On World Of Warcraft, And Stagnation

wow

I am done with World of Warcraft.

This may seem like an odd phrase to begin a blog post with, but I assure you it’s a relevant statement to make as we progress forward. Let me tell you my tale…

I’ve been a nearly-consistent WoWer for the better part of 10 years now. I started playing in patch 1.2, and I raided heavily during the Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King.

But then, something strange began to happen. I felt like I was doing the same things over and over and accomplishing nothing. And as the saying goes, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

Now, as a raider, one could say I’m no stranger to beating my head against a brick wall. God knows it happened often enough with certain bosses. (Al’ar, I’m looking at you here.) So why, at the end of an expansion and with a new one on the horizon, am I just now done with WoW?

Simply put, I am tired of the same thing. Gaming has become routine. I wake up, walk the dog, do some house work and then do my dailies, or jump into a heroic dungeon. And I’ve been doing this for the last half a decade.

This is fairly indicative of the gaming industry as a whole at the moment. Just go look at the shelves within your local gaming retailer and you’ll see what I mean.

Seriously, go look. I’ll wait.

Do you see what I mean? How many of the boxes feature art of some soldier looking stoic or downtrodden? This is how far we’ve come, ladies and gentlemen. We cannot have a creative thought anymore. We must continue to make the Call of Duties, Medal of Honors and the like.

I’m not saying these games are bad. Well, actually I am saying that. But at least one or two of them have had really profound scenes of the sort that make my head want to explode from the sheer emotional trauma they induce.

But now, we’re lost in a vortex of trying to make lightning strike twice. It isn’t going to happen. Not without someone being allowed to think outside the box. And with companies like EA at the helm, this isn’t going to happen. Because the bottom line is profit.

Please understand I realize profit keeps companies in business. Surely, however, there’s a way to be creative and make money?

The problem is game companies aren’t held accountable for their lack of originality. It’s been my experience as a gamer and as someone who has worked for a games retailer that people are quite happy to buy the same old games year after year, even when one release is barely distinguishable from the last. This brings me back around in a lovely circle to WoW.

I had this deep-rooted sense of belonging within the WoW community, even though it’s largely populated by a group of people I could charitably describe as the scum of the Earth. In fact, I’d say the only place you’re liable to find a more vocal group of mewling jerks than those on the WoW forums is on the LoL forums. But I digress.

It’s this serious defect in the way the human mind works that allows game companies to force the enslaved development teams to make games that appeal to two things: our nostalgia and our sense of hope.

And don’t think it’s just EA or Blizzard that are guilty of this. Every major game corporation is. And who’s the worst sinner of the lot, the veritable Judas Iscariot of the gaming inner circle? Nintendo.

I am 27 years of age. This means I grew up during the much-touted console wars. Nintendo was the true king of the hill until Sega came along with their “Sega does what Nintendon’t” ads in the early to mid 90s.

I will forever continue to hold this era up as the greatest thing to ever happen to the video gaming industry. And not just because I have a soft spot in my heart for excellent marketing campaigns.

The competition over the growing video games market was fierce. Both first- and third-party developers had a vested interest in delivering creative, well-designed games to capture their piece of the ever-expanding pie. This isn’t to say that there weren’t a few blatant cash-grabs along the way but, thankfully, this was a simpler time. It was a better time.

It was around this time shops such as Toys R Us stopped being the only place to buy your software and companies like EBGames began to find their way into malls and shopping centres.

The trouble is, my generation are a bunch of enablers.

You see, in this period, Nintendo and Sega were ruthlessly competitive. We’d get a new Zelda from Nintendo, but then Sega would launch Shining Force. Nintendo would answer back with F-Zero, but then there’d be a new Sonic title right on its heels.

And here’s the thing – Nintendo won the console wars. Don’t believe me? Look in the shops. Is Sega making hardware anymore? No? Well, Nintendo won then. So why is that an issue? Because my generation are a bunch of twats.

Sega has continually attempted to be creative with what they do with their IPs. It may not always turn out, but they can’t be faulted for at least trying to get outside the box of what is allowed.

Nintendo, on the other hand, has been continually making the same game over and over for the last 25 years and just updating the graphics or the gimmicks. And they do this with a stunning regularity and an even more alarming profit margin. Though I am pleased to say they saw losses last year.

It doesn’t matter how many Zelda games Nintendo makes, you’re still going to be the same Link rescuing the same Zelda from the same Gannon. Which is fine (to an extent) as long as you keep the gameplay fresh.

For example, the last Zelda game I truly loved was Twilight Princess, with its surprisingly innovative dual-forms gameplay. But it had scant use inside dungeons because of the same old tried-and-true method of “find item, use item to solve puzzles, use item to kill boss, collect heart-piece and magical doohickey, move on.”

I would submit that limiting Link’s repertoire to a few select items and then building complex puzzles around them is far more interesting than figuring out which rusty switch to hit with my big hammer, and in which order it should best be done, again and again through multiple games.

We are in dire need of some new life in the games industry. Every now and again it happens (even with old IPs, such as Tomb Raider), but the industry leaders put such a high expectation on sales figures that, when the quota is not met, we lose a potentially excellent series.

This is the fate that befell Kingdoms of Amalur. This was an excellent game, but it had a longer-than-average development cycle, it didn’t meet the insane figures EA demanded, and subsequently the studio was closed. And now we all suffer from that creativity being snuffed out.

I continually hear the gaming community bitch and whine about this exact issue. About how they are tired of playing the same thing again and again. How they crave something new.

Well, don’t just crave it. Demand it. Vote with your wallet.

I did.

I am now done with World of Warcraft.

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On World Of Warcraft, And Stagnation

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