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Reluctant Quitting

I recently spoke quite glowingly about EVE Online, a massively multiplayer game that strives to be more or less entirely player-driven. Where Blizzard will open up new areas for conquest in World of Warcraft, the developers of EVE will simply make it possible to acquire new blueprints, from which new goods and copies of the blueprints might be made, disseminating through the market until equilibrium price is reached.

This is a bold choice, and one that its proponents find an invigorating smelling salt that awakens them from some slumber of playing other people’s games. Instead of doing Valve Software’s bidding bi-annually with each release of an episode of Half Life 2, they chose what they want to do. Where Gordon Freeman can only shoot headcrabs and save the world from intergalactic domination (spoilers!), these men may choose to manufacture projectile ammunition or perhaps mine asteroids instead. And yet I think that last sentence summed up my problem with the game: its choices bore me.

Rockstar Games recently returned from the mount, with Grand Theft Auto IV inscribed on its stone tablets, (only to find us worshiping the golden crowbar) which has brought extra attention to the notion of salvation through sandbox gameplay that they’ve offered us. Sure you could murder an opposing gang member, but you also have the opportunity to take your woman to a bar and play darts. Or maybe just hop in a cab and be driven around the city: the choice is yours.

But GTA4 also has a multiplayer mode that allows for some interactions with friends, among these computer-generated non-persons. Of course, this enhances the game play significantly: it’s hard to tell a story that begins with, “Remember that time we had seven cops chasing us…” if only you remember this particular happening, as hilarious as it may be.

So you play GTA4 with a few friends. But why not more? Well, the game only allows so many. But take away that restriction, and you get an open world with hundreds of people, and suddenly it’s massively multiplayer.

So, this meandering theory of mine goes, with EVE, where everyone is a player and everything is caused by them, why isn’t it all non-stop giggles?

This answer continues to elude me.

I know that in the core of me, each time I logged on in my brief month of consecutive play, I considered what else I could be doing. On any given evening, when I began to arm my ship for combat, that I might collect on bounties that would allow me to buy a bigger ship and hunt bigger fish, another game might cross my mind. Team Fortress 2, let’s say. Even though that game has the persistence of a flaming brown paper sack left on Old Man Stevens’ stoop, which is to say that none of your actions have any long-term consequences, it is a thoroughly compelling game.

So clearly, persistence does not make a winner of a game, although it certainly helped catapult Call of Duty 4‘s multiplayer to some interesting heights.

I’m aimlessly wondering about, trying to find a good reason to justify my cancellation of my account to EVE. For one thing, the crew of gamers with whom I consistently play are all partaking of the delightful space capitalism. I realize that no justification is really needed, and even so that my instinctual assessment of the gameplay as boring is enough.

But for some reason, I find it hard to step away. I do want to like the game, and I did for a time. But for now, I think it’s going back on the shelf.

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