Monday, July 13, 2009

Child's Play

My youngest son has a toon on my account. On a different server than my mains are, but on the same as all of my three son's toons. Being 8 years old his understanding of foreign languages is neigh, as he's just barely able to read in Finnish, even. He plays every now and then, and usually ends up filling his packs with vendor trash, booze or something as creative. Which we quietly get rid of with my oldest son (who has a killer hunter on the same server, downing 4-5 levels higher mobs as he explores the areas meticulously...).

He prefers to play alone, even though sometimes he has problems with the quests and instructions. Questhelper has been a blessing in this sense, and -believe or not- he has finished Wailing Caverns in a party,  alone, without anyone helping! I was amazed of that, but he just loves to kill things.

And I gather he's pretty good at it with his Tauren Warrior.

But he's stuck in the Barrens. And that bothers him a lot.

So I decided to give him a treat and make one very, very happy little man.

We created him a Death Knight.

You should have seen the light in the little man's eyes. The enthusiasm ("I'm going to meet the Lich King?!" followed by "Dad, what is a lich?" :P ), the inspiration, the joy!

Of course, as I haven't played my own DK yet, I had to help him into start: I didn't read the story, only the first few starting quest objectives (to make his runesword crafted) and off he went. In the first session he gleefully slaughtered the Tor's Hand population and severely harmed the Scarlet Crusade. All by himself.

The next session he did almost all by himself: slaughtering more of the Scarlet Crusade, delivered the message and finished off the DK starter storyline. All I -and his older brother- did was to help with the technically harder quests (like the cannon shooting/Frostbourne shooting) and talents: everything else he mastered himself.

The only thing I have been lecturing to him about has been the fact that it's not quite acceptable to hunt and kill people who are running away, scared and defenseless, even in a videogame. And that Lich King is actually worse than bad and evil , he's bound to destroy everything in the world if he gets his way with things. Hard thing to tell to a youngster who is gleaming with joy of getting 'hard things' accomplished by himself...

This 'experiment' proved me just one thing about the game, however.

The game is severely dumbed down by itself, and adding Questhelper-like system even a person who doesn't know a thing about MMO's can play a toon to the cap. Easily.

This revelation combined with what I wrote earlier about the casual love Blizzard is having on the game is just a sign of the modern days: we players -like the general population of the western world- are used to the 'instant gratification'-mode. We have to get our rewards right now. The more with the less. Especially in our hobbies, we have to be masters right away, or we will take on another endeavour.

As it happens, Pete at Dragonchasers wrote about the same thing the other day. He just states that "As MMO players, we argue against anything not-fun. We want insta-travel, hate death penalties, don’t want to grind, don’t want to have to spend hours at a time playing in order to accomplish anything. We want everything convenient and risk-free and for the most part, developers have obliged us."

I don't see any difference in these two, but fun can also be hard, with the reward being something to work for. Something which is a challenge, resulting wipe after a wipe, requiring persistence and steady mind.

And by recognizing that Blizzard has just done this -giving us instant gratification and easy route to rewards-, you can easily deduct the direction WoW is headed and what kind of game the Blizzard's "secret project" will be.

Polished snapshot game with instant rewards for everything.

Do I really want to play that kind of game? A game which is a child's play?