Vague Patch Notes: Don’t take it personal, it just ain’t your (MMO) story

Oh bang.

Here’s an interesting fact of trivia for you for today: I am pretty much clocked out when it comes to news about H1Z1. The game is a trash fire. If it hasn’t shut down already, it should have, and even when it does I don’t particularly care beyond a conclusion to a story that was functionally done ages ago. It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care.

Well, the personal side of me doesn’t care, anyhow. The professional side of me realizes that this is going to be a big darn story when it finally closes, especially since the game is basically the only basket Daybreak has produced in the past several years.

This highlights an interesting aspect of working in this field: the simple reality that the stuff you care about isn’t always the same as the stuff that is worth covering. And it’s something that I see crop up with various degrees of misunderstanding every so often, either wondering why we’re covering a particular title or failing to cover something else. It’s a multi-faceted topic, to be sure, but today I want to home in on the different between personal interest and importance.


All of us have a limited range of personal interest. There’s stuff that we find neat and stuff that we just don’t. To give a personal example, I do not have any interest in Game of Thrones beyond the fact that all accounts seem to have highlighted some pretty massive storytelling issues in the final season. I’ve never watched the show. I don’t care about the characters. Stories about it don’t matter to me personally.

At the same time, I don’t have any curiosity about why everyone was covering the series finale instead of things that were more personally relevant to me because there are a lot of things that aren’t personally relevant to me that are in fact important on a larger scale. People care about Game of Thrones. People care about the Super Bowl and who Arianna Grande is dating.

People also care about Final Fantasy XIV, so I still have a job. But sometimes – by which I mean “a lot of the time” – there are big things going on in the online gaming world that have nothing to do with it, which means that my personal enthusiasm has to take a backseat in favor of other, more immediately relevant events. This does not mean that the system is broken or somehow failing; it means that sometimes the big story is one that is less personally relevant to me.

This is not a line of thought that comes naturally to me. Especially in my early days when I started doing this job a decade ago… wait, a decade? That can’t be right. Let me sit in my rocking chair and stare into the middle distance for a while, children.

Aside from the fact that somewhere along the line I became old, it took me a while to really develop the eye for significant stories when compared to stuff that I cared about. Especially from the perspective of the audience, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of being hyperfocused on what matters to you personally and wholly unconcerned with everything else. Who cares about what’s coming out on the Xbox One? No one has one anyway. Give me more information about the consoles I actually want to hear about.

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.MMOs suffer from this as well simply because the genre went from small to big in a really short span of time, and the question of what we consider an MMO has shifted as well. There are a whole lot of games that do fit the definition we use but hold zero interest for me, and yet sometimes those are not just games I have to know about but ones that have a major story to cover.

That’s not even counting when there are major stories for games I like that I don’t want to cover. I sure as heck didn’t like taking WildStar to task for its self-inflicted collapse, and I liked it even less when it resulted in some very bad blood at one point. I want to talk about how Anthem is addressing its core issues and improving, not losing key staff and fouling up with a focus and dedication usually reserved for success. I never wanted to write about City of Heroes shutting down.

None of that means I was exempt from writing about it.

For that matter, none of that means I was exempt from covering it honestly. There’s a definite desire among fans to downplay negative stories as “not that bad” regardless of whether or not they are actually that bad. Sometimes they are! Sometimes the stories are pretty terrible and they point to things getting real bad. Sometimes a game like Worlds Adrift just can’t find a playerbase despite having some neat ideas. That’s a sad story, but it’s still a notable one.

It’s also sometimes the case that you get a particular sense of schadenfreude out of a game story going exactly the way you thought it would, but that’s a topic for another day. And it’s not so much a topic as an observation, if I’m being honest.

The news cycle is merciless. There’s a lot of stuff going on all the time. Some of it matters a lot to me, some of it matters not one whit to me, and some of it both doesn’t matter to me and isn’t in our wheelhouse to cover. If I find a way that it matters and can be relevant, I write it up. Heck, sometimes that means mentioning something relevant in broad strokes but not immediately in WRUP because it would seem weird to just ignore this news.

And yeah, sometimes that means that the biggest story going right now – one that just keeps cropping up – is for a game you don’t care much about. Believe me, I know. While I feel more fondly toward The Elder Scrolls Online these days, it’s still not really my game; reading about Elsweyr isn’t of huge interest to me, especially since I have an FFXIV expansion to look forward to in the very near future and that matters a lot more to me.

That doesn’t mean that it made no sense to talk about it, though. In fact, when it hit early access, that was the story to discuss. There was stuff happening! I certainly wasn’t going to ask why we were covering the start of player access to an expansion instead of the fat pile of nothing we were hearing at the time about FFXIV.

Am I suggesting that everyone needs to cultivate an absolute list of story importance and compare personal feelings against that? Of course not because that would be insane and I don’t even know how you would pretend to do that. As with other columns, this is less about “thing good” or “thing bad” so much as “thing exists,” and it’s something to keep in mind.

Every game is someone’s favorite, and every story that means very little to you probably means the world to someone else. And if you’re enthusiastic about something we don’t know about, let us know about it and we’ll see where it goes. We are suckers for being excited about things, too.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.
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