Waiting for the Next MMO Revolution

Back in the 1980’s I was a big fan of the music group The Police. As a big fan of the band I devoured everything I could get my hands on and I became fascinated with the charismatic lead singer/bassist Sting.

I enjoyed reading interviews with him as they were far more erudite than the typical drugged out, decadent rock stars of those times. One of the interviews I recall dealt with one of the eternal questions of art — where does inspiration come from? In particular the interviewer was trying to pinpoint the source of inspiration for Sting’s brilliant songs. Being that I was a musician, one of his quotes in particular really struck me and has stayed with me all these years later.

He said something to the effect: “If you want to write great music, go out and get some pain…”

While it’s a cliché that great art is produced by tortured souls I do think it’s true. When you are full you don’t feel a need to get food; when you are hungry you seek out food. Necessity is the loving mother of invention.

I think this is true to a great extent for game designers and people who blog about MMOs. When I’m happy with a MMO I find that I’m in a glassy-eyed stupor and the result is that I don’t think about ways to make a better MMO. Ergo I don’t bother blogging. But these days, the exact opposite is true at least for me; when I’m playing a MMO after MMO that is a copy of EverQuest or WoW I become extremely discontent.

I firmly believe that great artists and designers are never truly happy or content. They are passionate people who are driven by a constant affliction and yearning that things could be done better — much better.

I freely admit that in the past few years, many of my articles have had a sense of despondency about the state of MMOs and virtual worlds. Playing the average MMO these days is painful for me. In the past Tobold has characterized me as “cranky”, well I suppose that I can agree with him there.

The reason why I’m in a perpetual state of angst is that I feel that the MMO industry has squandered all of the great potential that was evident a scant 10 years ago during the first MMO revolution heralded by Ultima Online and EverQuest. Sadly, things seem to be paradoxically devolving instead of evolving. MMO after MMO has failed to inspire me. There’s a creeping sense of complacency and predictability infecting this genre right now that worries me.

The purpose of this blog is to keep my dream of that ultimate MMO where even the smallest person can change the world by some act of kindness or bravery; the realization of a truly dynamic, living breathing virtual world where one person can make a difference. The powers that be say in the industry that it can’t be done but I don’t care. It is still my dream and the dream of many others.

But then I need to be realistic before I rush to grab a torch and pitchfork. The sobering reality is that only a handful of people in the world have the power and resources to make a MMO. We the players have little say or influence in the genesis of any MMO project. The only real clout we have is voting with our dollars. Tragically, we the players can only shut down a MMO, we can’t start one.

Hopefully someday, someone will have the resources and the courage to challenge the conventional wisdom and create a virtual world that is truly transcendent. The MMO revolution is long overdue.


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