Thoughts on MMO Blogging

It’s been a while since I posted anything on my website. I feel that I owe my loyal readers an explanation of why I haven’t been posting as much.

I have been blogging and championing the cause of virtual worlds and MMORPG’s since 2004. I’m not a big fan of the word “blogging” and its fellow partner in crime “blogger”. You might consider me a snob for saying this, but I would prefer to consider myself a writer and an essayist.

MMO Bloggers

I take some pride in my writings and contributions to the MMO genre. I do a lot of thought, research and preparation before I write an article. I have worked on articles that have taken me up to 6 hours to produce — it’s a lot of hard work and I like to hold myself to a higher standard of quality than the typical MMO blogger out there who fires off a few paragraphs. Tobold is one such prodigious blogger that feels it necessary to share whatever is in his head at any given time with his readers. People seem to like what he writes and that’s fine by me. That is just not my style as I prefer quality over quantity.

Other MMO bloggers such as Scott Jennings, routinely fire off one to two sentence clever quips with a link and presto — they have created a blog post where their loyal readers do all the work for them and discuss.  I don’t have the need to convince you that I’m clever or that I have a pulse. Scott Jennings is a very intelligent man and I appreciate his delicious wit but that is not my style either.

During the course of a day I come up with at least one good idea for an article for this website. It’s not that I lack the imagination to create new articles; the problem is it takes work to research and craft them to the standard that I feel comfortable with. I love the old saying:

Better to be silent and thought a fool, than to speak out and leave no doubt

Another issue is that creating MMO articles is an unpaid vocation. You have to do it because you love it or are foolish enough to think you can change minds. Sure, I have a few advertisements for Amazon and over the years what I have earned barely compares with my hosting costs to keep this website going. I’m not complaining. I’m just stating a fact that what you read is essentially free content and somebody (me) has to take the time to create it.

The Insular World of MMOs

But the main reason that I don’t write that much anymore is that writing about the need for better MMOs seems to fall on deaf ears. The MMO industry is very insular and impervious to the intrusion of criticism and new ideas.

Even the new MMO academic establishment — in the form of Bartle, Castronova, Yee and academic wannabe Raph Koster — have created their own hegemonic clique where good ideas are not really welcomed or acknowledged from outsiders unless you have a published book or are a professor. (This may not be their intention but this is how I perceive them.)

Then you have the utterly worthless and shallow video game “press” that are paid sycophants and on retainer for the video game industry. Rest assured as long as this symbiotic relationship exists they will never hold companies like Blizzard and SOE accountable.

Sympathy for the Developer or Why Video Game Devs Live in Bunkers

When I was a video game designer I remember what it felt like: it was intoxicating. My blog postings all but vanished during those years. I felt that actually making video games was somehow noble and important — far more important than mere writing about making video games. At the time, I secretly felt smug, arrogant and dismissive of bloggers. It seemed to me that I didn’t need to read blogs on the theory of video game design because I was in the trenches doing battle creating “great” games.

During my time in the industry, I was also mentally exhausted from working like a madman. At the end of a day in the video game industry that last thing you feel like doing is reading about how the video game you just spent the last 8 months of your life on sucks by some teenage critic with no life.

So I can sympathize with the people at Blizzard. They are at currently at the top of the ladder and are successful. They too have fallen into the trap of thinking they are important; too important to look out the windows of their ivory towers at the reality that is approaching on the horizon.

Imagine an up and coming film critic trying to convince George Lucas or Steven Spielberg to make better movies. The chances of that happening are zero.

So what do we do?

Where Real Change Will Come From

When you see something you love get watered down and emasculated you get upset and angry. But you get even angrier when nothing changes and 11 million zombies continue to support a company that is cheating them out of true virtual world experience. A sense of disillusionment and pointlessness that sinks in that is hard to shake. Does anyone remember the slogan: Hope and Change? Enough said.

Real change will never come from Blizzard, SOE and the big companies. Just like change didn’t come from established corporations like IBM, it came from two long-haired dreamers who started a small company in their garage that changed the world: Apple. In the end, it’s up to new people to risk all they have and create their own MMORPGs and virtual worlds; people like Curt Schilling from 38 Studios, who has put everything on the line.

There are no easy answers. Complaining about how bad MMO’s are is easy; making great MMOs is hard. I get it. But there still has to be room left for thoughtful criticism. MMO companies should be held more accountable by everyone and that includes players too.

I believe virtual worlds and MMORPGs have vast amounts of unrealized potential as a genre and that they still worth fighting for. I have not hung up my sword and shield just yet. So I will do my best to post more often. I have also decided to put less pressure on myself and I may even take some tips from Tobold and Scott Jennings and post shorter articles that are more blog-like and less long-winded. To my readers, thank you for your unswerving loyalty and your continued patience.

-Wolfshead

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