Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I'm not a Gamer

A few days ago, Wolfshead wrote something that I was thinking for a long time: I'm not a gamer (*). Hell, I just want to use my computer to play a character in a credible virtual fantasy world. That's all!

I do own a smartphone for quite some time now, but I could never figure out what's so great about playing games for a few minutes. It feels so wasteful; like watching a movie in three-minute segments. I, also, could never understand why people want to listen to music in the tram/train/bus. It's just a distraction!

Don't get me wrong: I'm not super-focused and efficient; or only if necessary, I guess. Usually I get distracted very easily. So easily, in fact, that I need no game to help me. There's so much stuff to think about when you sit in the tram/train/bus. Yesterday afternoon, after sports, I came up with four new topics to blog about; all within 5 minutes in the shower.

Oh, and I'm not a geek! I remember the few bits of the last Blizzcon that I streamed. This "embrace your inner geek" and stuff. I wrinkled my nose. I'd never pay to visit Blizzcon. In fact, I probably wouldn't go there if Blizzard payed the trip.

I'm not interested in the celebrities of this business. I'm not interested in "events". I'm not interested in the comics, the lore-books, or meeting the designers in person. Not the slightest. I just want to play a character in a credible virtual fantasy world. That's all!

Since that's not possible I started to blog about it. Then I started with armchair design. If the industry is too stupid to pull it off, I will either have to get into management to get rich enough to hire people to make my game, or I will find somebody who shares my interests and who already made all that otherwise useless money.

Honestly people: Modern games miss 90% of the features of Ultima Online! It's not about nostalgia; how could I be nostalgic about a game I never played? Modern games just don't have the features older games had! The market gap for a modern AAA credible virtual fantasy world is the size of a small galaxy by now.

* The "I'm not a gamer" article Wolfshead links is part of the problem. I'm not a "player", either.


  1. "Modern games miss 90% of the features of Ultima Online!"

    Really? I find that highly doubtful. Sure, not all modern games have stuff like player housing (some do) but there are very few other features that I can come up with that are actually lacking in today's games and have not been replaced by strictly better alternatives. I would wager that the amount of new features is actually higher than the amount of features dropped. (Given some way to accurately measure the amount of features of a game.)

    As for being a gamer and / or a geek, that surely depends on the definition you use. I consider myself to be both even though I don't care about mobile gaming, comic books, or fan conventions. In my mind, somebody who plays games at anything more than a casual level is a gamer and somebody who spends large parts of his or her spare time thinking about game design is just as much a geek as someone who spends the same time on astrophysics, hidden markov models, sound system design, or survivor spoiling. Those are my own personal definitions of the subject though, ymmv.

  2. The 90% was an overstatement in the name of clarity. ;)

    However, think of:

    Persistent player housing, a player-driven economy, notoriety system, bounty hunting, ..

    And that's the stuff I can come up with although I never played it! Any UO players around?

  3. To be honest I find the whole no-gamer argument beside the point, or maybe just a little too airy. I liked Wolfshead's article and agree with the premise in that sense that MMOs really aren't 'gamey games' in the classic sense and therefore suffer from gamification. I've written about it not too long ago myself - The beast-that-wrecked-wonderland

    but...we've always called ourselves gamers. we play video games (at least I do, I play many different games at the moment) and just because 'they' have started re-defining the MMO genre shouldn't mean we have to start renaming ourselves now too. somehow I don't think this is gonna help us. at all.
    and I don't like the whole 'gamer pecking order' and classism that usually goes with these distinctions either.

  4. Modern games just don't have the features older games had!

    Ah, seriously.
    Well, then the solution is simple: fire up an emulator, head to home of the underdogs and play those older games.....

  5. Helistar, what makes you assume that the only thing I'm interested in are features? What about modern graphics?

  6. Didn't you just link to several blog posts about the complexity and elaborate mechanisms? If you want more features, either the cost of the game is going to rise even higher or the graphics gotta give.

    Frankly, I don't see it getting any better until procedural content generation algorithms are as commonplace tools as pencils or brushes.

  7. Procedurally generated content would be a solution. It's not that bad, actually.

    I disagree with your pessimism about the market. The games business is highly profitable. Hell, Activision/Blizzard just gave shareholders $2.2 billion back! That is the cost of developing Rift 44 times !

    The only thing standing between today and feature-rich MMORPGs is competition. There's not financial incentive right now to make the best still profitable game.

  8. I agree with the last paragraph in Scrusi's comment: It depends on your own definition of gamer.
    In my definition, you're not a geek, not a fanboy, but still a gamer. My definition doesn't matter here, it's your blog, not mine.

    However, you're expressing what you are not (you're not a gamer, not a player either), but aren't saying concisely what you are. Which positive word would you suggest to refer to your game related activities?

  9. Just like in the music and movie industries, MMOs that are highly profitable and have high production values are rare. For every blockbuster you have a dozen movies that barely recouped their costs or even lost money. If every movie had to have effects by ILM or Weta in it, you'd see even less movies than there are now. And all of them would be made using tried-and-true formulas. The higher the price of failure is, the less companies are willing to take risks. Nobody wants to bet their company (and by extension, their own well-being) on something unless they can prove it'll work.

  10. Vinnz, good question.
    I don't want to make a semantic problem out of it. I guess I just hate to be put into baskets; metaphorically spoken. And if I look at all those people that claim to be 'gamers'. I just don't want to be one of them ;)

    Hirvox, you are right in a sense. But the market economy is more flexible than you assume.

    Why did CPU processing power double every few years? Why is the industry desperately trying to create 3D-television? These were high risk investments! These industries do this for two reasons:

    1) They think that they are supposed to do it.
    2) They fear that the competition will be more innovative than they are.

    At Google they think that being innovative is good. At EA they think that being innovative is naive. If there was just one Google in the games bunsiness, EA assumed a different opinion (or disappeared within a few years).

  11. Google wouldn't have amounted to much if they were required to have the capacity and coverage of Altavista from the get-go. Fortunately, they were allowed to start with a single feature and grow to exceed their competitors on any fathomable criteria.

  12. That would be the Eve-approach, mmh ? ;)