The AMA Experiment
Yesterday my good friend Syl started a thread over on the Blaugust Nook with a very simple purpose. The idea was to generate writing prompts by asking the person above you in the thread a question. It seemed like an awesome idea, so I joined in the fun asking the first question, which then left me open to be asked a question. Wilhelm from The Ancient Gaming Noob chimed in after me and gave me a really excellent question, because it is honestly one I have thought about before but never actually written anything on. Without more rambling… here is the prompt.
For a lot of people, starting off in MMORPGs changed the way they viewed and interacted with video games. I often defer single player games in favor of online games now due to the fact that games with other people are… or at least seem… more interesting, even when I am playing them solo. Did starting off with MMORGPs change your relationship with video games?
Brief History of Belghast
So I feel like in order to answer this question appropriately we have to go a ways back into my history. I grew up in a small town, but more so than that… I grew up a significant distance outside of the city limits. This compounded with the fact that I had no siblings, meant that I really didn’t have anyone to play with. As a result I got extremely adept at entertaining myself, but when we hit middle school… the prime era of sleep overs, I pretty much took every opportunity to stay over at someone else’s house or have someone at mine. It was awesome to be able to play games with friends, but my reality was that I was mostly a single player gamer the majority of my time. As such I tended to favor mostly single player titles like role playing games, and zelda like adventure games. These would let me explore worlds by myself without the need of an additional player to bring the fun.
In college I did my fair share of LAN gaming, but the majority of my time was still spent playing single player titles like Fallout on the PC. My first real “MMO” experience was Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast, and I ate that game up. Even though communication was not that big of a deal, I spent so much time exploring the worlds with other players. I even went so far as to get a PC keyboard adapter that I could hook up to my Dreamcast so I could make communication easier. During this time I was still playing a significant amount of single player games on the PC and devouring every single Japanese Roleplaying Game that was released on the PS1, PS2 or the Dreamcast. Then my “jumping into” Everquest happened, as I was asked to play a friends secondary character during a Vox raid… and from that point on I was pretty much hooked. Gradually I just stopped playing anything single player and instead devoted every single moment of gaming time to whatever my current MMO crush happened to be as I moved through EQ, DAoC, Horizon, and City of Heroes.
So Much Better With People
Something else happened during this time, that ultimately disconnected me from single player game experiences. Games became so much more cinematic, and quite honestly this was not a good thing as far as I was concerned. There were so many times I wanted to plunk down in front of a game, boot it up and just start playing. When I played my role playing games, I absolutely expected to have a serious time commitment. I did not however expect to have to wade through cut scene after cut scene just to play a platformer. So I became even more immersed in my big online worlds that let me wander aimlessly and find my own enjoyment. I also found myself favoring games that were extremely similar to the online worlds I was playing in. Games like the Elder Scrolls or the three dimensional Fallout games provided me that big open world I craved but allowed me to explore offline. The problem is there was always something missing. These are games that I have devoted hundreds of hours to playing, but there is always a point where I start thinking to myself… this world would be so much better with people.
Ultimately even if I am in “alone in a crowd” mode, I enjoy seeing people roaming around in the same world I am inhabiting. Maybe this is an artifact of my early desires to have someone to play with, or a side effect of being recruited into Everquest in the middle of a bustling and thriving guild. In any case I always end up missing the people when I am playing other games. So as a result there are lots of single player titles that I want to play through, to experience the story… but they ultimately sit in my steam library unfinished and in some cases not even started… because I would rather be online interacting with people that I care about. Fairly recently I have found that hanging out on Teamspeak while playing single player games helps a bit. It allows me to chat with people and feel like I am part of a larger community, while still indulging in single player worlds and experiences. Similarly streaming a single player game to twitch feels like I am in some way making it a multiplayer experience by sharing it with others. So to answer the original question… yes MMOs have changed the way I play single player games, by simply making me not satisfied with being in a world without other human beings to interact with.