A couple weeks ago, Andrew, a blogger compatriot at Systemic Babble, responded to a problem I was having with single-player games. Namely, I was not playing them because of their lack of persistence. It was an off-handed comment to emphasize my uninformed thoughts about the Vindictus beta, where I thought that the beta characters would be wiped on a live launch.
There are two points I want to discuss. The first is in response to Andrew’s last paragraph:
On the surface it’s tempting to say, like Ravious does, that this online gaming is more meaningful than single player gaming, but it isn’t. The persistence in an MMO is exactly as ethereal as that found in more traditional single player or online games: your contribution only lasts so long as your interest in the title holds.
At the outset, I want to clarify that I did not say online gaming is more meaningful than single-player gaming. It is for me, sure, but there are plenty of activities that others do that are meaningless for me and vice versa. It’s not up to me or anybody to tell you what should be meaningful in your luxury gaming time.
The second point was from one of the comments where Derrick writes in part:
At least in the single player game, the world can react entirely to your actions within it. There are (well, can be) real consequences for the choices you make. A single action can completely change the world! In some cases, I can buy a sequel to the game (lets call it an expansion pack with standalone options!) and continue the story, with every last change my character made still there. Dead characters and foes are still dead. Rivalries still exist.
In an MMO, your actions have no affect whatsoever. None. There’s nothing to show players where my hunter first slew Ragnaros – hell, if you go there today, he’s still hanging around (despite the fact that my extremely frustrated hunter killed him and his lackies over, and over, and over again). My Druid? Years of play, been all over the world, done all sorts of things. Zero persistence. She may as well have never been there. There’s not even the illusion of persistence.
To reiterate, Andrew says that persistence is only relevant as long as I care about it for either an MMO or single-player game. Derrick says single-player games are more persistent because he is the master of his own single-player world whereas the normal MMO has to reset to allow others to ride the theme park rides thereby making his actions irrelevant to the MMO world.
Already we are tumbling over a word. Persistence of action. Solipsist persistence of character. Meaningful persistence of effect. And, Tesh also comments on persistence of relationship. It’s clear that even persistence of different things are more meaningful to some than others.
For me, it is that multiplayer online games – especially ones with some semblance of persistence in virtually any form – have more feeling of what it means to be human than single-player games. In real life if I go to the store and buy some ground bison the effect of my actions provide untold ripples. I bought bison, which affects the rancher and store. I stood in line, which affects the cashier and people behind me. I used my car and gas. And, the list goes on ad infinitum where my action will eventually ripple out to that butterfly’s wings in China.
I feel the same in a multiplayer online game. A headshot on a medic healing a heavy. Ripples. Buying a boss drop at the auction house. Ripples. Randomly joining a dungeon group. Ripples. I just don’t feel the same importance, as false or egotistical as it may be, in single-player games.
Derrick is right. The amount of control in single-player games is nearly unlimited. I am the king. I can be the god with a -devmode and a few cheats. The world responds to my actions as if I were the sun and moon. And, that does not feel real. It feels like a fiction. Like a story where the ending won’t really change anyway. When I walk away from a single-player game I feel nothing more persistent than when I did watching a movie or reading a book.
Of course, like the old internet adage, your mileage may vary. To some of you the ripples of which I speak are meaningless. To some there are no real relationships to be found across games. To some of you all this pontification over games is about as important as buying dish soap. For me, the sum of all the ripples in multiplayer online games is greater than the parts.
we are coterminous