Rant: Stories and MMOs

So my brother made a blog post a few days ago about MMOs, and that spawned this thought process.

The problem with having a story in an MMO is that inevitably there are too many actors. Everyone wants to be the hero, but you can only have to many heroes without a story feeling cheap (see Sluggy's recent commentary on respawning evil quest mobs). When the NPCs are the supporting actors, you end up having hundreds, thousands, even millions of star actors.

But that's entirely the wrong train of thought. MMOs don't need a story, or at least those that I've played. The story is the players themselves.

The weakness of such MMOs isn't that they limit what players can accomplish. Players have no final effect on their environment aside from their effect on other players, which could hypothetically be part of the motivation of griefing. This lack of investment in the Player's ability to shape their environment is ignoring the strongest pull for play.

What you need aren't the tools for players to design their own worlds, but to have an effect on their own world. To have players create by playing.

In an MMO where cities can be sacked, leaders killed, nations conquered the players are motivated to make history. They can recall "I was at the battle of Fanador, and was at the forefront of the suicidal charge through the gate". They can say, "Ah yes, I gave my life defending the King of Pelas". They can wax nostalgic, "It was I who furnished arms for the High Guard of Tornoth before they made their final, wild charge to death and glory." This is exciting, this is visceral, this is history.

It's the ultimate solution to the "consuming is easier than creating" problem. For almost everyone reading history is infinitely more boring than making history. Give the reins of history into the hands of players and you have the truest form of digital crack possible.

Granted, there are amazing hurdles to surmount. Balance is a nightmare, the disconnect between impermanent death and permanent world effect could be offsetting, what are the incentives for being a part of the wars, and what if the scale makes it too much like the real world where the effect of one person feels too small?

But these are problems equivalent to those other MMOs face today. The MMO I've described here has a completely different dynamic. It doesn't require leveling because your investment is in the world as much as the character. It doesn't requiring grinding the same mobs over and over again, battles will never be the same. It trades one set of problems for another.

Now someone read this post, steal the idea, and make the MMO for me. I'm lazy.



I am slow as molasses to change. For all my philosophical musings on the dangers of sedate living, I'm a homebody, a mama's boy, and extremely stubborn when it comes to moving forward.

At the moment the dams of stubbornness are bowing under the stress of a building desire to do... something. Whether it's whip myself into better physical shape, learn the guitar, start a World of Warcraft blog or do all sorts of 1337 video editing something's probably going to give...

...in the next year. Hey, I did say slow as molasses.


A Good Answer

I like to think, and as a thinker I'm naturally drawn to two kinds of thinking. The first is purely exploratory, engaging such thoughts as "What are the practical implications of pokemon in a real world?" The second is the problem solver's paradox, most of the time one spends thinking is on problems you don't succeed in solving.

Abortion and homosexuality are issues that fall under the second category, and I've spent a lot of time thinking about them. While I've come a long way from my evangelical naivety I haven't come to any hard conclusions about either. In the end, the best that I can come up with is that these issues are both symptoms of greater problems in society that won't go away until those greater problems are solved.

Having spent so much time failing to come up with a practical solution, I found myself impressed upon reading the following excerpt from the Compassion Forum held at Messiah College back in April. Bolded sections are my emphasis.

REV. SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL HISPANIC LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE: Senator Obama, the vast majority of Americans believe that abortion is a decision to be made by a woman, her family and her doctors. However, the vast majority of Americans similarly believe that abortion is the taking of a human life.
The terms pro-choice and pro-life, do they encapsulate that reality in our 21st Century setting and can we find common ground?
OBAMA: I absolutely think we can find common ground. And it requires a couple of things. Number one, it requires us to acknowledge that there is a moral dimension to abortion, which I think that all too often those of us who are pro-choice have not talked about or tried to tamp down. I think that's a mistake because I think all of us understand that it is a wrenching choice for anybody to think about.
The second thing, once we acknowledge that, is to recognize that people of good will can exist on both sides. That nobody wishes to be placed in a circumstance where they are even confronted with the choice of abortion. How we determine what's right at that moment, I think, people of good will can differ.
And if we can acknowledge that much, then we can certainly agree on the fact that we should be doing everything we can to avoid unwanted pregnancies that might even lead somebody to consider having an abortion.
And we've actually made progress over the last several years in reducing teen pregnancies, for example. And what I have consistently talked about is to take a comprehensive approach where we focus on abstinence, where we are teaching the sacredness of sexuality to our children.
But we also recognize the importance of good medical care for women, that we're also recognizing the importance of age-appropriate education to reduce risks. I do believe that contraception has to be part of that education process.
And if we do those things, then I think that we can reduce abortions and I think we should make sure that adoption is an option for people out there. If we put all of those things in place, then I think we will take some of the edge off the debate.
We're not going to completely resolve it. I mean, there -- you know, at some point, there may just be an irreconcilable difference. And those who are opposed to abortion, I think, should continue to be able to lawfully object and try to change the laws.
OBAMA: Those of us, like myself, who believe that in this difficult situation it is a woman's responsibility and choice to make in consultation with her doctor and her pastor and her family.
I think we will continue to suggest that that's the right legal framework to deal with the issue. But at least we can start focusing on how to move in a better direction than the one we've been in the past.
MEACHAM: Senator, do you personally believe that life begins at conception? And if not, when does it begin?
OBAMA: This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. I think it's very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? So I don't presume to know the answer to that question. What I know, as I've said before, is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we're having these debates...

I had previously been concerned about Obama's support for abortion rights, as while I dislike the approaches of the extreme right toward the issue (to put it lightly) I find it very hard to justify the cancellation of potential life post-conception. My personal squeamishness, however, is not in and of itself a convincing argument to others.

But the very idea of a convincing argument is in itself flawed. The theoretical omnipersuasive argument doesn't exists, and Obama clearly responds with that in mind. Clearly outlining both his beliefs and his position on the issue, Obama's response shows that this isn't a subject he's thought about only in passing. Rather than attempt a solution to the problem of resolving the views of diametrically opposed groups, he instead suggests diminishing the object of their conflict.

In and of itself this isn't a solution to the problem, but it's an achievable pathway to making solutions possible. That's how one circumvents indestructible barriers and accomplishes change.

Obama remains far from 100% perfect, but I'm confident at this point that despite his faults he is willing and capable of effecting the change he calls for.

What remains is for McCain to prove that he will be the maverick in office he has been in years past. He, in my mind, is at a similar crossroads that Hillary encountered during the primaries. She took a wrong turn then, destroying much that she had accomplished in attempting to defeat Obama. I recall McCain's speeches a month prior to Obama's victory, in which he sharply criticized Obama's calls for change as not being policies but instead platitudes. That McCain was a maverick, and not afraid to call Obama out where he was weak without being negative. That McCain has also been strangely absent since Obama won the primaries.

Hopefully I'll encounter a excerpt of McCain's which gives me similar faith in his abilities as a President. I'd very much like that to be the case. The idea of having to choose between candidates not because they are both bad, but because they are both very good is one I've been keen on since this all started.