Player Investment

There’s a bit of debate these past few months about what exactly is a casual player and what gamers have as expectations towards the gaming sphere.  Some people think we’re too entitled, others that the terms being used are useless.  This is a natural growing process of the medium as it becomes more and more “mainstream”.  It’s still not acceptable in the way movie-philes are seen but it’s made great leaps and bounds from the basement geek stereotype.

Games like Uncharted, Zelda and Fallout are able to tell pretty amazing stories all while combining interesting gaming mechanics.  The most important part though, is player investment.  When you feel like Zelda is worth rescuing, you’ll re-try that boss for the 10th time.  When that colossus falls from the sky, you have an ounce of regret when you absorb its soul.  When you’ve put weeks into perfecting your MMO Raid Dance and finally accomplish something noteworthy with your group, it’s fulfilling.

The difference here is that the investment in an MMO is social.  You can play a single player game, experience the story, be impacted, want to take that next turn (damn you Civilization) and in the end, it’s an attachment between you and the game.  MMOs flip that where the mechanics force you to invest your time and through that time spent, you foster new relationships with the other players.  There’s a reason EQ guilds were so strong, it took weeks to get anything done.  You spent 75% of your time in chat waiting.  WoW’s insta-grouping mechanics means that you don’t have time to breathe, let alone type something down and build a community.

So as we move forward in this medium, with two opposing styles (single and multi player), one has to wonder which one is the true “game”?  Maybe both can be, just like there’s multiple types of films and books.  Should the mechanics of a game “force” you into being social?  Should there be adequate reward/reaction for being supportive?  Perhaps there’s simply too much focus on the player instead of the world and at that end, the world really is just a set piece rather than something the player wants to be a part of.

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