May 202006

Recently got an email from ross_winn pointing me to an article he wrote on about games like World of Warcraft and how they compare to classic “Pen and Paper” role-playing games. You can read the article here.

I felt the need to respond to some of the points he made in his article, so I wrote him a long rebuttal. I’m not sitting down and writing much these days, so I thought I’d re-post my thoughts here just to prove that, yes, I do still occasionally take the time to do more than play video games.

A few thoughts upon reading your article…specifically in regards to your discussion about games like World of Warcraft.

First, I think it’s slightly misleading to your readers that you don’t mention the fact that not only have you not played an MMORPG, but you hold them in great disdain. In fact, you once said to me that you would never allow a game like that in your house, even if your wife and kids wanted to purchase and pay for it themselves. That’s a pretty bold statement, and it’s fairly indicative of the fact that you’re a bit hostile towards these games.

You also categorize these games as CRPG’s, and while the basic breakdown of your acronym is syntactically correct, it’s not the definition that those in the gaming comunity use. A CRPG would be a game like the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion or Final Fantasy. These games are fairly open-ended, story driven games that are single player. World of Warcraft, Everquest II, and games in that particular genre are referred to as MMORPG’s – Massively Multi-Player Online Role Playing Games. A small and nitpicky point to make, but a valid one nonetheless.

I’m not sure where you got the $3000 number for your paragraph about the cost, but it’s highly inaccurate. You might be basing this off of the expenditure that I made last year when building my new box, but even if you were you’re off by about $1000 – and my machine is still pretty close to the bleeding edge. The fact is that most machines on the market today will run these games, and moderately well. I have two boys in this house who play World of Warcraft on factory built machines that have had only minor upgrades (video cards in both cases, and generic video cards with 128 megs of ram on them to boot). My youngest plays on this kind of machine with a wireless internet connection. Is his experience the “best” that World of Warcraft has to offer? Not by a long shot. Is it choppy at times? Certainly. But it’s playable and enjoyable, and that’s really all that matters (besides, if he wants to see how friggin’ sweet the game CAN look he just has to look on my machine). It is possible to go out and buy a machine JUST for gaming, and I’m sure many people do it, but those peole are the exception and not the norm. While I have no hard numbers to back me up, I’m fairly confident when I say that out of the six million people who are now playing World of Warcraft there are very few who have gone out and spent $3000 on their computers.

Having recently gotten back into tabletop games myself, I can say that I honestly feel the costs of those games much more than the cost of my computer and monthly subscription fees to WoW. I have spent several hundred dollars on Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 books alone, not to mention the cost of the eraseable grid, pens, miniatures, dice, modules. It adds up pretty quickly, and this is for a game that I play once a week for four hours. I realize that everything has gotten more epxensive these days, but when you’re dropping 35-40 bucks per core book it’s hardly a cheap option – esepcially if you aren’t buying your computer JUST to play games (see my arguments above).

I also think you left out one vital contribution that MMORPG’s make to Pen and Paper RPG’s – They make us nostalgic. Yes, MMORPG’s are wonderful things – but the experiences we have playing them aren’t anywhere near as satisfying as the “old days” when we used to sit around gaming together (BO and all). Many of the folks I’ve met in games like Warcraft are old gamers, and we frequently discuss “getting back to our roots.” For me, that’s meant a return to playing Dungeons and Dragons on a weekly basis with a group that consists of (in all the players but one) folks that I’ve been playing MMORPG’s with.

I do agree with you that players who have never played a tabletop game aren’t likely to do so because of the fact that they play an MMORPG, but you never know. I’m not sure how popular the Everquest RPG was, but I know they at least put out a lot of product. WoW has it’s own RPG now, and City of Heroes has one coming out soon. People who have never played a table top game before will go out and buy this stuff simply to find out more about the back story of the game they are playing, and they might be inspired to get a group of their friends together and give it a shot. If they enjoy the experience, these games could end up being a gateway to other table top games that aren’t related to MMORPG’s at all.

Sure, it’s an idealistic view to take, but it could happen. Maybe.

So that’s what I’ve got. As always, I enjoy your articles quite a bit, but I just had to take issue with some of what you presented as fact in relation to MMORPG’s. Keep up the good work, my friend.

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