Many people now live in a state of constant worry. And indeed, the concerns are more than valid. With things like killer bees; the impending zombie apocalypse; ninjas, dressed as clowns; and of course, clowns, eating ninjas. I myself however, am more worried about the current state of gaming. One trend that I am noticing more and more recently, is the abandoning of the “journey”, the downplaying of the levelling part of our games.
There is a saying which goes “what matters is not the destination, but the journey itself”, and that, is exactly how I feel when it comes to MMOs. For me a large part of the gaming experience comes from the leveling parts of these games. The gradual maturing of your characters; the exploration of the lands; the revealing of the lore and stories scattered around the worlds; and last but not least, the meeting of new people along the way, and the resulting new bonds and friendships that develops.
It seems however, that my way of thinking is in the minority. Nowadays many gamers and developers are starting to see the leveling part of gaming as an obstacle. Instead of enjoying the leveling, and seeing the journeying, the whole adventuring experience as being the fun itself, many people now sees it as the being means towards the end. The means, towards the goal, the means, towards the “fun”. Parts of me cries every time someone complains about leveling taking too long, or when I see people grind rush to max level, and then complain about a lack of things to do. To me, these gamers are completely missing the point of gaming.
Unfortunately, as I have mention this is not just the attitude of the gamers, but the developers as well. Look at Age of Conan‘s offline leveling system; the increased XP gain in World of Warcraft; the rested XP and XP potions offered in numerous games; and last but not least look at Warhammer Online, where you can actually BUY levels. Many games now offer some type of fast leveling system, not to mention the various fast travelling and other zone skipping devices on offer. Systems and devices, which not only allow, but indeed encourages the bypassing of the adventuring part of the games – the journey, if you will.
As more and more gamers and developers adopt this attitude towards gaming, I have to wonder – what does this mean, for gamers like myself? Is this the end of the road for us, the lonely travellers, the hardy adventurers of the lands? Is it finally time for us to throw down our swords? Is this… the end of the journey?