As you probably noticed, earlier in the week I wrote a fairly tongue-in-cheek post about MMO payment models. It was largely inspired by Syl’s post on the same subject.
In her post Syl linked the Cat Context episode from June, 2013 where she sat down with my and Ellyndrial to talk about payment models. At the time she and I had been having a bit of a blog battle over the whole thing, myself being passionately in favor of subscriptions and Syl defending F2P as not being inherently terrible. (I think that’s a fair summary of our stances!)
When I read the most recent post I tried to stoke some of the old internal fire on this topic. I still don’t trust F2P games, and I think embracing them (by developers and players) has made some areas of gaming pretty messed up. I think the psychology of preying on whales is the same as the psychology behind casino gambling, and that makes me feel squicky. As I said in my brief “last word” post I like subscriptions, and I don’t play MMOs that don’t have some kind of subscription option because that’s just how I roll.
But when I sat down earlier this week to write yet another post on it all I realized… I just don’t care that much about it anymore. Over time in the MMO blogging community you see the same evergreen discussions come up again and again: Payment models, casual vs. hardcore, WoW destroyed MMOs, and so on. And while I certainly encourage folks to continue writing posts on those subjects when they have something to say, after 6+ years I’m not sure I do.
Not only that, but time and the supposed wisdom that comes with it has made me a little more tractable. When I try to adopt a philosophy of “everyone should play what makes them happy”, can I really get all raged up about payment model preferences? I dunno, man, if you’re having fun then I guess it’s all good.
Plus let’s face it, us grumps have lost this battle. My feelings about MMOs changed dramatically after the rise and sudden fall of WildStar. Here was a game that espoused all of the things that we old school, Burning Crusade fans wanted! There was raiding and challenging leveling content and elaborate crafting and subscriptions. And it turned out when faced with this throwback game.. for the most part, and for whatever reason, we didn’t actually want it. So much for pining for the old days. So much for bickering in support of the subscription model. I still feel a little lost about it, to be honest.
So this week instead of fighting the old battles and throwing down with other sites in rhetorical glee, I farmed up a hat for my chocobo.
… Ugh, casual bloggers are the worst.
I like subscriptions, but whatever.
(Editor’s Note: after publishing this post news broke that AoL officially laid off people from Joystiq, WoW Insider, and Massively. I’m sorry to see it wasn’t just a rumor.)
I wasn’t going to write anything about the potential shutdown of Massively (along with sister sites Joystiq and WoW Insider) because nothing has been officially announced and I try to resist writing about unconfirmed rumors. However, this morning I read the extremely grudge-wanky post I Hope Massively Shuts Down over at Keen and Graev and … it inspired me to write a response.
I’m not a big reader of Massively, although I do keep an eye on their Twitter and RSS feeds. I visit the site particularly when I want to get a feeling for how popular or how divisive a game change is. You can learn a lot about the MMO player community just by scanning to see which articles get the most comments.
And I sometimes have issues with Massively’s articles. There have been times when I didn’t think one was particularly well written, or I just felt it was a little too “press release-y”. I have written the occasional post here in the past when I disagreed with an article or I didn’t think the logic held up.
All of that aside, let’s be perfectly clear here: The loss of Massively would be a huge loss for the MMO community.
Keen’s mega-jerky post — because it was, let’s be honest — argues that Massively is bad because it’s “mass media”. Which.. okay, it is. It’s owned by AoL, it’s very popular in the scheme of MMO sites, and it gets attention from publishers based on that. According to Keen, Massively’s popularity turned “hundreds of thousands of people into sheeple”. They write about things people want to read! Those bastards!
Except, the whole mass media pablum argument isn’t the full story. You only had to read the comments on any article about gender equality in MMOs to see Editor-in-Chief Brianna Royce wade into the fray and share potentially unpopular decisions. Massively has also been a HUGE supporter of smaller, indie MMOs. They championed Glitch, a game near and dear to my heart. They’ve written articles about Age of Wushu and A Tale in the Desert and Wurm Online and a ton of other small games that many of us would possibly otherwise have missed completely. And straight up, they’ve linked this blog and Cat Context at least once each, and have a long history of linking other members of the MMO blogging community. Massively is GOOD for amateur blogs.
(Don’t even get me started on Keen’s accusations of fake game journalists. Like, seriously. He accuses them of not even playing MMOs! Are they just pretending to be MMO players because they like the attention?)
