The Member of the First Hour

While writing a reply to Azuriel’s post on whining whiners, I was overcome by a rush of grief. I do not disagree with the overall sentiment; we all know that time means change and that the story of the new generation replacing the old is as ancient as mankind itself. We all know too, or should know, that MMOs are business and part of a capitalist machinery. Indeed, I have written on it myself before.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting online games fashioned after yourself, it would be odd for it not to be so. Most of us are reasonable enough too, to be able to understand other viewpoints while wanting what we want and even to sympathize with the other side, different as it may be.
Yet, there is an insight I believe newcomers of the MMO genre are often missing in these discussions. Be it that they simply lack empathy like that, or the knowledge of history, or the care for either. However, if you were trying to understand and look deeper into the veteran rants, you would discover something else there; something that goes beyond the whining that is particular to anyone just disagreeing with a status quo or trend. There is disappointment for one thing and something a little sadder, too. A melancholy maybe that no newcomer can ever share.

So, I do not ask of anyone to understand who cannot or won’t; but I can assure you that it’s there and it makes a difference. And it’s not a personal thing aimed at the new kids on the block, no – in fact it’s not about you at all. That would be flattering yourself too much.

Since at this point all my chances at a frivolous and merry Friday post on Raging Monkey’s (with apostrophe) have passed, I decided to copy-paste my comment here once more. I actually think this matters.

While I absolutely agree that we should be blaming developers, rather than players and that tastes differ (lol how I hate that one), I think there’s a fundamental difference in ‘whining’ here among both groups which you fail to see. whining both may be, motivations however are usually the interesting part.

you see, there’s something very… well….let’s call it saddening about belonging to the “members of the first hour”. it’s a phenomenon known in many branches mind, not just the gaming industry. it’s the hard core of people who by dedicated support make a brand/industry what it is – sometimes for years on end that little circle of ‘geeks’ are the only audience to keep that business from dying. nobody else cares for it, the mainstream in fact mocks it, but that core remains faithful and makes survival possible for that industry.

then…usually after a couple of years, that business gains some more attention. slowly but surely popularity grows and with it, money too. from there it’s always the same dynamic: popularity = more money, more money = changes/investments to become more popular.
the die-hard circle? well, not needed anymore. of course, that’s capitalism. but there are companies who never forget where they came from, few as they may be, and who always remember the faithfulness of the member of the first hour. many do not.

and you might not understand that, because your entitlement springs from something entirely different. I’d say in both cases entitlement is wrong – but if we have to choose, then the first group has a LOT more reason to feel entitled than the second. and we should always try and understand reasons.

and indeed, this goes into what Oestrus said above too; maybe one day when the faithful have departed for good, you (*ed. the devs) will ask yourself if that was really the right call. but alas, it is greed that will be the end of us all, so much is for certain.

And with that and more gloominess than usual (for which I do apologize), I leave you all for the weekend; I wish you the best you can possibly have.

11 comments

  1. Capitalism is an explanation, not an excuse.

    The fact that this gets confused in the first place is troublesome. As if things become morally sacrosanct, because they follow from a tool which function it is to optimize production and allocation of goods and services.

  2. Pardon the tangent, but going off what Nils said, I’m just imagining if we applied the “that’s capitalism” logic to other things. A plane falls from the sky and we say “yea, of course, gravity pulls stuff down”, and never get to the real issue: we prefer that planes stay in the sky (between takeoff and landing) and should design them to stay in the sky, taking gravity into consideration, but not surrendering to gravity.

    Human progress has never been achieved by surrendering to natural forces, but by understanding and then fighting them. We fight gravity and wind to design skyscrapers. We fight insects and fungus to grow more food. We fight theft with more police. We don’t say “oh yea, people like to steal, so I guess we’ll just lose our stuff sometimes.”

    This pro-defeatist attitude pisses me off. I don’t mean that Azuriel is defeatist, but is encouraging us to be defeatist.

  3. Nils, a very important point indeed, thanks for adding it. I certainly don’t recognize capitalism as an acceptable system personally, although I acknowlede here that its the underlying issue. Issues and excuses aren’t the same thing of course.

    Like Kleps said, capitalism has simply become such an established force in our world, that many feel overwhelmed and defeat by it. I readily admit to some resignation like that myself sometimes, I think we’d be lying to say it is not so. While defeatism sure is wrong, its natural to feel helpless over something that can neither be easily changed nor immediately by an individual.

  4. I certainly don’t recognize capitalism

    Well, I wouldn’t go so far. I absolutely consider capitalism and free markets one of the greatest tools ever invented to increase material prosperity. And material prosperity is absolutely essential as everyone, who lives without, you can tell you.

    However, capitalism is still just a tool. We employ it to benefit us. When it leads to situations we are not satisfied with, we can and must critizise this and try to find ways to improve it if possible.

