post up a while ago, in which he bemoaned the state of the MMO nation, as he often does. It generated an interesting comment thread that demonstrated something we probably all realize but don't acknowledge often enough: not everyone thinks the same way we do.
Wikipedia defines the Echo Chamber Effect as "a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or
reinforced by transmission and repetition inside an "enclosed" system,
where different or competing views are censored, disallowed or otherwise underrepresented". MMORPGs, in common with most hobbies, are rife with echo chambers: your guild, your friends list, your choice of game, your RSS feed, they all tend to put up a wall of reflection, bouncing your own perceptions back at you.
Sometimes they return distorted, warped, off-kilter but almost always recognizable, cousins to the original thoughts or feelings. When truly alien opinions and attitudes attempt to insinuate themselves the tools are ready to hand - /block, /ignore, guild kick or disband, remove from feed. It's so easy to hear only what you expect to hear, what you want to hear.
We refine our Filter Bubbles until the world conforms to the way we think it should and when we can't do that we retreat into silos. The exact definition of last year's most infuriating business meme, Silo Mentality, may not be an exact fit but something very similar is going on when we huddle together in our separate cliques - raiders, pvpers, crafters, casuals, carebears, each at best ignoring, sometimes opposing or resenting, the others.
"Comfort Zone" is a another glib turn of phrase guaranteed to spark static with me. As soon as I see it employed to further an argument my fur bristles. My instinctive reaction is to counter or close down any discussion that sees being comfortable as a negative. I love being comfortable. If I didn't then I wouldn't be comfortable, would I? It's a recursive, self-defeating argument.
Then there's "Challenge": that's a buzzword that grates. I read it as "Threat" and who wants to be threatened? And yet, get away from the false language and maybe there's something underneath that has substance.
It was reading horror stories of ganking in Ultima Online that decided me on Everquest as my first MMORPG. I never thought then that I'd end up spending a significant portion of my play time cackling gleefully as I pounced on some other player's hapless character with determined intent to send him back to his spawn point cursing me. I did, though. I do. And when it happens to me, as it very often does, I shrug, brush off the dust and carry on. There's no fear in it any more. Sometimes it's even fun.
For years I disliked crafting in MMORPGs so intently I thought it should be banned. My AD&D group never wasted a session knitting chainmail vests. If we wanted armor we killed someone who was wearing it or looted some ancient crypt or temple and bought what we needed with the treasure we hauled away in our portable hole. Crafting? That was something NPCs did. These days if an MMORPG doesn't have a rewarding and/or interesting crafting system I wonder how it dares call itself an MMORPG at all.
Even dungeons, that great staple of the genre, once seemed to me to be something for other people, not anything I'd ever experience. There was that whole "indoor/outdoor" thing, now long-forgotten, going on in Everquest back when I first started. Only hardcore players dared to travel the depths of Guk or Solusek's Eye. The rest of us, lightweights that we were, scratched our living on the surface, where you could run to a zoneline at need. The barrier to entry between the regular leveling game and Dungeoneering wasn't much lower than the wall that sprang up to separate raiding from the rest of the game a year or two later. You knew your place back then.
As the months and years rolled on my interest in the hobby grew in both breadth and depth. I wanted to play all the games. I wanted to try all the things. Some stuck, some didn't. Dungeons opened up for me and although I probably never gave raiding a fair chance I did at least get to see enough to decide it wasn't for me. I'm never going to have the patience or dedication to be more than a dilettante decorator but it turns out that I actually quite like jumping puzzles and I'm not terrible at them either. And on it goes.
In the end I do like my comfort and I don't particularly want to be "challenged" but there's a vast hinterland between dozing in an armchair by the fireplace and poling a dugout canoe up the Orinoco. It's not entirely true that you never know what you'll like unless you try it because we can all extrapolate from our experiences but it's surprising what catches your eye when you raise your head and look over the walls.
To some extent I'm in my own filter bubble, of course, surrounding myself with positive bloggers who still love MMOs, but that's why I also value the burnouts, the cynics, the bitter vets, or at least those who still care enough to make their cases for why the hobby's gone all to hell these days. It's tempting to close out some of those uncomfortable voices but often they're saying something that casts a shadow that brings out a detail the rainbow-hued light of positivity failed to reveal.
Just let's not expect any miraculous makeovers or sudden conversions. They're kind of creepy, anyway.