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Ask Massively: Misconceptions about jerk players, Kickstarters, and untrustworthy studios


Continuing our miniseries theme from the last Ask Massively, today's edition will focus on a brand-new set of misconceptions commonly held by MMO gamers and participants in our comments section: jerk players in MMORPGs, the playerbase of one particular sci-fi sandbox, Kickstarters vs. investments, and learning to trust a studio that's done you wrong.

As always, if there's a misconception you want me to add to my list, let me know in the comments!

Misconception: MMO players are bigger jerks nowadays
Reality: MMO players were always big jerks

Many factors contribute to this misconception about the state of MMO gamer conduct, so it's no wonder that so many of us cling to the belief that communities were so much nicer back in the day. But the truth is that there are simply far more MMORPGers now than ever before as gaming has slowly mainstreamed over the last few decades, which means the total volume of jerks has increased even though the relative volume of jerks to not-jerks is mostly the same. And the internet was much quieter in general back then. Forums were just getting started (remember .asp and .cgi forums?). Social media wasn't a thing you could use to broadcast your asshattery. Gaming blogs were in their infancy and didn't cover drama. Some early MMOs didn't even have global chat systems. But that doesn't mean bad behavior wasn't going on. Cheating and hacking were rampant in Ultima Online, as were antics that would make modern EVE Online thugs blush. Even in tame grindparks like EverQuest, PvE players found ways to ruin the days of their servermates for kicks; the hardcore raiding "community" 15 years ago was anything but.

In a nutshell: People are jerks. People have always been jerks. People will always be jerks. Jerks will find ways to exploit MMOs and MMO players of every generation. And ancient MMOs weren't more immune from those jerks than modern MMOs are. The jerks just seem a little louder and flashier than they used to because megaphones and spotlights are that much easier to acquire.

Misconception: EVE players are all horrible people
Reality: Most people who play EVE are not horrible people

A recent commenter accused 90% of EVE players of being horrible people. Hyperbole. Even if EVE's subscription numbers have fallen off in the last 18 months since hard numbers were released, that's a lot of people. Consider this recent excerpt from Massively's Fanfest coverage, sent back by our EVE expert, Brendan Drain:
Developers revealed during Fanfest that of all those who sign up to EVE and pay for a month's subscription, 50% of them don't renew and a further 40% or more end up in solo professions like mining and mission-running, which have the highest rate of player turnover. Only between 5% and 10% of those who sign up will ever get into the kind of gameplay that attracted them to EVE in the first place.
In other words, at any given time, the vast majority of EVE's playerbase is busy either washing out of the game or soloing and trying to avoid the drama in favor of participating in the game's economy. On the other hand, the domination of the game's culture by that 5%-10% and CCP's "harden the fuck up" marketing strategy have likely resulted in selection bias for the remaining players, the ones who make headlines and keep the game fairly isolated as MMOs go. Still, enough with the hyperbole; EVE has enough real problems.

Misconception: Kickstarters are investments
Reality: Kickstarters are donations

The widespread colloquial use of the word "invest" has fooled gamers and even governments into believing that crowdfunding a game is the same as investing in a game with all the same legal protections for the "investors." That just isn't so. While some Kickstarters may trade prizes or the illusion of input for money, you are not participating in a transaction or investing in a company; you are donating to strangers on the internet with no strings attached, and the Kickstarters are under no legal obligation to deliver anything planned. Even actual investments carry significant risks, but Kickstarters place all of the risk on the shoulders of the donors. I'm not saying Kickstarters are evil, just wishing MMO players would stop lending a loaded word like "invest" to fledgling businesses asking for handouts.

Because I am contractually obligated to include a City of Heroes image in all Ask Massivelys
Misconception: NCsoft (or whatever company you hate) can never be trusted ever ever again
Reality: Trust was the wrong thing to have for a company in the first place

Confession time: I used to hold a giant grudge against SOE. By the time my guild left Star Wars Galaxies, it was the second major game I believed SOE had ruined, and that was before the NGE came along and compounded my anger. My grudge made me ignore EverQuest II at launch, something I still regret, and it kept me out of SWG for a few years too. It took me a while to get over my grudge and give those games a relook, to fall in love with SWG anew, and to rethink my opinions about how the studio had changed in the ensuing years. Sure, it still makes dumb mistakes, but the people and philosophies aren't static.

I understand why gamers carry grudges for studios like Blizzard or EA or NCsoft. The bigger the studio, the more games it will have made and the more likely it is to have done something stupid, like ruin or cancel a spectacular game or try to fire a developer while he's in space. But it'll probably also do other things right, and in an industry where scant few truly AAA MMORPGs can be made given the expense, refusing to ever play a game by a studio that's sunsetted some other game hurts you a lot more than it hurts that studio, however satisfying wallet-voting feels.

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 Just ask!

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