Confession time: I’m obsessed with EVE Online. Most people know me as an old gamer. By old, I mean that I’ve been gaming since the first Civilization came out. I’ve probably logged ten thousand hours playing all the iterations of that franchise over the years.
I game like some people read: a leisure activity that stimulates the mind. I gave up television decades ago. For ten years, I worked and immersed myself in the bookstore culture, reading all I can and reading up on the rest - new releases of the day, New York Tomes bestsellers, Oprah reading club picks. My game has always been - to some degree - stimulating my brain.
Many would scoff, especially my loving wife, that computer games are a waste of time. To them, I say: yes. All leisure pursuits are time wasters; that is their function. Scoffers are reacting to media-fed stereotypes and hysterical ignorants.
I could go off about the bad rap shooters get. Most of the bad names they earn; that is how copies are sold to that demographic. The fact that most computer games involve guns is an unfortunate affect of several factors dovetailing: the limitations of computer simulations, programming techniques and human interface design; the psychological zeitgeist of our culture, i.e, our addiction to gratuitous sensory input and the attendant emotional jolt; and the common goal of all game design houses - profit.
But not all games are primarily kill-or-be-killed, primal endorfin feasts. Many war simulations are strategic, as are the aforementioned Civilization and it’s 4X clones (explore, expand, exploit & exterminate.) Many deal with complex scenarios inspired by meatspace. SimCity is a great example of a world renown title of management simulation. Even the hokey Second Life deals with the complexity of social and societal interactions.
So stands the two major camps of gaming nerds: twitchy trigger enthusiasts blasting anything that moves, and ponderous playing with a god-like perspective and similar responsibilities. Although many gamers play in both styles, most prefer on or the other. Game designers have looked for the Holy Grail of gaming that would unite the wallets of the two camps. Thus was born the MMORPG.
These Massivley Multiplayer Olnine Role-Playing games (or MMO’s), amalgams of twitchy ponderousness, can be played to whatever is one’s personal style. To the strategists, Player-Vs-Environment elements are available. For the rest, Player-Vs-Player campaigns allow the killer instincts to flourish as complete strangers show their antisocial proclivities.
EVE online, to which I am currently enamored (read: addicted,) is an MMO that on the surface is a space shooter a la Star Trek the Elder. I can be played that way, with squadrons of ships blazing at each other in true Space Opera milieu. but that would ignore the real depth of this game. Billed as the largest online “world” in the world, EVE Online is an entire galaxy of star systems to explore, with human faction-states and a multitude of corporations vying for political and economic supremacy.
The lowly star pilot noobie can proceed all the way to CEO of a player-owned corporation and build her very own space station and get involved with faction politics and the inevitable war or two. Under this expansive realm of possibilities is an economic simulator; EVE Online is a game of Capitalistic pursuits which dispenses the rigid, stratified leveling of World of Warcraft clones and replaces it with an educational approach of gaining abilities by studying for skills over time. In this way, a player has complete control of the abilities she wishes to have, and is not funneled into Warrior, Mage, Cleric, Thief variations.
So that’s what I’m into this year. As an entertainment value, I’ve always believed that a fifty-dollar game should - at least - give 100 hours of enjoyment as a fair return of investment. Not all can do this, and to gamble with a Franklin every other month is too often disappointing. With the monthly dues of a MMO, one can get as much value as one wants until boredom or something else comes along. Yes, after a year’s time, I’ll spend more on EVE than other games, but I’ll probably spend less money this year on gaming than in years past. That’s the real value!