MMOs: the “it was better in my day” edition

Over the last year, I’ve seen more and more people exploring and discussing the idea that the first “golden age” of MMOs has come to an end, and that we’re entering a new, more casual era. And at the same time, we’re changing ourselves – we’re older, we have less time, and we’ve gained skill.

Today, we’ve got two great posts on this subject in particular. First up, Game By Night is looking at the changes from hardcore world simulation to casual “themepark”, and is making an interesting point – that the games are merely reflecting the changes in the gamers who play them

“Now look, I’ve waxed nostalgic about how meaningful all those long-standing goals we’re as much as the next guy; been there, done that. I’ve even talked on the Multiverse and expressed very similar ideas. Here’s a simple truth, though. The market’s only followed the money. The average person does not get more time to game as they get older. As husbands and wives, careers, kids, bills, and mortgages enter the picture, gaming time tends to slide until it either disappears or the classification on your gamer card changes entirely. MMOs are becoming more casual because, you guessed it, we’re becoming more casual. In this case, Syncaine and everyone else upset are the outliers — myself included for the certain opinions I do share. The reason people look at teenagers with free afternoons, weekends, and summers and say “must be nice” is for this very reason: We all have to grow up. Most adults simply do not have the time to play for more than an hour or two a day and I suspect that’s pushing it.

It’s a good thing there are plenty of niche games out there, because I suspect the days of AAA MMOs trying to simulate worlds are over. “

It’s an interesting point. I’m not sure that my own life has strictly followed that path – I came back to gaming with WoW after about 5 years of barely playing games at all, and since then my gaming time has been pretty consistent – but I know plenty of people who have gone from hardcore all-night marathon gamers to occasional-bash-on-the-Xbox players.

At the same time, Gazimoff of Mana Obscura is making a different argument – that we’re finding MMOs to be less challenging and less skillful because we’ve over-levelled them in terms of our own MMO skill

“The game hasn’t become any easier. We’ve just developed our skill beyond that which is matched by the game we’re playing. With other MMOs closely following the skill level of the game we’re playing, for those of us who thrive on challenge our needs aren’t being met. We’re being asked to play the same score of orchestral music at a faster and faster tempo, when all we want is a bit of jazz or classic rock instead.”

I’m not sure. It seems to me that the two trends are happening in concert. At the same time as the hardcore WoW players’ skill is continuing to increase, MMO games across the board are being casual-ised more and more. Are the two trends even compatible? Or are we going to end up with an entire class of gamer who has completely burned out on unchallenging MMOs?

What do you think?

Quotes taken directly from Chris and Gazimoff’s posts.