While I can't quite claim cryogenic hibernation, it would simply be unfair to say that I took a break from gaming over the last decade. Sure, I played a few things here and there during my real-life adventures - but for the most part I never really did get to sit down and get comfortable. The details of that journey aren't really important right now, what's important is that I've recently realized how much of a foreigner I've become.
Or more precisely, how much the gaming universe has changed during my absence.
the Gravity Well - Issue #1
Just like Stalone's blast-from-the-past character, I've arrived back at a place I used to call home that has suddenly become radically different. There's all kinds of different terminology, and all the technology and mechanics that I used to know and love are either antiquated, irrelevant, or both. What's more, the genre I used to be so in tune with has transformed while I was away, systemically altered through years of docile development practices.
I'm still a bit stunned really. Just standing in disbelief wondering what the fuck *BZZT!* happened while I was away. It's almost like MMOs experienced the same fate as dine-in restaurants from a terribly awesome - and yet suddenly relatable 90's action adventure film - I've watched about 20 times. I could almost swear that Blizzard owns every top shelf MMO in the western world at the moment; except instead of all being different and having the same name - they've all got different names and are almost exactly alike.
In place of innovative mechanics and a unique experience, every single shelf has got those same three damn *BZZT!* sea-shells! What the fuck *BZZT!* is going on with this shit?! *BZZT!* Hang on a minute, let me calm down here. Here's a short video while you wait.
The last time I was gaming regularly, EverQuest was still the premiere MMO franchise. Meanwhile, World of Warcraft was this new, cute little idea Blizzard had of trying their luck at making a persistent world based on their own established Warcraft RTS franchise. I even played it for a good several months. It was beautiful and interesting, and a unique take on the genre. Now I come back and apparently WoW and MMO are interchangeable acronyms! It's not like I was frozen away getting my brain re-programed to love knitting for 50 years. Hell, it hasn't even been 10 years!
Okay, I'd be omitting a few facts if I didn't admit that I have picked WoW back up and been giving it a good run in Draenor. I can't say I'm all too pleased with the changes, but I am giving it a fair shake after eight years of modification. Unfortunately, for such a massive and storied world, there almost isn't a single mechanic left that requires you to actually experience any of all that hand-crafted content and story. Everything is easy, instant, and convenient, and you really don't have to work for anything! That's not such a bad thing though... cause there really isn't much of a reward to be had for putting in extra hours of game-play.
Now don't get offended, I'm not completely hating on WoW. As a busy writer, husband and father of three, all of that convenience and accessibility sure is appreciated. Unfortunately there just really isn't any middle ground. I haven't yet come across any mechanics that allow a player to put more time and effort into the game (if they have more to give) and get something truly enjoyable or rewarding out of it. It's similar to the kind of entertainment one gets from watching an episodic tv-show, except you have to pause it and run to a new location and find the exclamation guy to see what happens next. There's not really any role-playing or consequential choice that takes place anymore.
That's a big deal.
Gamers like me need a place to flex some of our wizened (see antiquated) muscles. You know, put some of our ancient skills and abilities to work making impactful choices that have good (and sometimes bad) consequences. Fortunately there is a call to arms for us grizzled veterans of the past. There is an old villain out there that we're adequately equipped to seek and destroy. That enemy? Boredom. He's jacking himself into the new technology and has gamers everywhere hop-scotching around from one short-lived title to another - and he's feeding off of the chaos.
The great game-communities of old are all but non-existent. There's just a few groups of old-fashioned individuals hunkered down underground trying to survive this cliché dystopian experience while they wait for a revolution. I'm not sure if we're quite there yet or not; it definitely feels like we're getting close. All I know is that I'm ready to suit-up and go to war against this asshole!