Syp is AFK on vacation this week and put out a call for substitute writers! Today’s guest post is brought to you by Tyler of Superior Realities. Check out his blog for more great word-stuff!
Embrace the Good Hail and well met, Bio Break readers. My name is Tyler, and I usually blog over at Superior Realities, where I discuss video games, books, TV, movies, and my life as a freelance writer and novelist. Syp has kindly invited me to provide a guest post for Bio Break while he is on vacation.
There are many things upon which Syp and I disagree. Most notably Elves – if I thought he’d let me get away with it, I’d plaster this entire post in nothing but pictures of Elves, just to watch him squirm. But if there is one thing I do admire about Syp, it is his positivity. In the face of a gaming community that is awash with endless toxicity and negativity, he maintains a mostly optimistic outlook and an almost childlike excitement for gaming in general and MMOs in particular. We really need more of that in this community.
In that spirit, I have chosen to follow his lead and resist the temptation to make my guest post another of my patented epic nerd rants. I will take a page from Monty Python and look on the bright side of life… at least where gaming is concerned.
A matter of perspective: If you’re reading this, odds are that you’re very passionate about gaming. If you’re anything like me, you’ve sunk hundreds of hours into imaginary worlds. I like passion. I admire it. But it does have some significant drawbacks. The joy we feel at exploring a new virtual world can quickly turn to anger when developers stumble and steer their games in poor directions. There’s nothing wrong with that really, but our anger can quickly grow until it blinds us and sucks all the fun from our hobby. We lose perspective and no longer see the forest for the trees.
I’m a World of Warcraft player, and lately I’ve been thinking back to the Mists of Pandaria expansion. I was very unhappy with the state of WoW for most of that expansion. Nearly every kind of reward became locked by a seemingly endless parade of poorly designed daily quests, and the endgame as a whole was a grind as rambling and confused as it was tedious.
But there was also a lot of good in Pandaria. It had some of the best story-telling Blizzard has yet produced, gorgeous visuals, awe-inspiring music, and a great new form of endgame content in scenarios. With the benefit of hindsight, I now recognize that my anger over all the ways Blizzard screwed up with MoP robbed me of a lot of the joy of all the things they did right. The strengths of MoP don’t absolve its flaws, but I wish I could have more thoroughly appreciated the good in that expansion, instead of wholly focusing on the negatives.
Looking ahead to Legion, there are already several things about the expansion I strongly dislike, but there are also a lot of things that deeply excite me, and I’m making a very conscious decision to not let the former ruin the latter for me this time around.
To use a more recent example, I’ve been playing a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic over the last few months. If you know me, you know this is very surprising. For one thing, I’ve never been big on the Star Wars franchise, and more importantly, I have long been fiercely critical of the game’s free to play business model. I believe the phrase “like S&M without a safe word” has come up a few times. But I like a lot of the changes made by the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion, and I’m a fan of Bioware’s story-telling, so I decided to give it one more shot.
And I don’t regret it one bit. The game might not have been worth it for me before KotFE, but it definitely is now. Don’t get me wrong. I still think their business model is a travesty, and I have more than a few other problems with SW:TOR, but the intensity of the Imperial agent story and the joy of getting to know great characters like Vette and Nadia are worth it. I’m very glad that I swallowed my stubborn pride and gave the game one more shot.
I’m also reminded again of those people who refuse to try Diablo III because of its always online requirement. For the record, I agree it’s a poor decision on Blizzard’s part, but discounting the game entirely based on that has always struck me as a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Whatever flaws it had at launch, D3 has evolved into one of the best RPGs of recent memory, and if you haven’t played it, you’re missing out.
My point here is not that criticism is bad. Quite the opposite. Criticism is crucial. We should never stop criticizing games when they faceplant. Criticism is the only way anyone or anything evolves. But don’t lose perspective. Don’t let your dislike of one or two problems rob you of the joy of an otherwise good game. Don’t miss out on good experiences by clinging to stubborn pride or trying to make some kind of statement.
It’s also worth remembering that game developers are not homogenous entities. People in the gaming community have a tendency to treat each developer as a singular entity, or at best a dictatorship where one prominent developer is viewed as the sole source of every decision, but this is not the case. Development companies are diverse groups of people spread out over many teams. They might not all agree on everything, and many of the people who work on games have little to no say in the big picture decisions. This knowledge has done a lot to help me maintain my sanity as someone with very strong opinions, both positive and negative, about a lot of games.
The people who run the monetization for SW:TOR are a bunch of money-grubbing sleazewads. But the people who write the game’s stories do not bear any of the blame for the game’s greed. They do good work, and they’re worthy of my support. The systems and endgame designers for World of Warcraft change their design philosophies more often than I change my underwear, and the only consistent vision they seem to have is the need to find new and creative ways to make the game more unnecessarily time-consuming and to remind non-raiders we’re second-class citizens. But the aesthetic wing of Blizzard, from environment artists to soundtrack composers, are among the best in the industry, and they deserve no blame for the mistakes of their superiors. They’re worthy of my support.
If you truly don’t enjoy a game, then just move on, but if there are still things you enjoy about it, don’t let its flaws consume all your attention. Don’t ignore the bad, but don’t fixate on it. Embrace the good in games.
Elves forever! Selama ashal’anore! *Runs off cackling.*