Massively Overthinking: Are you an MMO skeptic or true believer?


A while back, a reader (hi Ken!) posted an infographic into a Star Citizen thread I’d forgotten all about, but it wasn’t even the first time it’s made it to our comments. Apparently, it was originally created by an internet denizen named Gorf, but it’s made the rounds across social media in the several years or so since it was first posted. In fact, here’s an old copy uploaded to Twitter by no less than Derek Smart.

The intention is “understanding the motives, biases and behaviors of 9 distinct voices driving Star Citizen debate,” separating sincere belief from insincere and skepticism from faith. It’s actually pretty clever, though I bet you could argue that it’s missing some positions. Maybe even your own. (For example, MOP reader MasterOfPuppets called out the chart’s argument to moderation fallacy, though that’s a bit beyond our scope today.)

Let’s talk about the ideas behind the chart in this week’s Massively Overthinking. I don’t really want to focus on Star Citizen, though it may happen in the comments anyway. I mostly want to focus on such a chart’s general applicability to MMOs, since really, this rainbow wheel of fan and antifan archetypes could apply to literally any game, including some launched games. It could as easily work for World of Warcraft with a little fudging. Where do you tend to sit on the wheel when it comes to MMOs? Does it depend on the studio, on progress, on scope, on budget, or on something else? Would we be better off migrating to a more-hopeful or less-hopeful pie slice? What do we do about the people at the extremes, if anything?

Andy McAdams: I make an effort not to swing into extremes, but try to approach things from a more pragmatic perspective — and also letting my perspective change. It has never made sense to me when people proudly declare they will never play a particular game/publisher/etc. because of some perceived personal slight. That antifan stance has always seemed to hurt the player more than the game.

Saying things like “Right now, I don’t want to play the game because of X” just makes me more sense to me. Right now, I’m not playing WoW primarily because of the terrible people who still work there, but I’m not going to say that I’ll never play WoW again because that seems silly to me. Blizzard will change in the future and I’ll probably go back for the next expansion anyroad. I’m exceptionally critical of Star Citizen because it hasn’t delivered anything to market and seemingly has no desire to as it gets money for literally nothing. But if it were to change that approach and actually start to bring things to market, it could change my mind. And it should! As the inputs that inform my opinions change, my opinions themselves should also change. This fits with my pragmatic approach to the circle – I have opinions, sometimes strong opinions and those opinions can and should change in the future.

I think the last game I was a super-fan of was GW2 immediately after the developer manifesto. But even then that probably put more on the line of “hopeful to evangelist” than zealotry or shill.

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I’d say for MMO projects in general, I’m usually fairly agnostic. I’m always hopeful to see something new, innovative, provocative, and fun. The reality of any project, though, is that limitations always exist, be they budget, timelines, technical, or simply flawed execution of the original vision. Sometimes projects succeed in spite of the limitations, and sometimes the results of the limitations are very apparent.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I tend to waver between cynicism and hopepunk on a lot of things, and gaming is no different. I believe in potential and possibilities. Humans can do almost anything. Very little of what we dream is actually impossible. But it’s also hard to have been an MMO gamer from the beginning and a professional in the industry as long as we have and not see how often some people have betrayed our faith, sometimes even on purpose.

So slot me somewhere in the beige-y hopeful section most of the time, but with a healthy dab of sage green doubt, at least on most projects. There are some games that are just overt scams, however, and they need to be called out for what they are – and it’s not hateful or insincere to do so. It’s quite literally our job.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): Overall I tend to lean a bit more on the positive side of things, but I also usually start along the center/middle ground portion. It’s really up to the devs of the game in question to turn the dial towards the right or the left, and open development MMOs tend to see that dial-turning happen a lot more than not. In both cases, though, I’ve never really gone past the Evangelists or Heretics side; I’ve got plenty of other things to be angry about and video games aren’t one of them. Especially since I tend to go into crowdfunding with the mindset that whatever money I may put in is effectively lost to the ether one way or the other – obviously I’d like the game to launch and succeed, but the cash is already gone regardless.

As for what to do about those in those extremes? Choke them out. Not literally, of course, but don’t give them the oxygen they desire to espouse their respective dogma or vitriol.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): The problem I have with the whole idea of this particular “hype chart” is that it’s based on an unspoken a priori assumption that people occupy a place on this particular chart based primarily on the person rather than the game in question. Like, I don’t think it’s a malicious act, but the idea that people fall somewhere on the hype spectrum is positioned as a totally value-neutral proposition rather than a direct result of personal philosophies, misleading or ambiguous statements, and one’s personal biases to begin with.

When you start to think about it that way, you find that it’s kind of a problematic thing in a few different ways because human beings do not neatly subdivide into nine groups. I’ll use World of Warcraft as an example: It’s quite possible for people to end up on the extreme positive end of this particular scale while still acknowledging certain flaws in the game’s design; you can have people who defend the game as being better than ever despite admitting that the game’s storytelling is terrible, usually by marginalizing that particular position with statements like “well, the story has never been the focus/isn’t supposed to be good.” This is neglecting people who will actively defend said storytelling while holding a similar position of everything being fine. It’s trying to split people into what amounts to an alignment chart, understanding motives and biases based on a chart rather than actually understanding the motives and biases of the people behind those positions.
In other words, it’s flattening what could be an actual discussion or examination of certain motives and sometimes disingenuous positions by trying to present both extremes as equally flawed. I’m not really on board.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Well as a hobby gaming blogger, I probably can’t downgrade myself below “evangelist” without becoming an out-and-out hypocrite. I always want to believe the best in possibilities and intentions when it comes to game creation, even though I know that promises are easy and execution is insanely hard. I’d rather err on the side of being enthusiastic about an upcoming title than defaulting to bitter cynic, allowing my expectations to adjust up or down as new information and personal experiences play out.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): Once upon a time, I generally fell on the positive side of the wheel. When Guild Wars 2 was announced, I was definitely inn the zealous band. Then when it finally came out, it really held up to everything I wanted at the time. There have been plenty of mistakes since then, but the game was what I wanted. For End of Dragons, I’d probably be in the believers category.

For a more recent game, Crowfall, I was never as in love with it as GW2. I likely started using the sincere but ended in the skeptics.

So I’d say every game and studio are going to land me in a different position even if I tend to be hopeful for my games. I think that’s likely how many of us are saved. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Those that end up at the extremes we must simply hear them and bear them. They’ve gotten lost in the sauce, and there’s no easy way of pulling them out of it.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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