No More Rats!: An Open Letter to the MMORPG

Dear Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game,

I had such high hopes for you.

I was just a kid, you know? I guess, maybe, I just got too excited. It sounded great! Epic quests, online, with my friends — big stuff. Dragons, airships, Mythical Swords of Death. I wanted to get an airship, fly it over the bad guys’ base, drop down, and kick ass. I wanted explore the farthest, most unknown corners of the world, fight the nastiest trolls. I wanted to lead an army, attack a fortress. I wanted to meet the strangest, weirdest blacksmith, high in his lonely mountain home. I wanted, above all things, adventure.

And what did you give me?

Grind. Boredom. Repetition. You replaced the words I put such hope, such desire into — words like “fun” and “excitement,” “memorable” and “epic” — and replaced them with ugly, deplorable monotony. I wanted to be Aragorn, Luke Skywalker. I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to rise to the ranks of the legendary, and I wanted to take my ragtag group of companions with me. Instead, I killed ten rats. I ran the same three or four dungeons over and over again.

I want to ask you a question, MMORPG, because I play you a lot; we’ve made some pretty good memories over the years. What would happen if we took away a few of the things that you hold so dearly these days? What if we took away levels? Or, dare I ask, gear? What would you have left to give? A few blocks of text that no one reads? A couple of buttons that say “accept” and “cancel”? A hotbar or two?

You’d have nothing.

I mean, sure, you’d have a pretty world that we can walk around and look at. You’d have a few enemies to kill, yeah, and a lazily told story for us to undertake, but you wouldn’t have meaning. You tried to sell me things like “progress” and “dedication” — you thought you could substitute those for the adventures I so craved. You thought shoving the same tired control scheme down my throat would blind me. I’ve got news for you! I’m a thought criminal. I know there are other ways to control you than by auto-attacks and hot key hammering. You’re just too lazy to give them to me.

It was alright for a while. You seemed like a step forward. Accessibility is always good, quests are great, raids are fun, but we both knew there were things to work on. We still needed more meaningful ways to have unique experiences. We needed better stories: more organic adventures crossing our paths. Remember when Don Quixote never walked between people with glowing exclamation points above their heads?

The truth is you’ve stalled. You gave me World of Warcraft and went to sleep. Sure, EVE‘s great and all, but for every EVE you give me, there are a million Age of Conans and Warhammers. It’s not enough. By this point, I should be drowning in new, refreshing, different options. I’m not a game developer, and I can’t tell you what to do. That’s up to you. And I get it — games like WoW make money, and you’re blinded by the dollar signs! People eat that crap up. They all love you, I know, and it must feel good. You forgot about me, though. The kid who used to dream about para-dropping from the airship; the one who wanted to fight other players while riding a dragon with a rescued princess sitting behind me.

Maybe I’m just being stubborn. I don’t know. Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect so much from a simple game. Hell, maybe I don’t even know what I want. I can give you some suggestions, sure, but that isn’t my place here. I just know that anointing “hard work” and “dedication” as the driving forces of the genre was a bad move. We should be worshiping “fun” and “adventure,” not the holy DPS stat and the experience bar at the bottom of the screen. It certainly won’t be easy for you to break a few rules, shatter a few conventions, but it has to be done. If WoW is the pinnacle, the best you can offer, then I was a misguided youth. You’re doomed.

I know you’re trying. There’s some fresh blood coming out. You’ve got that Star Wars game, a bevy of titles with action combat, and games promising better stories. I’m just not sure I buy it. I’ve had enough of the false messiahs. You’ve got something to prove and I’m waiting for it. I really want be wrong here, I want you to wow me (no pun intended). I want to be swept away on the greatest, most epic adventures. I want to look forward to the next chapter in my great campaign, alongside my mighty allies. I want to forget the days of coming home from work or school to go right back into the monotony of the grind. I want my 13-year-old self to be right.

I never want to skip a wall of text and kill ten rats again. Please don’t make me.


Adam Harshberger


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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