By Colin Doberstein
For the readers out there (all three of you who are reading this instead of “World of Sexcraft?”) who doubted that these posts are assignments for a college class, here’s today’s assigned topic: “does corporate ownership of a MMO affect the narrative experience?” Yikes! Looks like we might actually learn something today. Thinking caps on, everyone…
In order to answer this question, it seems necessary to consider the alternative to corporate ownership of an MMO. If the game is not corporately owned, an individual or a small group of people is probably privately running it. Eventually, the computers themselves may run the games (just think: The Matrix Online meets The Matrix), but for now a human hand must be on the rudder of the game world.
With this in mind, how does a corporately run game differ in terms of narrative experience from one run by a single game master, possibly with the help of a small cadre of associates (the phrase “cadre of associates” makes the game’s rulers sound like James Bond villains, doesn’t it?). I don’t think that the mode of ownership makes a major difference in the narrative experience of a game, assuming “narrative experience” is defined as the interactions between players of a game and the game’s fiction. Games run by either power structure will have some kind of story for the player to progress through by interacting with a fictional game world. Both types of online overlord will take steps to keeps players playing within the rules, and while corporations have more resources to devote to this task, they also tend to have a larger player base, so the effect is likely to be the same. Due to the same advantage in resources, a corporately owned game is more likely to see regular updates and added content than a privately run MMO, but this only creates new narrative experiences rather than affecting the experience that exists. A game that was created by one person acting alone may be more sensitive to the tides of its players’ opinions, but its creator might also be even more resistant to change than a corporation since the game is the vision of that single person. Obviously, exceptions to all of the statements that I’ve made exist, but I think that who is running the game makes little difference when strictly speaking of the game’s narrative.
So, in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.” Hopefully we’ll have more fun next week (looking at the syllabus, I see sex is involved. This bodes well.)