In case you're one of our many readers outside of the ol' U.S. of A., last Thursday was Thanksgiving here in the States. It's a time to hang out with your extended family, eat great food until you can't eat another bite, and to (ostensibly) give thanks for everything in your life. Last week was a holiday in games like World of Warcraft, too, as Azeroth celebrated its Pilgrim's Feast. It's fun to have games that attempt to tie themselves to the real world through fictional celebrations, but let's be honest - while these virtual holidays may mimic the trappings of their real-world counterparts, they're just that - the trappings. Sure, you can sit around a Thanksgiving (sorry, Pilgrim's Feast) table and gobble down turkey, but these are just the actions of the season with none of the spirit behind them.
Let's change that. I might not be sitting down with my guild to pass the sweet potatoes, but let's take this opportunity to give thanks to all the things that don't suck about online gaming.
I'm thankful for developers who realize that people don't want to sign their lives away to a game in order to progress. Yes, your hardcore community might complain about a game catering to casuals, but people shouldn't be penalized for having a job, or having kids and a family to spend time with, or even just wanting to spend time doing other things. On the other hand, I'm also thankful for developers who know that they're making games for a very niche audience, and who aren't afraid to cater to them - games that may rhyme with Beve Online.
I'm thankful for games that try to push boundaries of storytelling in the multiplayer online space. In Left 4 Dead 2, you see dozens of implied personal stories scrawled on the walls in safehouses. Warcraft's phasing system goes a long way toward making an unchanging persistent world less fixed in stone, and Aion takes a more traditional route by adapting a cutscene-driven campaign to an MMOG experience. No one can really say these games aren't trying.
While we're on the subject, I'm thankful for Aion trying to prove that MMOGs can look as good as any offline game, and I'm thankful for my little Aion-playing quintet for making the game's repetitive old-school questing less unbearable. We may have to gather ten corrupted slime samples apiece, but at least we can joke around with each other on Skype while doing it.
I'm thankful for games like CrimeCraft, APB and Global Agenda that try to branch out and actually try new things in the world of MMOGs rather than just settling for a standard fantasy or the increasingly-more-common superhero setting. Yes, swords-and-sorcery is easy to implement, but a man can only kill so many dragons before wanting to shoot some gangstas in the face.
I'm thankful for games like Champions Online that have a sense of humor, even if - as rightly pointed out by Shamus Young - it's difficult for a player to take them seriously when it's obvious that the developers didn't, either.
And also, I'm thankful for my World of Warcraft guild that keeps me on the raid roster even though I've been too busy with other games this holiday season to have above 25% raid attendance the past few months. Sorry about that, guys - it'll be better in December, I promise! Then again it might get worse; the first half of 2010 is still looking pretty crazy.
But more than anything, I'm thankful for games I can play when I'm too stuffed with Thankgiving dinner to move. Like right now. Plants vs. Zombies, anyone?
John Funk ate waaaaaaaay too much stuffing.