Most of the Rock, Paper, Shotgun guys recently posted their thoughts on the Warhammer Online closed beta; they were descended upon by WAR supporters (some rabid, some a little more even-tempered) for drawing more comparisons between WoW and WAR. After this little display of MMO chest thumping, Alec Meer put up a thoughtful piece on why it is that WoW has become a dirty word, both in and out of the industry, and why people are so quick to leap to vociferous defence of their games:
MMOs aren't like other games. They're closer to a lifestyle choice, for a lot of people defining how their spare time is spent, how their lives are lived. So if you criticise the game, you criticise the player. God knows there are plenty of non-MMO games that people treat as though they're bound to their very souls - witness the pile-on for Eurogamer's MGS4 review, or even the outrage about various RPS writers being down on Stalker: Clear Sky - but it's even worse with MMOs. Telling a WAR player that his game is similar to WoW is like telling a goth that he's emo. No-one wants to be told they're not unique and interesting, to be dismissed as a stereotype they're not.
WAR is not WoW. But it is a lot like it in a number of crucial ways, and for one essential reason: money. I suspect Mythic and EA aren't too concerned about the comparison themselves - they might disagree with the sweeping generalisation, but if they didn't want to be compared they would have gone for an entirely different interface and art approach. Saying WAR is like WoW is not the same as saying it's a bad or a lazy game, but unfortunately there are guys who do intentionally make the comparison unfavourably, and that's perhaps understandably made a lot of WAR fans very touchy.
Personally, I'm fascinated by the fan communities generated by MMOs, popular ones and not — not being much of an MMO player, I find 'people watching' to be more entertaining than the game in a lot of cases. I don't have the patience to wade through the original comment thread, but I'm pretty sure I could rattle off the general reaction with little prompting. Meer's thoughts, however, are deserving of a read.
A Dirty Word [Rock, Paper, Shotgun]