November 15, 2019, 01:53:38 PM

Author Topic: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?  (Read 5970 times)

Offline Overlord

Article on the main site today about Geoff's journey through MMOs. I think it raises a number of interesting questions that you will find below the article and I'd love to hear your thoughts on:

Quote
It has been said that computer games are the enemy of writing, and by extension reading. It might be true. It may also be that some games really do qualify as ‘Interactive Fiction’ and they are capable of telling a good story – I’m looking at you Tex Murphy. There is a subset of games that have, since their inception, brought people together to discuss the relative strengths and weakness of characters, to talk about the adventures those characters have, and created friendships that have lasted years. The multiplayer online games. In particular, the RPG versions of these – the MMORPG.

Now, I’ve played these games for years, but I haven’t played them all. I’d really appreciate it if folks who’d played other games or have other memories add them to the comments section below or have a discussion in the forum. So, my story.

Or rather, the story of Arte et Marte – the guild, the group of friends, I’ve played these games with since…well, since at least 2000, and perhaps a little before.

It began with Ultima Online, on a dial-up connection, with ICQ as the preferred method of chatting. An age before 3D MMOs became the norm, when there were no safe realms. If you left the city, say Britannia, then you were fair game for all the PKs (player killers) out there. You saw a red name floating above a characters head and you either ran or fought. I ran, a lot in the early days. In the company of a like-minded adventurer, I ran into a PK in one of the dungeons who wanted to us to pay him (or her) not to kill us – I think we ran away. It was in this game that I met a fellow gamer whom we shall now refer to as Ed.

In UO, you could buy a proper house. One that was part of the world itself, no separate zones here. You could set up a shop, have your characters make all the goods you sold, and decorate it in your own way. There was no auction house that covered the entire world, no automatic delivery of items, or magical mail system. If you wanted to buy something, you had to go out into the dangerous wilds, and hunt it down. Magical items were rare, and items degraded, got lost or stolen. There was a roaring trade in player crafted goods, house prices were comparable to those in the UK and rising at a similar rate. A living, breathing and bloody vicious world to play in. Until they split it into two realms that is; one safe and one unsafe. Most folks stayed in the safe realm. We left.

And went to Dark Age of Camelot. This is when the guild really came together. Here, on Salisbury Plain, not far from Stonehenge, we could meet up and hunt the undead creatures, the animated skeletons of long dead roman soldiers. Mention the phrase “Black Dog” it conjures the memory of one our number, the eponymous Ed, being chased all over the plains by a canine. Of course, everyone else came to his aid – well, once they’d all stopped laughing long enough.

We went into the frontiers. The first views of Snowdonia and the fortresses. The massive battles at enemy castles, the sieges, the little stories of heroism and foolishness. This was Player versus Player, or rather Realm vs Realm, with meaning. Yes, you could be killed by a stealthy character if you ran around on your own, but in a group, that’s where the experience shone.

From Camelot to Warcraft. The new kid on the block, a promise of new adventures, a new world to explore. We dived in. The world of DAoC had a darkness, a griminess about its world. Warcraft aimed for a world torn apart by war, but a brightly coloured, cartoony one. We adventured and roamed the world, enjoying it at first. But there were cracks – the queueing for PvP battles, the lack of a need for grouping, most quests could be done on your own and those that needed a group could be skipped and you would still level up.

From here on, in the guild remained together, but the games changed at a faster and faster pace. Everquest 2 for some of us, back to DAoC for a bit, Guild Wars 2, Warhammer, Secret World, Age of Wulin
  • , Rift, Darkfall, Elder Scrolls Online, Eve, Elite and the list goes on and on.


Ed, Cal, Ty, Garth, Kal, and I (Arun), still play these games, but the meet-ups are fewer (in the games) and deciding on just one game to play is much more difficult. Has the quality of gaming declined? No, I don’t think so, there are just many more of them to choose from. Has the nature of the games changed? Yes, there is certainly a move towards more solo play and less grouping, unless you are a raiding player. And player versus player? Most of these games have it now, but it is only Elder Scrolls Online (that I am aware of) that has tried to recapture the essence of Dark Age of Camelot.

The thing is, I don’t regret a thing. Okay, I might have finished another book or seven (either writing or reading), but I’d also have missed out on some great stories. Nothing is going to replace a book anytime soon, but computer games and MMOs in particular, do let you write your own story – at least in some regards.

* That was just me and for obvious reasons, if you have been following the #SPFBO.

Can MMOs ever hope to replace books? Have they already? Why / Why not?

Which MMOs have you played?

Are they worth the hours you put into them?
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Offline JMack

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Re: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2015, 12:23:53 PM »
I know the question about MMOs replacing books is a red flag to us bulls. I won't charge toward that.

