I wish that I could time travel back to the day Star Wars Galaxies launched. Why SWG, you ask? I guess it’s because I was already a MMORPG veteran with years of The Realm, EverQuest, and Dark Age of Camelot experience, yet I felt like such a wide-eyed and ignorant noob capable of being overwhelmed with immersion. Honestly, I could time travel back to the day EQ or DAOC launched and get much of the same feel. The games were so big, so overwhelming, so foreign to me. Each step my character took felt important, and my future was never clear: Where was I going, how would I get there, and what would be waiting for me.
I remember working hard to build a house in SWG, wondering if I could turn it into a shop and get people to actually visit and purchase my goods. I remember my first two days in EverQuest when a RL friend of mine introduced me to a couple other players — we met in a dark corner of Freeport and in hushed tones they asked me if I wanted to join… their guild. It wasn’t roleplay when I got goosebumps and felt the anxiety of what it meant to associate myself in a game with other people, and what we might accomplish together in this brand new completely untouched world.
That feeling is lost to me. I haven’t been able to find it. I’ve pondered why, and I have several hypotheses. Maybe I’ve grown up. Maybe I’ve shed the awesome veil of ignorance from my eyes and I’m too educated in the ways of MMO’s to be fooled. Perhaps the games have changed — I know they have, actually. Maybe the fault is in the games, and has nothing to do with me. Maybe it has to do with the degree to which games have evolved into themeparks compared to how sandbox’ish even a game like EQ could feel.
I log in to Guild Wars 2, SWTOR, Rift, or [insert any contemporary MMO], and I feel like I know exactly what they want me to do, exactly where I’m going, exactly where I will be in 20 minutes, and exactly what will be waiting for me. There is no mystery, there is no awe, no wonder, no immersion making me feel like I have been swept out of my conscious ever-keen-on-MMO’s self. I’m capable of having fun, but I’m incapable of feeling like the game is bigger than me and everyone else — as if everyone around me has it all figured out too.
I’m going to explore some of these feelings. I already have two or three blog posts lined up with some thought provoking insights as to whether or not I’m incapable or simply unable to given the environment, and I’m interested to know what you all think.