The years from 1997 to 2003 were glorious, golden times for virtual worlds. Nobody knew nothing about them, and most didn't even know they existed. The few "creators of worlds"(intentional ref) shared the simple idea that a virtual persistant world's only requirement is for it to be constantly online... everything else was unexplored ground.
It was the time of sheer experimentation, healthy, beautiful, untamable. We saw amazing tests of courage with such games as Planetside, EVE online, Neocron and dozens of others. Every single game was a world apart, entirely a product of a unique point of view into virtuality... with them you could actually SEE the creators' mind, their vision.
It's like in times of revolutions. The first weeks the humble citizens unitedly conquered power, threw down tyranny, government is currently shapeless: there's hope for everyone, there's promise of PROGRESS, promise of a JUST utopia, where everyone is equal and happy, the time of absolute exploring of new grounds.
But then what happened to proposals, to this laboratory of new levels of humanity and socialism? They're bent under cynism and utilitarism, bent under personal gain, under money.
It's what happened with MMO's. With the coming of a single massively multiplayer online game from a(formerly) admirable software company called Blizzard, it attracted the masses to it, and dictated a fixed shape.
Shaking off the metaphor...
It's not like this game, this antichrist created something new: Those persons reused bits from previous productions and made 'em pretty, they crystallized 'em... what was once fluid now is homogeneous... its success created the concept of MASS that was unknown to virtual worlds, and made it seemingly necessary for other houses to emulate it... to please ALL the masses you have to make something good for everyone, you have to level down the more peculiar original parts into a flat far-reaching surface... kind of like a pizza dough in the making.
The least original part of an emulated clone is surely the characters levels progression, which also shows the appeal to masses. Everyone knows about it, and they're starting to feel disgusted by it: it's a gameplay element based on babysitting and addiction. Babysitting because it tends to eliminate EVERY collateral dangerous mental effort... "thinking is tiresome to the masses, it's a profit deterrent, let's eliminate it". And it's addictive because it's based on continuous easy gratification... making you feel like you've accomplished something, you're given constant rewards... it happens specifically when the NPC character's window pops up with flattering phrases like "you made it, you're great, you're a hero, you're succesful, you're sexy and smart", and so on, they're subliminal messages, lobotomy, maybe.
These new games are clones of blizzard's antichrist not because it really made something new, then, but because the things it made were arranged so that were accessible to the masses.
How does this system survive? Normally one would think that people don't like being insulted like this, that i can dictate your tastes. Well the system feeds on selfishness. Players are self-centred, They only consider their own ends, they don't see it as offensive that they pay to be told that they're dumb and shamefully exploited, they are focused on their feeling good and entertained, "they do NOT laugh at me, i have fun, it's all that matters".
Egocentrism is essential for this to work, and to do that you mustn't converse with people, or you'll find you're doing something stupid. Is it a wonder then that modern MMO's tend to eliminate the reason to chat and socialize?
What can we do to fight this tyranny?