Yes, Massively is a business and has to meet certain metrics to be considered successful, including, I assume, page views. And yes, I’m sure at times they’ve written bland stories about hugely popular games almost entirely for the traffic, because that is what professional content sites do to stay alive. Perhaps I am biased as someone who has a job forming words (in marketing! evil marketing!) but I think it’s pretty okay for someone to make a living from writing about games, and it’s also pretty okay for a company to make money from distributing that writing.
All in all Keen’s post reads like sour grapes to me. Perhaps he believes that the demise of Massively will somehow make his blog more precious and special, but the fact is it just reduces the legitimacy of our area of interest. I’m not a huge Massively fan, but it is a recognizable name that can get into E3 and other shows, highlight smaller games, and link back to the community.
MMO consumers are better off in an ecosystem where Massively exists, and to wave your hands and say that good people should lose their livelihood because Massively is (shock) a business that requires a appealing to a large audience to stay alive is short-sighted at best and downright mean at worst.
Usually in this space you’d find the next episode of Cat Context, but there’s something a little different this week!
Over the weekend members of The Gaming and Entertainment Network got together to hold our first Tribunal. It’s a quarterly podcast where folks from your favorite shows talk about games, movies, pop culture, and more!
As the hosts of this particular Tribunal, I chaired the discussion and Cat Context is distributing it. The guests were Brax from Beyond Bossfights, Roger from Contains Moderate Peril, Syl from Battle Bards, Kodra from Aggrochat, and Joseph from Massive Failure and Roleplay Domain.
Our topic this time was… podcasting! We talk about how we got started, share the different levels of post- and pre-production that we all have, and give advice for future podcasters. Plus, Brax explains just what the heck he was thinking by creating a podcast network in the first place!
I hope you enjoy the first TGEN Tribunal, and do check out our other shows on the network.
(Cat Context will be back in two weeks with its usual episode. :) )
Convention season appears to be upon us! PAX South and MAGfest happened this past weekend, and my Twitter feed is full of talk about the upcoming Gen Con and PAX East.
One of the fun things for laypeople to do at conventions is collect a little swag, including the omnipresent t-shirt. It’s popular with good reason — con-goers get a piece of clothing to show off, and the company in turn gets some good advertising. Wearing a nerd shirt is pretty much the unofficial dress code of any game convention I’ve experienced.
And often, I want to wear your shirts! If I liked your game, or I like your company, or it has a particularly sweet design, then I will happily wear your branding around and help support the cause. For the most part though while my dude friends leave PAX Prime with an extra stack of t-shirts in their suitcase, I might have one. If you don’t have women’s sizes then I’m pretty out of luck, and you’ve missed an advertising opportunity.
The next time you order shirts for your booth, please consider the following two points:
Don’t print on American Apparel t-shirts
I’m going to assume that blank American Apparel t-shirts are cheap, because they seem to by far be the most used brand for promotional screen prints. And while there are certainly ethical reasons to reconsider your shirt supplier, let’s focus on the practical here: they’re small. AA shirts are sized tiny, and made from a terribly unforgiving weave. A booth that offers AA shirts in Small through 2XL is actually offering a range of “really wee through maybe-Large”. I literally have a section in my clothing drawer dedicated to adorable shirts that I bought “in my size” at cons but ended up being in stupid tiny American Apparel sizes and thus can never be worn.
Have lady sizes
There’s a reason why “women’s cut” exists in shirts: women, particularly curvy ones, often just don’t fit well in a men’s cut shirt. They sit all wrong — the shoulders are baggy, the collar goes up weirdly high, the chest is too tight and then it’s all extra bunching cloth at the waist and hips. I’ve tried, oh, how I’ve tried, to just ignore it and wear a lovely shirt anyway but I can’t escape the feeling that it looks all wrong and then suddenly your game is being “advertised” by a disgruntled lady wearing an ill-fitting sack.
Anyone who has been to a PAX event lately knows that the crowd is roughly 50% women. If I do a demo of your game or meet some other requirement for a shirt and you tell me you only have men’s sizes, you know what I’ll do? I’ll take your shirt, I’ll try it on later, I’ll make a sad face, and then it goes into the sad face drawer where it will never be seen by another human being again. Don’t let your promo dollars end up in the sad face drawer, people.
(Amusingly enough the only promotional t-shirt I have obtained in five years of PAX Prime that came in a non-AA women’s cut was for.. Dungeons & Dragons. And I still wear that sucker today!)
I know, or at least suspect, that printing two different cuts of t-shirts will increase your overhead costs, but men’s shirts are not the “standard” or “one shape fits all”. They’re shirts that were cut for dudes. And that’s cool, but if you have ladies at your con and you’d like them to wear your shirts too, then please consider bringing some non-AA women’s sizes to your booth this year.