The PC gaming market has always focused primarily on a single idea. While titles of other ideas and genres are still released, all the really big games seem to come from one central concept. As the machines adapt and the market changes, this central genre shifts to reflect those changes. All of these central genres had their ups and their downs, their individual moments of confusion, their overdone mechanics and their nuisances that just wouldn’t go away. But, at least in my humble opinion, the worst of the problems consistently found in any of those earlier focus genres pale in comparison to the flaws readily available in the best of today’s genre of the limelight.
The MMO as we know it was essentially invented in 1996 (according to Wikipedia), and was popularized early on with titles like Ultima Online and EverQuest. As the genre continued to develop and mature, it began to offer greater immersion in the virtual world and integration between the participants in that world. Over time the MMO through its interactive content, immersing visuals, and shared experience began to dominate the market of PC games, and eventually even branched out to several of the other game platforms.
Today the MMO saturates the PC game world. From big commercially developed power houses like World of Warcraft (WoW) and EverQuest 2, to the quirky Korean offerings like Maple Story, to the small time browser games like RuneScape, even glorified chat engines like Second Life, everywhere we turn MMOs can be found and are on offer just waiting for us to start playing. Few other ideas have ever so powerfully taken over the market as the MMO has today.
But why were these elements so popular, what caused them to have such great appeal? And is their current place as the defining genre of PC games warranted? Since a fair number of my friends have been playing these types of games for a few years now and have even encouraged me to join them on several occasions, I thought I might take a look at what makes these games seem so appealing, and the reasons why I, at least, will not be playing them. Especially not in the same way most of the people I see playing them do.