Please allow this old gamer to rant a little bit about the “good ol days.” Honestly, with my rose-colored glasses traded in for a non-gold copy of, The Legend of Zelda, I realize they weren’t all that great. Let us take, Everquest as an example. That was the first MMORPG that I ever played, and it allowed me to enter a fully 3D fantasy world of my dreams, but looking back it did have it’s problems.
I got Loot and made a Friend
The idea of sitting in one spot “camping” a specific monster nowadays seems crazy and yet that is exactly what we did, for hours, and days, and sometimes weeks. However, many times that is when the most fun was to be had. You would find a group to camp said monster and that group would stay together for hours on end. You would talk and tell stories as if you were real adventures sitting around the campfire. Those conversations often created friendships and in some cases relationships.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it was all business, but when you are waiting for the, Golden Efreeti to spawn and you get his place holder for the fifth time, you need something else to do. Even the most hardcore raiding guilds had groups of people who became friends and more outside the game and that is something this is lost with the current group of games and gamers.
Perfect, the enemy of Good
I began to see the change when the “Holy Trinity” became a thing within, Everquest. You had to have a healer, tank and DPS (damage) and then it evolved to a tank with regeneration, a healer with the largest mana pool and quickest heals and the damage dealer that was min/maxed to The Plane of Hate and back. This change brought with it attitudes of one class being better than the other and if you did not play the correct class, you were not worthy of the group.
Everquest 2 went for the kill when it introduced shared debt experience. What this meant was if anyone in your party died, everyone would lose some experience. Experience debt was bad enough, but now you could do everything right and someone else’s mistake could cost you time and many could not deal with that.
I can do this in Five
A lot of people grew up during Everquest 1 and 2 and leading into World of Warcraft. Along the way there were many other fun MMORPGs such as, Dark age of Camelot, Conan, and City of Heroes and with them came a community of people looking for the fastest and most efficient way to gain levels and loot. Inherently there is nothing wrong with this except that for many, once you find the fast way to do something, you cannot do it any other way.
What ended up happening is the “Holy Trinity” made its way into every game. Now you would look online for guides on exactly what class to build to maximize your time. For some this was good because they were getting older and had less time to play, for others, it was a way to segregate themselves from the common or “casual” player base.
Soon groups were divided between “serious business” and everyone else and once people saw how fast the serious groups would level and how much loot they received, more and more wanted to ride the express train.
More communication tools, less communication
A few friends of mine had an “EQ Phone” all it was, was a phone with a headset that allowed us to talk to each other while gaming. When services like, TeamSpeak and Discord came along some hoped it would bring back that group communication and ability to create friendships within games, but it was not to be.
By then people were far to used to quickly jumping into a dungeon and moving on to the next and if a group did not know all the tricks and shortcuts it would be quickly disbanded. As the toxicity went up, group communication fell and things such as voting for people to be kicked from a group became the default way to communicate disagreement.
I learned it from watching you
Then we had the next generation who had watched their brother or sister reach the top of their respective game and they wanted a taste of that. YouTube and Twitch was teaching everyone the fastest way to do something, and most game companies gave in to what those gamers wanted. Even as the old guard complained about games becoming too easy, many wanted them to become faster to complete.
When MOBA’s came on the scene it made speed and ease of access the mainstay for group-based gaming. Yelling at bad tanks and healers and loot stealing damage dealers were all the rage even as older gamers (many now with kids of their own) left gaming behind because it was so unwelcoming.
I am not one to wish to go backwards. I recently tried, Classic World of Warcraft and just could not do it. The quality-of-life changes are ones I do not want to live without, but I do miss the old group dynamic. When you actually cared about your character and their reputation and when you could learn about the real person behind the character you played alongside for years.
Even after Covid, in game communication is often shunned unless it is an extremely competitive group. Beyond that, people often disable chat, especially voice chat not wanting to hear terrible slurs and people screaming into their headsets.
I do not have a solution to this. Perhaps someone else does, but as us old gamers get older many of us want a game where we can enjoy the world within and the people in the real world outside.