World of Warcraft: The MMO Brand Name?

Scott over at Broken Toys does a neat little analysis of a pretty bizarre article concerning the author’s perceived problems with MMOs.  Scott concludes something that’s pretty obvious to anyone who reads the source article: that author is equating World of Warcraft with all MMORPGs.

Yeah, WoW is popular and pretty well-known, even outside of PC gaming circles.  It’s perhaps not the first MMO to breach the pop culture barrier (I’d hand that baton to EverQuest), but its success in general awareness is unprecedented.  But have we truly arrived at a point where most everyone will be using WoW as a synonym for MMOs?  Kind of like how Band-Aids and Kleenex are freely used in conversation for all adhesive medical strips and booger tissues?

It’s frightening to think so.  I say that not because WoW is a bad game or I’m a disgruntled ex-player with a bone to pick, but because that boils down an entire genre of games down to one title and it limits newcomers’ understanding of the genre.  It’s as if you were to tell a friend about movies only using The Godfather and nothing but.  Great movie, but it’s not the be all, end all of cinema.  And WoW is not the be all, end all of MMORPGs.

Part of this synonym connection comes from the fact that many MMOs share common features with WoW (which, in turn, “shared” its features from games before and after it), making them look somewhat similar to the uninitiated eye.   We’re going to have to accept the fact that, as MMOs develop, they’re going to have to do so within a certain framework of gameplay and a UI to make it easily accessible to players who’ve long since gotten used to these setups in other games.  I’ve heard grumbling about this, but really, it makes complete sense for me.  You don’t reinvent the car completely when you design a new one — you work with the same basic template (four wheels, steering column, engine, transmission) but come up with something unique within those parameters.  MMOs are becoming like this — we’re getting used to a chat box being in a certain place, a radar screen in our top-right, quest givers with identifying icons and soforth.  Innovation through iteration.

Still, that’s no excuse to get lazy and assume that WoW is the lead ambassador of MMOs, and that other titles haven’t addressed the issues that the original article’s author did.  I’ve often thought WoW could be a severe handicap to players who cut their teeth on that title before anything else, because there’s an assumption that goes along with that that no other game could be as good or offer as much, and therefore, you should either play WoW or nothing at all.

Again, I’m not trash-talking WoW, but the whatever-hundred-pound gorilla in the MMO room needs to be revered a little less and its contemporaries respected a little more.  It’s pretty cool the directions that other studios are going and how they haven’t let WoW deter them from their own visions.  I like that Mythic is forging a path into the wild and wooly fields of RvR, or how Turbine is telling terrific stories, or how Cryptic is juiced on superhero fun, or how NC Soft keeps tanking their titles and making their players cry.  Wait, scratch that last one.

In any case, call MMOs by their proper names and stop slinging lazy generalizations around, is all I’m saying.

8 thoughts on “World of Warcraft: The MMO Brand Name?

  1. moxie January 29, 2009 / 3:34 am

    This is going to sound mean, but after reading the original article and the comments, two thoughts were going through my mind, directed at the original article:

    1. If you’re going to criticize, at LEAST offer some solutions or suggestions.

    2. If you’re going to assume that WoW represents all MMOs, please play it past The Barrens before launching into a diatribe about all the genre’s problems.

    /snarkomatic off. 🙂

  2. Maladorn January 29, 2009 / 5:21 am

    One game NCSoft did okay on was Guild Wars. But Guild Wars 2 was soo long in coming in a meaningful fashion that I came over to WAR. And I’m glad I did!

  3. spinks January 29, 2009 / 5:43 am

    I think it’s a bit disingenius to deny that his issues do apply to a lot of MMOs. It’s PvE in particular he has issues with, and the aggro model and static world have been staples since DIKU MUD days. The lots of buttons is an issue in a lot of games also (was just thinking that the other day in LOTRO and I remember needing extra hotbars in WAR also).

    I know you don’t like WoW but I don’t think he picked on any features that were especially WoW-specific.

  4. Ysharros January 29, 2009 / 1:58 pm

    The sad thing is, I think everyone except non-WoW MMO gamers already DOES equate MMO games with WOW. If it’s the only game the general non-gaming public have ever heard of, then that’s the de-facto, non-geek standard.

    Scary.

  5. Syp January 30, 2009 / 1:07 am

    And maybe it’s pointless to fight the generic label because of that… except, WoW won’t always be around or be the gold standard. It’ll be interesting to see what it looks like in ten years.

  6. Andrew January 30, 2009 / 3:14 pm

    Yeah, I read his article first before dipping anymore into anyone else’s commentary. I wanted to see it with fresh and unfettered eyes.

    All I have to say is what a giant bag of pompous gall this guy is. “I’m going to make a post on 5 reasons why I disklike WoW, and then apply it across the entire genre of games it fits into.”

    As others here pointed out, a lot of these systems are in place from games long gone by, and it is almost ingrained into how they operate. Taking some of these out, changes greatly how the games play. It’s like saying the reticle (sp?) in FPS games need to go because in the real world, you don’t have crosshairs where-ever you look.

  7. Ysharros January 31, 2009 / 6:36 pm

    “It’s like saying the reticle (sp?) in FPS games need to go because in the real world, you don’t have crosshairs where-ever you look.”

    Oh, uh…. you don’t?

    /hides sniper rifle

    Move along. Nothing to see here.

    (And yes, you’re one of the few who actually spells reticle correctly! You win! :D)

  8. virsale February 23, 2009 / 6:30 pm

    Interesting blog, i have bookmarked it for future referrence

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