Free for All: What I am thankful for

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Free for All: What I am thankful for
WoW Thanksgiving screenshot
Here in the United States we are gearing up to celebrate well, whatever it is exactly that we give as the reason to get together with friends and family and eat more than humanly possible on the last Thursday in November. To be honest, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because I truly do use the occasion to take stock of how good I have it and to decide what is important to me and my future.

I wanted to take similar stock with you all, my readers. After all, work can be a major part of our lives, and this is my work. Over the year and a half I really have learned a lot and became a better writer through the experience. So I am thankful for a lot.

Click past the cut and I'll tell you just what I am thankful for.

The most obvious thing that anyone should be thankful for is his good health, if he has it. One of the biggest factors in our healthy lives is stress, or the lack of stress. I am happy to say that I have never had a job that I enjoyed more than the job I have at Massively. I'm proud of working here, of having my words read by thousands and thousands of people each week. While I miss touring with a band and playing in front of people all over the country, I see my columns as performances as well. The crowds show up, they read my performance, and they let me know how I did in the comments section. I do not miss waking up with my ears ringing, so that's another bonus.

"If you don't love what you are writing about, you might as well give it up because you will burn out before long."

I started out years ago covering games with my wife, mainly because I just loved games. Sure, it was great to get a nice comment or to receive a lovely email, but the love of gaming and specifically MMO gaming drove me on. If you don't love what you are writing about, you might as well give it up because you will burn out before long. I happen to love these games for many different reasons, so I am thankful that my job allows me to celebrate them through my writing.

Of course, none of this could happen without you, fair readers. Some of you have become permanent fixtures in my odd little life. Many of you I have now memorized according to your wacky screen names or funny icons. And while there are many of you who seem bound and determined to get my goat in any way possible, I appreciate the lot of you. You all make for some great comments and even better discussion. My goal all along has been to write columns that stir discussion.

I couldn't make a list of things to be thankful for if I did not include the games themselves. I am always flabbergasted when I hear someone talk about what a poor year it was in gaming. Since I started enjoying MMO games in 1999, each year has topped the last. There are more games now than there have ever been, and there will be more each year after. We all know how widespread gaming has become and how far its reach goes. We can now jump into any number of titles and immediately be connected to people from all over the world. Many of us forget how miraculous that is. Sure, the technology will become faster and lighter, but the greatest thing to come out of the last 10 years is the shrinking of the world around us. This is due in large part to the internet and to games that connect players together. Within our games, we get to know players whom we wouldn't normally have a chance to meet.

I'm also thankful for websites like Over the last year I have had the joy of watching its writers speak out against developers who avoid or even ignore gay players and their concerns. One of the best panels I saw from PAX East in 2011 featured David Edison, editor and co-owner of the website, and he explained better than anyone how using buzz words and hyperbole in the discussion about gamers' differences is basically preaching to the choir. I loved how simple and to the point he was. In the discussion about differences in our community, leaders in the community often forget how snobbery and elitism can happen on both sides. keeps the discussions grounded and real.

I couldn't be more thankful for These sites have given voice to millions of people who might otherwise be forced to sit on the sidelines of news or development. Through them, I have learned to question how developers make their games and advertise their titles. There is still a lot of work to be done, but I have personally seen the differences that have been made just by the presence of websites that speak on behalf of gamers who might not traditionally have a place at the gaming table. Make room, everyone; they're not going anywhere.

"MMO gaming is not defined only by the AAA titles that require a supercomputer to run. Millions and millions of gamers enjoy adventuring in browser-based worlds or in worlds that run on a cell phone."

Without great technology, however, none of this would be possible. I am so thankful for the common microprocessor and all of the inexpensive devices that have come from the last 10 years. One of my goals with this column (and MMObility, of course) is to show how gamers can afford to game, even when they can't afford to do much else. Gaming can be a wonderful social outlet as well as a tool for entertainment. MMO gaming is not defined only by the "AAA" titles that require a supercomputer to run. Millions and millions of gamers enjoy adventuring in browser-based worlds or in worlds that run on a cell phone. Within the past few years, not only have we seen technology become smaller and faster, but also the games adapted and became more accessible, cheap, and fun.

That brings me to one of the largest changes in MMO gaming so far: the rise of free-to-play gaming. Call it what you will -- freemium, unlimited free trial, free-to-play or non-subscription -- but either way you have touched on the magic of unlimited, free, basic access. Despite the fact that 15 dollars is not a large sum of money, the mental block remains. Many people simply cannot see paying 15 dollars just to revisit an old title or 50 dollars for a title that does nothing to guarantee future satisfaction. A free-to-play title lets you in the door, no questions asked. For many people, this choice saves them more than money -- it also saves them time. They are able to find the game that fits them perfectly without having to upgrade their machine, buy a box, install the program, and hope that their friends did the same. Free-to-play has opened the market and given the power back to the player. The days of staying with a shoddy title out of financial guilt are slowly disappearing.

All in all, it's been an amazing year, and there truly is a lot to be thankful for. No matter what you might hear, MMO gaming is healthier than it has ever been. It's easy to say that it is in trouble or dying because it has become so common that it is almost invisible. Even single-player social games are increasing the number of players available during a multiplayer session. It is only a matter of time before those numbers reach the thousands. In the future, "MMO" will be the standard, thanks in part to cheaper and faster internet and developers bending to the consumer. I can't wait to see what will happen between now and next Thanksgiving!

So what are you thankful for?

Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to!
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