Vague Patch Notes: You might be the reason you no longer love this MMO

No. It's the children who are wrong.

Despite its ubiquity in sitcoms throughout the ’90s, I have never had a single relationship end with the other person saying, “It’s not you, it’s me.” This is a bit disappointing because I can think of situations when it was definitely not me, but that’s neither here nor there. The stereotype of that kind of goodbye is that it’s a lie anyhow.

“It’s not you, it’s me. I just can’t be with someone who isn’t ambitious.” “It’s not you, it’s me. I’m just not attracted to you.” “It’s not you, it’s me. I can do better.”

None of these is actually predicated on it being the speaker’s actual problem but rather an attempt to deflect the problem onto the audience. But the thing is that there are scenarios where it is, in fact, the truth. And it’s worth examining when that’s relevant to MMOs because that’s the site we actually run and I am not a couples counselor. But even beyond that, people can be real bad at noticing that sometimes, what you like just changes over time. Full stop.

As usually happens in these scenarios, I know exactly whom I want to pull up and potentially pillory for this particular example: me. It’s always me. And it helps that it wasn’t so long ago that I wrote a whole column about how my way of approaching City of Heroes has changed over the years.

It’s not the only game which has prompted some of those same thoughts, though. There was a time in my life when I would, for example, play games like Star Ocean: The Second Story without any sort of guide and just trial-and-error my way through everything. If you’ve never played that game before, allow me to confirm that this is a game with a lot of nonsense to get through via trial-and-error, and you could easily lose out on things not for lack of intent but just to ruin your day.

These days? I am less all right with that! It does not spark joy! I do not mind a game locking me into a choice, but I’m not as fond of the game foisting a choice on me when I’m entirely unaware of it in the first place. I tend to play games differently as I’ve gotten older, have different amounts of time to play, and just value different things.

Which is kind of an issue when you’re talking about games that you play on the scale of decades.

He likes Legos.

There are people out there right now, for example, who did not like Final Fantasy XIV’s most recent expansion. There are people who didn’t like the prior two expansions, even. And that’s fine; no one is obligated to like anything forever. But if that’s the case, you are probably not going to like the upcoming fifth expansion, and it’s quite possibly not that the game has changed. It’s more likely that you have changed.

The relaunched game came out in 2013. It’s now 2024. That’s a long time to be continually enjoying something! In 2013 I liked the Hunger Games series and hadn’t seen a single Marvel movie. One of my favorite sitcoms of all time premiered that year and I completely missed it because I was focused on other stuff. I got married that year, left a job I had worked at for five years… a lot of my life has changed since that point. It is not exactly surprising that maybe a video game I started playing then is not fun for me any longer!

We aren’t good at dealing with this, though. We are actually, culturally and as a species, kind of garbage at dealing with these things. Our instinct is always – always – to assume that it’s something about the material that’s changed. That we used to like these comics or these games or this show, but then it changed. Distressingly often this winds up manifesting with grotesque justifications of hateful behavior – “This was good but then it went woke, argle bargle I cannot have changed as a person therefore women are the enemy.” But it’s not the unique property of those people.

And sometimes it genuinely is something that changed… but not always. Like, I stopped collecting monthly comic books not because I stopped enjoying them but because I was tired of one big crisis event followed by another one a year or two later. But… that’s also kind of how comic books have worked since long before I was born. I didn’t get tired of X-Men books blowing up the status quo without ever permanently resolving because it was some new thing that started when I was in my mid-20s, I got tired of it because I had the benefit of living through that cycle a couple of times and decided, “Yep, that’s enough for me.”

Not to mention that if it is something that changed, you can just… leave. You don’t have to make a big deal out of it. If you are no longer having fun with an MMORPG, you can stop playing! No one is forcing you to keep playing it! Stop enjoying a game series? You can stop playing them! I enjoyed Metal Gear Solid until I didn’t, and then I just stopped buying or playing them. No one came to my door to hunt me down!

See, not all things are the same.

“But wait, don’t you spend a lot of time talking about some games that have changed in detrimental fashions?” Yes, I do! And a lot of that requires a whole lot of effort on my part noting the difference between things that have changed for the worse and things that I am just personally not a fan of. It also involves, y’know, doing this for a job and confining it to that space. I am not posting on the World of Warcraft forums yelling at people who like Mythic+, nor do I have some ideological opposition to pointing out positive things about changes made to the game.

My point here is not that any time you dislike something it must be because you changed and the thing itself is fine and you’re just mad. Rather, it’s to understand that before you can rule that out, you first have to allow that as a possibility. You can’t say with certainty that Persona 3 Reload is a garbage version of the game without first being willing and able to unpack the possibility that maybe you… just… don’t like Persona 3 any more? Maybe the goodness or badness is less about the game itself and more about how you’ve changed?

This is hard to do, because it involves being aware on some level that the things you loved on Monday might no longer sing to you on Tuesday. That’s actually a little scary. We think of ourselves as fixed reference points and are bad at seeing the ways we change internally because that changed self is also the means we use to measure external changes.

But we all need to be ready and willing to accept the possibility that maybe the game we used to love but no longer love is just… something that no longer sings to us. We need to be ready to sit down and say that it’s not you. It’s me. And we need to be ready to really mean it.

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.
Previous articleMortal Online 2 releases a new dungeon, combat polishing, dismemberment, and bear mounts
Next articleMapleStory prepares players for an intense combat… picnic?

No posts to display

Subscribe to:
oldest most liked
Inline Feedback
View all comments