This is one of those quintessential arguments that pops up time and time again amongst gamers, guilds, groups, and communities. It's an argument that divides people, pisses off people, and causes countless more gamers to alienate other gamers. How serious should you be about playing your game?
Of course we laugh about a topic like this one. Games aren't suppose to be serious, that's why they're games! They're suppose to be fun and enjoyable. If you're not having fun, then you're doing something seriously wrong. For the most part, all of this is true. Yet, there are small segments of the games that we play that actually can require everyone to sit down and "get serious."
We see it in raiding tactics, player vs. player tactics, loot distribution, and many other areas (including the entire universe of EVE Online, which seems to be played very seriously.) We've even dedicated a segment of our culture to this type of behavior -- the "hardcore" crowd.
So, let's go forward and look at the question, "Are games getting too serious?"
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Raid leaders are supreme spazzes. I should know, I am one. While I don't go the length of yelling at the top of my lungs over Ventrilo, I've been put into positions where I have to make a decision I don't want to make. This is all where the seriousness began in MMOs -- party formation and leadership.
"Apparently, people don't have fun when they're constantly getting killed."
But, we also know that sometimes some party configurations aren't going to work. Maybe you don't have enough healing coming in for a particular battle. Maybe your damage output isn't where you want it to be. It's moments like these where the raid leader may have to remove people from the party and replace them with someone else.
Maybe some people aren't paying attention. Ah, wait a second. Let me rephrase that. Maybe some people aren't taking the challenge seriously. They talk, they go afk for 20 minute stretches, they ignore orders. They waste everyone's time, and people begin to get restless because they're sitting at their computers and not doing anything. The raid leader doesn't want to remove them, so he simply speaks with them and reminds them he needs them to stay focused. The party member in question rebels against authority and quits from the raid, complaining that games shouldn't be so serious.
We as a culture have placed a heavy burden on our own leadership. In our pursuit of fun in our MMOs, we force ourselves into making very hard and very unfun decisions. It's the old "for the greater good" argument all over again. Do we remove one or two people to optimize our party/raid, or do we continue on and take the risk of constant failure?
The spirit of competition says, "OMGZ guys, serious business! N00bz!"
Let's take a step back for a moment. Let's think about your high school football team or some other sport that you enjoyed. I'm choosing high school because high schoolers don't get paid for their sports skills. They just get to wear their town's colors and represent their school as they compete against rival schools for top honors. In other words, they're doing it because they want to do it.
You get the football team together for a game. The first play is called and everyone gets into position. The quarterback calls hike, the ball is passed, and the QB goes into the pocket. One of the blockers doesn't bother to block. He simply stands there and lets a member of the other team get past him and tackle the QB. The coach slams the playbook down in a rage and immediately makes a substitution. The non-blocking blocker walks off of the field as he gets replaced, and sits down, muttering "These guys take this game way too seriously. I just wanted to have fun."
Who's out of line? Is it the blocker for wanting to enjoy himself? Is it the coach for taking the game seriously?