Monday, December 19, 2011

The Old Republic

This eve hundreds of thousands (if not over a million) of nerds will be installing (many have been playing for days) THE OLD REPUBLIC.

Thus the dawning of a new era is upon us ... sort of ... as much as can be so given we are talking about the launch of a new massive multiplayer online video game based upon a science fiction franchise which dates to the late 1970s. To further reduce the newness or ground breaking potential of this game is that itself, will be the second iteration of an MMO based upon the venerable Star Wars franchise which launched with a bang and went out with a whimper and still has seared rage into many for all time.

Yet I predict that The Old Republic will break new ground and set the standard for the future of not just MMOs but all video games. I have recently been experiencing many things with gaming, all gaming and seen more and more opportunity for tabletop gaming become diminished due to the utter proliferation of video games and internet based technology. I've gained new understanding for games and the place the hold for me and come to new realizations about games. These things are mostly bad for me from a nostalgia perspective, as I'd love to see tabletop gaming go on forever. It will for some people and for the world in general but likely not for me. The day will come soon that I probably won't be doing any tabletop gaming at all.

So much to say in such a short time, the wall of text that I am fond of. That alone, the fact that people are so unwilling to even read a few paragraphs anymore tips the hand a little. That is the issue I'm talking about here, with so much choice, so many distractions and only so much time ... can tabletop gamers handle yet another distraction this big?? For me ... probably not ... this might be enough to send tabletop gaming in my life into the 100 mile below the surface of the planet doomsday shelter ... for good.

Tabletop games are dying because people are too lazy, too busy and generally too distracted to engage in them. Learning cumbersome, less than perfect board, miniature and role playing game rules to play with impatient people who just want to get back to their video games and internet based devices is becoming more and more difficult for people like me. Lets not even talk about mini games really ... because assembling ... painting ... then learning said rules then running the stinking store troll power gamer gauntlet ... more and more people are simply saying no thank you.

Strangers in strange lands as it were, people like me cast adrift in the sea of gaming. People who don't have that long standing gaming group where everyone in the group has known each other since high school. One can scoff and think "well it doesn't apply to me so I don't care", oh but it does because bit by bit tabletop gaming is fraying at the edges and it is for this very reason. People are slowly being so heavily bombarded with choice via the internet and technology and there is such heavy overlap with tabletop gaming, and since tabletop gaming lives in that bubble of disposable time ... it is very susceptible to impact from video games and other similar net based diversions/time wasters/pass times.

I believe that the old republic will hasten this fraying a bit, that more people will forsake more face to face gaming in favor of just staying home and playing some Old Republic. Star Wars I think as much if not more so than World of Warcraft did, captures the imaginations of gamers. Particularly for the Gen X folks who have spent their entire lives living with some form of Star Wars. You couple just the numbers and common sense rhetoric with the Bioware (wildly popular game producer) and their deep pocket parent company Electronic Arts is doing in conjunction with Lucas Arts. Now yes Lucas has made some huge mistakes over the years, and no one seems to have anything but disdain for episodes 1-3 of the franchise, yet, there are few examples of more commercial success. The can put the Star Wars label on nearly anything and people will buy it and buy it in bulk. So what is going to happen when the take the formula that Blizzard used with WoW and mix it with the product line that geeks can never seem to get enough of ... fizzy lifting drink ... erm ... well an irresistible product that is going to do catastrophic harm to geeks all over the planet (likely myself included). Yes this harm will be self imposed by consenting, presumably intelligent, presumably responsible, adults (and their kids who will be along for the ride).

I have played The Old Republic for 3 or so days now ... I'm up to level 25 on a Sith Inquisitor (sorcerer, going heals). The game has all the fine points of wow, easy interface, Pavlovian reward system that has one salivating level after level, etc. etc. You get ships and lots of choice in the storyline which influences all sorts of things from your future choices to the kind of gear you can acquire to I believe even how you look (I swear as I get darker my Sith changes in appearance ... maybe its just me willing that to be the case). I see the writing on the wall for myself, I will fall down the rabbit hole again and this time, just based on being disillusionment with tabletop gaming in general, I don't know if I'll come back from it. Certainly I will do tabletop gaming with my kids as they grow that is a given, but I don't know, as more and more games like this and Skyrim are released its getting closer and closer to those elements of good tabletop gaming that I know and love. Ya ya ya ... but the social ... but the face to face ... but .. but. But the anti-social, borish, power gaming, jerk, flake, etc. etc. that goes along with tabletop gaming. For people like me who are looking for new people to game with that is what is encountered. With MMOs, you can just turn off general chat, don't play on PVP servers, etc. and then if you want to do stuff with other players online, look around and find them and everyone is a power gamer, everyone is a jerk so its par for the course and you don't have to sit across a table with them, you might have to listen to them squeaking and squawking in vent ... (until you get them booted from the guild on trumped up charges .. kidding .. kidding ... well ...).

I jest really I don't know if tabletop gaming can die for me and I know I've lamented about it here many times but that is what this place is, its a way to just put things out there, graffiti on the wall of the internet that might get read by someone on the train on their way to work or something. Its just my way to say things and maybe someone reads them, maybe not, I write it down for my own catharsis that is all. Just some observations by one random gamer geek in suburban northern Utah ...

We will see what The Old Republic does to tabletop gaming, again I don't predict tabletop gaming will die, this game isn't that big, the numbers will be big but it will still be small by comparison to games like Call of Duty or Madden 381 (or whatever number they are on) ... but it strikes at the core of tabletop gaming as much or more than any game that has come out in awhile. So it might have some measurable negative impact on the tabletop gaming industry and/or on ones own local gaming group ... only time will tell.

For those who are going to be partaking ... happy hunting and have a glorious time!


Equinox said...

I believe you are right to a certain degree. People just want instant gratification and everything is being marketed more and more to that mindset. God forbid that a product give the impression that it will take any length of time to learn as that is an instant kiss of death for it.

As for power gaming, I do admit when WoW first came out, I enjoyed playing it and spending many hours trying to get to the next level. The problem for me was that after a week or two, the game lost its shine because there was no true outlet for my imagination. The beauty of tabletop games like Warhammer is that I can always find new ideas. In comparison, you can only kill so many Ogre Mages before it becomes boring. I want to rule them or join them in a grand evening of pillaging.

Scott said...

I say a big, fat, MEH to the whole thing. Even if I didn't have some nerve damage in my arm preventing me from partaking in endless hours of MMO play; I would not be getting into this one. MMOs hold no interest for me. I lament the loss that it will eventually cause for tabletop games. It is just so easy to play. And after many weeks of not being able to gather a group together in one place to play some D&D (or anything else) I can see why people stick with these games.

The Lord of Excess said...

Indeed it is brutal trying to keep gaming together in the age of instant gratification technology. 12 years ago it was much less a problem, I just wonder how its going to be 2,5,10 years from now. I'll only have gaming with my kids .. they'll be compelled by the ties of family to at least do some occasional gaming with me ... other than that ... long term ... that might be the only tabletop gaming I get to have. Sad days ... sad indeed.