burnout reappear in a few months. Or in other words: If Rift is the solution, then the problem with World of Warcraft can't have been all that fundamental.

I am reluctant to switch to Rift, because I'm afraid that will quickly turn out to be a fake escape. It won't take long before the same social patterns evolve in Rift that I dislike in World of Warcraft: The "leet" complaining about the "morons & slackers". The virtual idolatry of the purple pixel e-peen. The fundamental belief that somebody who advances faster and further in a video game is a better human being than somebody who doesn't. Of course in a new game these old attitudes might take on new forms and express themselves in new vocabularies. But I seriously doubt that Rift somehow magically managed to solve all the social problems of the MMORPG genre. People might still be too busy with the new shiny, but very quickly they will fall back into the bad old habits.

I think I'll play more single-player and browser games in the coming months, instead of another MMORPG. I'll play WoW when I feel like it, and will unsubscribe when my weekly playtime naturally dwindled to nothingness. I'll certainly try out Star Wars: The Old Republic later this year, which is probably slightly less similar to World of Warcraft than Rift is. But I'm not holding my breath hoping for any miracle.

No comments:

Post a Comment