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Ask Massively: Misconceptions about new, old, and sunsetted MMOs

ESO
As the editor-in-chief of Massively, I make it a point to read as many of our comments as I can. We have some really smart people here chatting at the bottom of our posts, and I learn a lot from them. But I also see the same illogical statements and easily countered arguments being made independently by different commenters across many different threads and games. I'd like to address some of those misconceptions today in the first part of a new Ask Massively miniseries.

Today's misconceptions are all about new, old, and sunsetted MMOs.

Misconception: Old games are bad because they are old
Reality: A game might be bad and old, but it's not bad because it's old

The number of gamers who roll their eyes at any game older than a year or two always baffles me. In fact, two weeks ago I answered a letter in this very column about the value of playing a classic game like EVE Online. EVE is a perfect example of an old game that has a large community, developer support, and a decade of content, all of which combine to make it still worth playing (if you can get past the drama). Old games have problems, but the few that are still around have been selected for in a way new games have not -- they've survived recessions and layoffs and content droughts and mismanagement and F2P and ancient code and World of Warcraft and the march of time when so many others have fallen by the wayside. Let's stop being time-snobs and give them some credit for that longevity! A game doesn't need to have been made in 2014 to be worth a damn, just like any other form of entertainment, be it books or comics or movies or TV or music. If you can't get over low polygon counts or isometric viewpoints, that's perfectly fine and valid, but don't fall for ageism and assume that everything else about a game is dated and worthless just because it launched a bit before you entered the genre.

EQ
Misconception: The only people who like old games are just blinded by nostalgia
Reality: Some of them might be, but not all of them are, so don't assume anything


This misconception is just plain rude. The "nostalgia" accusation is just a cheap way to dismiss an "old's" opinion about a game, and I wish I never had to see the word used that way in our comments. I can understand looking askance at people who fervently believe that no game experience has ever been as fun as waiting all day on a list to get into the tiger room to camp it for a bubble of experience in EverQuest, but those folks aren't blinded by nostalgia; they're just crazy. I'm kidding. They just have a different opinion about what fun was and is. Argue against the opinion and the foundation on which that opinion was built; don't presume to know the inner-workings of the mind holding the opinion. Please don't tell classic MMO gamers they have on rose-colored glasses. It only makes you look foolish when they remind you that their beloved game still exists and they still play it because they still find it fun even today. There are just so many old things worth still loving for their own sake, not just for some cloying, bittersweet memory.

Misconception: New games are bad because they are new
Reality: A new game might be bad, but not because of its newness


Here's the first misconception in reverse, one held by hipsters who stubbornly cling to old games or old patches and refuse to consider playing something new because they believe anything new is by definition inferior. I won't argue that many new games lack some of the advantages of older titles; obviously, they're more likely to suffer bugs, have less content and polish, and find their communities and playerbases and guilds in flux. Also, all your stuff is in the old game, and starting over can suck. But if you sneer at anything that's launched in the last few years (or, again, since WoW), then you're only robbing yourself of potentially great experiences and even new friends. You'll never discover that you love something new if you never try anything that isn't old. And if you never try anything new, you'll never create new contexts in which you can appreciate better the old thing that you love. I didn't appreciate Star Wars Galaxies nearly as much in 2003 as I did after I'd left and tried out a bunch of new games that didn't have half its content or appeal, for example.

CoH
Misconception: Sunsetted MMOs deserved it because they sucked/had no players/have nothing left to teach
Reality: I can't even believe people say these things with straight faces


There's a strange strain of hostility out there toward sunsetted MMOs. I'm not quite sure where that comes from. Some folks appear to want to believe that no game would shut down if it didn't deserve it. Maybe they're glad their pet MMO has less competition. Or maybe we are unwilling to accept that sometimes great games are shut down not because they were failing or because they made no money or because they had no players but because they lost a license or because a company in another country needed a quick tax write-off or because the studio was just really terrible at figuring out how to monetize a masterpiece. Maybe we can't handle the sheer unfairness of that, so we tell ourselves those games just had it coming. Some of them probably did; bad games do shut down. But so do good ones.

Moreover, just because a game is closed is no reason to stop talking about it. I bumped into this misconception a few weeks back when I wrote about a lesson City of Heroes could teach World of Warcraft. A few commenters cattily remarked that a dead game has nothing to teach a live game. I can only hope those saying so were just unmasking their City of Heroes hate because the day we stop learning from dead things -- dead artists, dead civilizations, dead languages, dead galaxies, and yes, even old dead video games -- is the day we stop learning.

That's all for this week. I've got more of these to tackle in future Ask Massively editions, but if there's a misconception you want me to address, I'm listening!

What should you play? Where is the MMO industry headed? How does Massively operate? Has Lord British lost his marbles? Why is the edit button on a timer? Should "monoclegate" be hyphenated? Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce submits to your interrogations right here in Ask Massively every other Friday. Drop your questions in the comments below or ping us at ask@massively.com. Just ask!

This article was originally published on Massively.