But, more to the point, MMOs aren't for me. I tried EVE Online a few years ago. I just couldn't invest the time, and this is how I view almost all computer games. This is both personal and generational. I played D&D constantly in my teens, but it didn't fit for me as an adult or a married dad. Too much time. (This is why I don't play golf, either. Too much time, too much money.)

I know I'm missing some real treats, both in MMOs and other SFF games. @Yora speaks compellingly of some games, and even said that he views one of them as the greatest Fantasy fiction ever. That's hard for me to imagine, but I accept it must be quite an experience.

But, I'll stick to books, writing and... F-F.
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Offline Henry Dale

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Re: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2015, 01:35:48 PM »
I played/play both guild wars 1 and 2 actively, but then again I don't play them as being a very separate thing from real life as most people like to keep them. I met people in mmo's which I have subsequently met irl, talked to, loved and sometimes unfortunately lost. I guess it's a bit like meeting new people in a bar, just online :p
Got some real life friends I met in an mmo initially. It's also great for cheap vacations ^^ and you always have things to talk about.

It never got in the way of my reading though. It has the same relation reading has with, for example, movies. They all have stories but they don't rule each other out. And more storytelling is always great for creative minds  :)

Offline G_R_Matthews

Re: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2015, 02:04:39 PM »
Now, if only there was a Fantasy-Faction guild where you could play games and talk about Fantasy books...    :)
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Offline Henry Dale

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Re: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2015, 02:08:38 PM »
Now, if only there was a Fantasy-Faction guild where you could play games and talk about Fantasy books...    :)

Nothing stops you from making one :p

Offline G_R_Matthews

Re: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2015, 02:13:29 PM »
I see myself more as a disorganised follower  8)
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Offline madfox11

Re: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2015, 01:25:27 PM »
Played Dark Age of Camelot and WoW a lot, but eventually realized those games were not for me. I love playing with friends, but they all spend a lot more time at those games. The result was that the whole exploration part of the game got lost. Of course, random groups were also an issue that people either took the game too seriously or not seriously enough to my taste. Finally, I found the story lacking and the quests became repetative. I like it when my actions in the game have a visible impact on the world.

Having said so, I do spend hours upon tabletop and computer RPGs, just not MMOs. I find the question about one replacing the other a bit odd though, they are different from books in that you tend to be more limited in location and time in where you can play them. They are the same though in that they tell a story, and while few are as good as a good book, that tend to be compensated by other factors that books don't have. It never has been a choice for me that is for sure ;)

Offline sennydreadful

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Re: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2015, 03:24:28 PM »
Way back in the mists of time when we first got our Xbox 360, I picked up a game randomly because it had a dragon on the cover. I became completely obsessed with Dragon Age Origins - having not played such a big RPG before, I was struck by how immersive it was, how detailed the world building, and how much of an emotional impact it had on me - certainly as much as any book I've read (playing Dragon Age Inquisition now and it is just ridiculously gorgeous)

I have less experience with MMOs, but I do think video games have an enormous potential as an art form, and I value them very highly.

Offline Saraband

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Re: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2015, 05:28:59 PM »
As for the first question, I think not. Books and video games are very different mediums, and while they may have many things in common, they are not mutually exclusive. Just like with movies and books, a good book can enhance your experience with a video game - all those Warcraft / Warhammer / Dragon Age novels tend to explore aspects of the story and characters that are often untouched or barely mentioned within the games.

As for the second question, I find it harder to answer. I started playing World of Warcraft within the first year of its release, and never stopped until an year after its second expansion had been launched. I have returned for a very short period after each new expansion was released, but never played more than the first month. The only other MMO I played was Warhammer Online.

In terms of entertainment value, I would argue that MMO's are a fairly cheap commodity that provides hours & hours of game time, even if most of them require a monthly subscription fee. However, and this has more to do with me than the games themselves, MMO's and their highly addictive nature can be extremely disruptive to your life. I was extremely sedentary, unhealthy, seriously overweight and had no social life. I also read very little during the years I play World of Warcraft incessantly, because it took all the free time that was left from school. As I said, this has more to do with my own personality than MMO's, because there are plenty of people who play MMO's very casually and for very short periods of time.

Consciously deciding to put MMO's aside for my own health was one of the best decisions that I ever made. I've since tried playing WoW again, but I no longer get the same buzz out of it, and I feel that the experience of reading a book is far more rewarding. But MMO's, and in fact all games I've played (they've been mostly Strategy games or Roleplaying ones), have had a great influence in my own creativity and in the things I like. I've always given a lot of importance to the stories, to the lore of those worlds, and I sometimes notice that a few of these influences creep into my own creative process - while recognizing that perhaps there are even more influences creeping in that I can't identify on my own.