  5. I think another contributing factor is that the direction of movement in game design is one of “flattening out”. Seems like the goal is to try to make sure a game produces a decent experience for everyone, even if that’s at the expense of some of the most fantastic experiences.

    Like the move from group-centric to solo-centric MMOs: group-centric could mean an absolutely disastrous experience, and not just because someone preferred to play solo. Low populations, being on a different timezone to the bulk of the playerbase, being a new player in a game with a top-heavy playerbase – all of these could ruin your fun. Solo-centric games don’t risk those things. But on the other hand, most old-timers would agree that they also lack the camaraderie and community of the old group-centric games.

  6. For what it is worth, I do see the nobility (for lack of a better term) in the Member of the First Hour argument. It is somewhat cynically degraded by the hipster movement of “liking it before it was cool,” but there is something to be said for those people whose faith in the underlying vision of the artist made the artist’s later success possible. Seeing potential being wasted or narrative integrity being compromised is a tremendous tragedy, and I mean that.

    What I have found over the years though, is that I no longer place faith in companies or people, but rather in products themselves. I do not have favorite bands, I have favorite songs. I do not have favorite directors, I have favorite movies. I do not have favorite game companies/designers, I have favorite games (or game eras in the case of evolving MMOs). Whether this is rational pragmatism or a cynical coping mechanism from being burned too many times (*cough* Squaresoft) is anyone’s guess.

    I may never have the privilege of being Member of the First Hour anymore, except incidentally. However, neither shall I be particularly disappointed by anything. Defeatist? If that is the opposite of Idealist, then I suppose I am… although I prefer Realist. Or perhaps the less cliche Ephemeralist.

  7. @Nils
    There is that side of capitalism of course, and it’s obviously had these many benefits in creating prosperity. I think it’s fair to say though, that capitalism has grown from there into a monster of its own accord, where the tools are the people; where it does not benefit many the most, but a few and where the wealth of one world is the mysery of the other. so, if some people say capitalism is “the answer”, then I beg to differ – it is just one possible way we’ve taken. and hopefully from here we will improve that system, because it will otherwise remain a tool of exploitation and greed as well. that’s mostly what I meant, for me we’re far away from the ideal system still. that’s my personal opinion of course, because for me real prosperity is a shared one and capitalism needs checks and balances to not become just another tyranny of the few, owning the most.

    @Carson
    That’s very right. my personal answer would be very easy here – I hate mediocre. in the long run, it kills everything, because removing the bad means removing the good. and nobody wants to play MMOs that invoke no emotional reactions anymore, I am sure. which is what many of us have said all along – we need to keep the ‘hard/annoying/unbalanced’ to some extent. otherwise we lose everything. there’s no achievement without struggle.
    the thing here is too, and that’s why capitalism is a good example: the short-term thinking of the developers. long-term consequences are not the focus, the game needs to make everyone happy today and as many as possible. so you push boundaries further and further. there is a flaw to that logic and it’s biting the developers in the ass too, sooner or later (although of course, on a personal level that may matter nil to you if you got rich in the process. we got enough reasons of this in modern economy).

  8. @Azuriel
    Hehe well, I think the hipster argument is more a provocation for all its logical flaws – so I could easily return “you cannot miss what you do not know”. ;) even if there is no satisfaction in that…

    The thing is, it would be good to consider what the old generation is trying to say or warn of (which is obviously made difficult if you’re the subject of their attacks) – not saying that you don’t, but many do not and act like ignorant teenagers defending the status quo because they have no comparisons. most would probably agree that WoW was at its peak sometime between TBC and WotLK, so there is something to be said for the ‘old’ world as much as the new. if we would join the forces or insights of both groups, we’d probably have the perfect game already and there’s a time when WoW came close.

    By nature of things, the new player cannot have the big picture in the same way a more experienced player might have; age has experience, youth has innovation. I’d say we want both.

  9. capitalism is just another failed system. it rewards the greediest and most ruthless mofo by default. so all the self proclaimed capitalists are sheep in my book. they follow a few megalobastards from hell in the hope to reach their status as well one day, abusing everybody else as a stepping stone. FU!

    so yeah, i also tend to the conclusions that the entire shareholder owned companies should implode immediately with their whole unholy machinery. but nooooooo, they make us pay for them in every single aspect of our lives, they make us consume, they make us work in slavery, they make us go in debts at their banks, they steal our money when they fail and they make society pay for us when they fire us to raise their profits. fuck’em all!

    back to topic. the irony behind it is, they developers don’t fashion the game for anybody but for high selling numbers, which is part of the system described above. once any trend is reckognised by the money makers it’s robbed of it’s heart and soul, squeezed to the last drop and thrown away.

    no honour, no pride, no joy. just money! money! MONEY!

  10. “I do not disagree with the overall sentiment”

    Achiever types put a lot fo effort into forum pvp to try and get the games designed the way they want them. Calling other people whiners for doing the same thing is simply another version of forum pvp.

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