A couple of years ago I wrote a couple of stories for the print-and-paper “EQuinox” magazine, an official EQII magazine produced by MMM Publishing. I wasn’t working for SOE at the time, but they were looking for volunteers to provide stories, and someone gave them my name. Even before that though, I used to sometimes write the stories of things that happened in the game I was playing at the time (the original EverQuest, back then). Partly for writing practice, but mostly just because I enjoyed it.
Experiencing the content as you play through a computer game is an entertaining experience, but ultimately, it’s a series of things that happen to you as the game designer planned it. The same monsters appear at the same places and attack you with the same weapons and you kill the same boss of the same dungeon, and even in games that have become more sophisticated these days and vary that a little bit, it’s still basically the same experience over and over within very fixed parameters. Writing a little story about the trip through a dungeon allowed me to make the experience uniquely mine, to impose my own interpretations and my own thoughts on the events, and make it unique and different from every other person’s experience. Sometimes I would write it down and post it on a message board somewhere, and sometimes I would just tell a story during a quiet night in guild chat. As I discovered over time, it also interested other people and made the game content seem fresh and new to them. Perhaps I would notice little details that they’d missed, or perhaps I would just interpret the events and surroundings in a different way. Often they would discover a new interest in seeing that game content again, and often they would add new perspectives that I had not seen, which renewed my own interest too. I also found that I noticed more details about the game world too; knowing I might write about something made me pay more attention to what I was seeing, and why I was doing things. Why ARE we going to kill this guy, why DID that monster do that, what DOES this mean in terms of the world’s overall story?
I like playing computer games of many types, but since the birth of the MMO, it’s hard for me to stay with a single-player game for long. What I love most about MMOs is nothing to do with competition, although this is commonly assumed to be a main reason why people play MMOs. What I love most is the ability to positively affect other people. Show them something cool, take them on a tour, and watch them say “omg!” Tell them a story that helps them see how they fit into the world, and watch them gain new pleasure from being the hero of the story. Give them a gift, decorate their house, or just give them a few helpful tips, and watch as they not only enjoy the game more, but also turn around and pass the favor on to others.
As a game designer myself nowdays, I love to try and provide ways in which players of my game can positively impact each other. It’s a hard task though! It’s far more traditional to design ways in which players can compete, or even directly beat each other up. I think it’s an aspect of game play that is perhaps a little less visible than it should be at times, and a little less supported than it could be. I hope that as MMOs progress and continue to grow more sophisticated, it’s something that we will see more of in the future.
Emily “Domino” Taylor