Friday, March 31, 2006

Text in MMORPGs

"There was lots of reading, much too much, in the game. ... We wanted more instant gratification: kill, get treasure, repeat. We needed to give people more of an opportunity to be a part of what they have seen in the movies rather than something they had created themselves." -- Nancy MacIntyre, senior director of SWG for LucasArts. (New York Times article)
Despite Ms. MacIntyre's position, I'd also like to see more writing in graphical MMORPGs -- in fact, I believe there should be more opportunity for writing in MMORPGs generally.

I can easily imagine many kinds of writing:

  • "atmosphere" stuff just to add depth to the world

  • quest starters

  • lore information scattered over many places... but not completely at random

  • chronicles of player or guild exploits written by players

  • guides to places/quests/gameplay written by players

  • extended fiction inspired by the game world
These are just some possibilities for more and better writing in MMORPGs. The important point to make here is that while most players shouldn't have to read a lot to play successfully, there are plenty of people -- albeit mostly Socializers and Explorers -- who would enjoy having opportunities to read and write in a game. As worlds, MMORPGs are places where verbal expression can contribute to play; as art forms, MMORPGs are another opportunity for literary development.

In addition to straight literary value, these MMORPG things have the unique feature of interactivity to play with as well. Why shy away from exploiting that new opportunity?

Words shouldn't be mandatory in graphical games, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't exist at all.