So, if it gives you pleasure, and takes your mind off stress / work / problems, MMO's can certainly be worth the time they often require. Like many other things, they can quickly become addictive and disruptive, but so can books, perhaps in different ways.

(This was far more confessional, and lengthier, than I thought I would write. But then again, sharing is always good therapy  :) )
« Last Edit: April 15, 2015, 05:30:40 PM by Saraband »
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Offline Yora

Re: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2015, 07:24:51 PM »
I know I'm missing some real treats, both in MMOs and other SFF games. @Yora speaks compellingly of some games, and even said that he views one of them as the greatest Fantasy fiction ever. That's hard for me to imagine, but I accept it must be quite an experience.
There are some really good fantasy and sci-fi games with very tight stories, which I think even reach the level of better TV shows. But none of those are online games.

Online games have their own charms, but storytelling is one of the aspects where they are the least able to deliver. For good storytelling you need either linearity like in a book or TV show, or a roleplaying game with a really good gamemaster who adjust things things on the fly based on the player actions. Online-videogames are the opposite of that.
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Offline G_R_Matthews

Re: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2015, 09:16:04 PM »
I don't know - there is the opportunity in MMOs to create your own stories within a framework.

In UO folks built their own towns, with their own rules. I helped to organise a dueling competition which drew folks from all over Brittania, Reds and Blues all getting on for the purpose of the competition. And UO was an MMO with very few rules.

I think more modern MMOs have lost some of that freedom (maybe not EVE) but are more polished in what they accomplish.

In singleplayer games you become the main protaganist, but for many the sense of choice is gone.

Games can tell stories - how satisfying they are, well that's up to the player.
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Offline Rostum

Re: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2015, 10:49:03 PM »
I dont believe MMO's are anywhere as immersive as reading can be and people who are drawn to reading fantasy are unlikely to stop because there are fantasy games available. MMo's will steal your life and are addictive by the nature of how they work and the need to work with others to achieve goals. Not healthy long term. I Played WoW for a few years with a reasonable raiding guild and still read. The amount of reading I do depends on my ability to sleep (not great) what I have to get done and whether I have company. Reading is a solitary pleasure for me but a daily one, even if it is only a couple of pages. What gets me antsy is if I don't get to read for a day or two. I will happily sit with a book during the day if I get the chance but always read at night or in bed.

Offline JMack

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Re: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2015, 11:46:39 PM »
I know I'm missing some real treats, both in MMOs and other SFF games. @Yora speaks compellingly of some games, and even said that he views one of them as the greatest Fantasy fiction ever. That's hard for me to imagine, but I accept it must be quite an experience.
There are some really good fantasy and sci-fi games with very tight stories, which I think even reach the level of better TV shows. But none of those are online games.

Online games have their own charms, but storytelling is one of the aspects where they are the least able to deliver. For good storytelling you need either linearity like in a book or TV show, or a roleplaying game with a really good gamemaster who adjust things things on the fly based on the player actions. Online-videogames are the opposite of that.
@Yora what was the PC/PS3 whatever game you said was great work of fiction? Elder Scrolls?
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Offline Doctor_Chill

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Re: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2015, 01:23:43 AM »
I know I'm missing some real treats, both in MMOs and other SFF games. @Yora speaks compellingly of some games, and even said that he views one of them as the greatest Fantasy fiction ever. That's hard for me to imagine, but I accept it must be quite an experience.
There are some really good fantasy and sci-fi games with very tight stories, which I think even reach the level of better TV shows. But none of those are online games.

Online games have their own charms, but storytelling is one of the aspects where they are the least able to deliver. For good storytelling you need either linearity like in a book or TV show, or a roleplaying game with a really good gamemaster who adjust things things on the fly based on the player actions. Online-videogames are the opposite of that.
@Yora what was the PC/PS3 whatever game you said was great work of fiction? Elder Scrolls?

I think he said it was Mass Effect, which is a single plate SF game. Brilliant, I've heard.
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Offline JMack

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Re: Can MMOs replace books? Are they worth the hours you put into them?
« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2015, 01:28:58 AM »
I know I'm missing some real treats, both in MMOs and other SFF games. @Yora speaks compellingly of some games, and even said that he views one of them as the greatest Fantasy fiction ever. That's hard for me to imagine, but I accept it must be quite an experience.
There are some really good fantasy and sci-fi games with very tight stories, which I think even reach the level of better TV shows. But none of those are online games.

Online games have their own charms, but storytelling is one of the aspects where they are the least able to deliver. For good storytelling you need either linearity like in a book or TV show, or a roleplaying game with a really good gamemaster who adjust things things on the fly based on the player actions. Online-videogames are the opposite of that.
@Yora what was the PC/PS3 whatever game you said was great work of fiction? Elder Scrolls?

I think he said it was Mass Effect, which is a single plate SF game. Brilliant, I've heard.
single plate?
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