The Rise of the Impatient Gamer

Is the MMO industry at large conditioning us to be impatient gamers?  Yes and no, I believe.

One of the things you sometimes hear from long-time MMO vets is this desire to express just how different things used to be.  There are many factors to that, but one that I was thinking of is that the genre used to cater far more to very patient gamers — not due to any masterminded plan, but out of necessity.  In fact, all of gaming used to slant this way due to the technology and whatnot.

It makes me think of how it used to be with television.  Viewers would only get a handful of stations, if that, and they were slaves to the scheduling.  They had to wait for their show to air, wait for next week’s episode, wait wait wait.  They had to sit through commercials (or change the channel).  But then technology started to put the power in the hands of the viewers: remote controls, VCRs, cable stations, DVRs, Netflix, Hulu.  Now we have an unimaginable amount of entertainment at our fingertips on instant demand, and we simply don’t have to wait much anymore.  It makes us impatient when something happens to make us wait, because we’ve become used to — or conditioned to — not handle that.

So it is with MMOs.  When there were just a handful of sub-based games, you had to be patient.  Updates came out gradually, games took dedication to understand and get into, other games came out once in a blue moon, fights took forever, progression took forever, etc.  Then it shifted much like TV: Games shifted to become more casual friendly, alternative business models (all the F2P variants) arose, titles started releasing exponentially, and so on.  Is it any surprise we’ve become impatient?  Why some players don’t wait to fully play a game to judge it?  Why we hop around like mad?

Granted, in both the case of TV and MMOs, I am not wistful for the olden days.  I don’t want to go back.  I dislike impatience, both in myself and in others, but I also really appreciate options, choices, and an entertainment venue that conforms to my play needs and schedule instead of the other way around.  If I was a working dad of three kids in 2001, I do not think I’d have any ability to play MMOs at all.  Now I can — and stay under budget.  Today I have choices so that I don’t just delve fully into one title and either burn out or have it consume me.

Yet I still am not a fan of the rampant impatience — coupled with entitlement and temper tantrums — that this environment produces.  I wish we’d be much more willing to give MMOs a fair shake and a second chance down the road instead of barely tasting them before pronouncing them unfit for our royal palate.  Some days I wonder if we’re going to get to a point where we’ll start to swing back in the direction of where it all began.

Perhaps that might happen if the industry “crashes” and titles start going extinct by the scores, leaving us with just a few survivors.  I don’t see that happening at all, but it’s a possibility.  Or perhaps we’ll get so sick of the crowded field that we’ll just hunker down and stop trying out new titles altogether.  Or perhaps MMO studios will come up with ways to encourage customer loyalty and satisfaction on a level that will make us never want to leave.  I don’t know.

I just don’t want to be impatient.  Good things come to those who wait, after all.


6 thoughts on “The Rise of the Impatient Gamer

  1. Wilhelm Arcturus October 23, 2012 / 11:54 am

    “Why some players don’t wait to fully play a game to judge it?”

    You’re not going to dredge up that old chestnut again, are you? How much of a game do you have to play before you are allowed to say you do not enjoy it?

    Anyway, I do not think people are any more impatient than they ever were. The environment has changed and impatience can manifest itself in new and colorful ways, but that isn’t the same thing as people being more impatient. As you say, when there is no real choice, you are kind of stuck. When you have choice, you are free to change and to go where you feel your time is better spent. But don’t you even try to tell me that there were not magnificent, incandescent temper tantrums in game forums back when we had much more limited choice.

    Plus we all come at things with such different frames of reference that what you might see as impatience somebody else might feel is tolerance beyond measure.

    It sounds like you want to vent about something in particular, but you have inflated it to a general screed on impatience that is so vague as to lack real bite or meaning.

    Plus, there is a bit of “physician, heal thy self” in this. Who here is jumping around from game to game and who has hunkered actually hunkered down and stuck with a couple MMOs rather than chasing every new shiny?

  2. Thomas Delano October 23, 2012 / 1:06 pm

    I feel there are odd expectations for MMOs that result in this; for some, they look for a game to provide another world. They can log into that world and never run out of things to do, and as long as they play, they are able to craft their character (and themselves) into whoever they want. This is usually titled ‘hardcore’ amongst MMO players, in the sense that many are looking for a game to challenge them, require a lot of time, and ultimately reward them for their diligence.

    On the other end of the spectrum, you have people that see gaming as a passive hobby. They treat MMOs the same way they’d treat a game of Words with Friends; you log in, have some fun for a little bit, log out. Rinse and repeat. MMOs aren’t other worlds, just games that allow you to play with or around other players.

    The problem comes when developers have to figure out which audiences they’re trying to develop their game for. Gamers are, after all, a spectrum of playstyles, habits, and regularity. There is no formula to design a game that appeals to all or even all within a niche. I think this impatience in gaming arises from players getting into a game that was 1) not designed particularly for them, 2) not well designed to begin with, or 3) aims its design towards pleasing them and those of different playstyles, which often does not work at all.

  3. marcseguin October 23, 2012 / 4:02 pm

    I’ve talked about this a bit myself, both online and with friends. There are quite a few studies on the proliferation of choice (like how many toothpaste options do you really need?) and the social impact.

    While I do agree that with the choices we have, people are quicker to judge, I prefer to chalk that up to the existing market. “New” mmo players don’t have a problem with most games it’s us older folks. We have pre-conceived notions of how things should be. We eventually chase the new shiny when our current game becomes rote, only to realize there’s a reason we like our current game.

    If a new games wants to succeed then it needs to have a clear target demograph and specifically address their needs. Expand over time if you want but polish that core ’til it shines. EvE and Rift are the only 2 games in the past 5 years that have done this. It’s just not possible to compete with an established brand that has had years to build their user base.

    Gamers aren’t necessarily less patient, we’re just more pre-conditioned.

  4. Mekhios October 23, 2012 / 6:49 pm

    I find your comment slightly hypocritical Syp. You yourself are a notorious MMO tourist. Why do you jump from one MMO to the next?

    I also don’t agree with your comment players are too impatient. MMO development is not in its infancy anymore and players know exactly what they want. Developers can learn by looking at the last 10 years of MMO design. Developers no longer have the luxury of releasing crap on to a market with no competition. As an example our guild saw how poorly SWTOR was supported after 2 months. We weren’t going to spend another six months playing that shitty MMO just in the “hope” the developers might actually fix the game.

    If a developer releases a half-baked MMO don’t expect players to stick around. We’ve seen enough imaginary promises that never eventuated from MMO developers who have hyped the crap out of their game in the hope to get more gullible people to continue paying their subscriptions. Sorry we’re not that stupid anymore.

  5. Green Armadillo October 23, 2012 / 7:19 pm

    Smedley said it best in his keynote at whatever they are calling Fan Faire – the old regime was “pay to hope”. What he didn’t say is that many customers have found their hope to be misplaced and don’t feel like repeating the mistake. The system only functioned for as long as it did because there was really only a single entry in most MMO sub-genres. Perhaps we were all paradoxically happier for having to put up with whatever the one game that catered to our preferences was doing, but let’s not sugar coat the “good old days” when you didn’t have anywhere else to go if you were not satisfied with the service.

  6. Wilhelm Arcturus October 23, 2012 / 8:24 pm

    @Green Armadillo – Ah, the “suffering builds character” theory that my grandfather put so much stock in during my visits to the farm. Damn if he wasn’t right again.

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