Is it Possible to Build a Combat-Optional MMO?

The whole Newtown tragedy got me thinking a bit recently regarding the combat-centric emphasis of most video games.  I won’t get into a discussion here about whether combat should be eliminated from games or not – I think it’s probably unrealistic at worst, and undesirable at best.  There have been many articles about violence in games before as well; just Google it and you’ll come up with plenty.

Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed are the games people first scrutinize (or blame) when these tragedies arise, but combat in games go back to very aborignal games – you could say RiskGalaga, or even PacMan had something of a “combat” focus – you were certainly fighting an adversary, and conflict is certainly necessary in any form of literature, and even art in general.  Combat versus monsters or dragons is a bit more acceptable, since they aren’t “real” in the sense that other people are—again, more reasons why Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto are the ones that get the most attention.

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The “Real Player” Jungle

A recent article in the New York Times came out talking about sexual harassment in gaming, and it reminded me of the many types of people I have run into during MMO sessions.  Some of the pick-up groups (PUGs) I’ve joined have been some of the most fun I’ve had in games; others have been a nightmare out of Lord of the Flies, with people threatening and cursing at each other throughout an entire dungeon run.  There’s generally nothing in-game indicating to other players the age or personal information about a player behind an avatar, so players are generally left to deal with these situations on their own.  That said, there are tools in game that allow players to ban a particular player from chat, and to vote to boot a person from the group.  The most extreme forms can reported to an in-game referee, but it’s a rare case where that happens, and rarer still for corrective action to be taken against the offending player(s) – gaming companies, after all, are interested in keeping their paying subscribers.

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