The Curse of the Internet
I recently watched a YouTube video about the direction of World of Warcraft, and how the original design philosophy has changed so much over the course of the years (14 to be exact!). This really got me to thinking about what has changed, and the main thing that really sticks out is the evolution of the internet and social media.
For the non-nerds out there, World of Warcraft released in 2004, and at this point the internet, while popular, still had not taken off to the level it had today. What I mean by that, is in its’ hay day there was no major coverage on video games out in the ecosystem. When I was a child, I played games over dial-up, and these were such games as Starcraft, Diablo 2, Duke Nukem 3D, etc – and you really could not find a tonne of information on these games that really helped you like you can find today.
The maturation of the internet is a curse upon video games in general for the common player. It is a blessing for E-Sports, Twitch Streamers, and other public figures, but for the average joe who just wants to raid his three nights a week, the internet has marred the ability to enjoy the game.
In the year 2004, if you played World of Warcraft, you didn’t truly care about what was “best”, or you didn’t look up strategies in advance on how to kill raid bosses, or how to play your class. That has fully changed at this point.
One thing that really hit home in this video I watched, is how the internet has warped our ability to truly enjoy a game. If you are a raider at this point in your life, you are generally required to: Read strategies on how to fight a boss, read a guide on how to play your class, and optimize your talents based on numbers calculated by someone with a spreadsheet. In 2004 if you logged in to raid you were expected to: Show up on time. Yep. That’s it. Part of the wonder of gaming in that time was there was no hard expectations. Information wasn’t easily and abundantly available. If you fought a boss, you might have found some information somewhere about what they cast, or do – but in the end you figured it out on your own. You and 39 other people threw yourselves at something for hours on end, learning as you went, making adjustments as needed, and that was your strategy.
Rolling this into gaming in general, I’ve begun to think about how the informational era has ruined the “wonderment”. Nine times out of ten, when a video game releases, someone, somewhere, somehow has uploaded a full play-through of it out the gate. Then spoilers roll out. You have to literally safeguard yourself on the internet to prevent yourself from seeing a story spoiler around the web. The anonymity of the internet has also made it easier for random people to spread spoilers without caution for repercussion.
I can’t tell you how many times someone has managed to upload a YouTube video with a spoiler as the title and I’ve caught glimpses of it.
While I know it’s not possible to go back, and move away from the informational age – I just truly get nostalgic when I think about what things were like when you just had to figure things out on your own and you didn’t have fifty guides on the subject.
I want sense of wonder back, I want social expectations to wither out, and people to expect less textbook knowledge, and “discover” things on their own. The internet is a blessing and curse.
Until next time,