21/03/2020

How Will The Pandemic Affect MMOs?

I generally try to keep real life off this blog, but the current worldwide "situation" is one of these things that's hard to compartmentalise, so I thought I'd get my one blog post on the subject out of the way.

On a personal level I remain safe and healthy for the time being and hope to continue to do so - I'm not sure I'm in a high risk group as I don't currently suffer from lung problems, but I have a past history of having them, and I'm not sure how that plays into things. Fortunately I'm one of those lucky people with jobs that can be done from home and have therefore been working from home for the past week and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Mr Commando is a so-called "key worker" and has to keep going out, but he's doing his best to not bring any germs home.

On a personal level, this staying home has actually been a good thing for me (aside from the sudden lack of exercise, which is something I need to work on). It means that I save both time and money that would usually be spent on commuting, meaning that I have more time to do things I like, such as play MMOs and blog, yay! Also, unlike that of many of my co-workers, my social life isn't really impacted as I'm used to spending my evenings chatting on TeamSpeak anyway.

That said, I can't help but wonder how the situation is going to affect the games I play. I'm sure game developers are tech savvy enough to enable remote working for most of their employees, and what hardware maintenance may be required can probably be carried out without risk to anyone's health and safety, though I wouldn't be surprised if something like a server going down suddenly took longer to fix in the future.

On the surface, online gaming should also be in a pretty good spot business-wise, as people staying home are more likely to seek safe refuge and entertainment in virtual worlds instead of their usual haunts. On the other hand though, with hundreds of thousands of people losing jobs and suddenly finding themselves without income, they may well have to cut back on non-essential spending which would result in less income for gaming companies. I suppose only the people seeing the numbers on the other end can tell for sure right now whether the result is a net win or loss for them.

I've also been wondering about whether the content of our virtual homes will be affected in any way. I work in marketing and know we have to be very careful with what we say at the moment as you have both people who are understandably worried about how every entity they interact with handles the situation, and those who are (also understandably) sick of getting emails from every business they ever bought from about how that business handles COVID-19. So you have to acknowledge the situation somehow as it would feel weird to pretend that everything is business as usual, but you also don't want to be seen as saying anything inappropriate or trying to profiteer from people's suffering.


What made me think about this in SWTOR in specific were the rakghouls. I was in Kaon Under Siege the other night and when we got to the conversation with Major Byzal, one of the pugs in the group said: "Is this coronavirus?" I just responded with: "Shh, don't say that or they'll cancel the rakghoul event."

I expect that not many MMOs happen to have in-game events that use the concept of a deadly pandemic for entertainment, but I suppose they might still have certain content that might deal with the subject. I doubt that regular players care greatly either way, but let's just say I don't find it hard to imagine that someone new to the game might encounter the Rakghoul Resurgence in game, see quests like the daily to infect several people with the plague and find it highly inappropriate and off-putting under the circumstances. If I was Bioware I think I'd quietly cross that one off the calendar for at least the next couple of months just to be on the safe side. It's not like they don't have enough other events to run in the meantime.

10 comments :

  1. I suspect that Bioware might put the Rakghoul event to the side for the time being, but it's not as if people are going to stop watching zombie movies or other pandemic related entertainment. My belief is that by Fall, if we don't see a massive resurgence caused by people who thing "we're fine now" and start the whole thing over again, some of these events and movies will move back into view.

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    1. I don't know, there may well be a shift away from that kind of entertainment for a while as people don't want their escapism to hit too close to home. Like the way that in the nineties lots of movie makers enjoyed making films that involved big landmarks getting blown up (e.g. the White House in Independence Day), but after 9/11 that completely disappeared for a while.

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  2. The biggest problem with the Rakghoul event is probably the announcements on fleet ordering the execution of all infected. That's a bit more gruesome right now.

    Personally, I'm interested in how this changes individual people's habits. I find that I am playing story content less and mostly doing repetitive stuff like daily areas and heroics. Which also means that I made personal conquest for the first and second time ever, because I wasn't switching characters all the time, so that was fun.

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    1. I'm just generally playing more of everything (including multiple MMOs). No time to get bored!

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    2. See, you can avoid that by... not being an Imp!!! Hahahah
      Pub side no one's calling for executing the infected! We're nice peeps!

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  3. Thing is, in SWTOR, it is not only a question of having the event and it being - depressing. You can't just shut down Taris and skip it altogether, and I suppose rn it is even more depressing than usual.
    I have less time to play since kids are at home 24/7, but I have found that I need more and more to stay way from Gen Chat and even group content and just play story. Since this started, I've run a character from KOTET to the end of the line, another one through KOTFE and I'm rn in mid-KOTET. KP farm is a blessing as it makes sure I get quick-conquest and very little bs talking about pandamics, supermarket and other similar stuff. Politics, too, because Star Forge can't seem to go 10 minutes without someone starting on American Politics.
    It had made me consider re-doing all vanilla storylines (apart from Inquisitor, Trooper and part of Consular, I only ever did them once), maybe live-tweet my reaction (it's been years, I remember little but still). Mostly because I'm -so- done with talking about little else but pandemics. Who knows.

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    1. Sorry to be adding another channel that talks about the pandemic to your reading! I can't promise that I won't bring it up again, but I will try to focus on actual in-game matters in the next few posts.

      Like you've also observed, it's just so ubiquitous at the moment. I can log into three different MMOs and in all three both guild and general chat will mention coronavirus and panic buying!

      As for Taris, I don't mind that one as it's always been a somber story and I think that remains unchanged. I think the places where the rakghoul stuff is played for laughs are more likely to suddenly feel uncomfortable now.

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    2. I don't actually mind, since you're being reasonable. Can you even imagine fleet chat being reasonable? And you're talking about how it affects the game in general, so, it makes perfect sense. You're not going... Well, you can imagine what fleet's saying.
      (Running the risk of sounding prejudiced, I sometimes wonder if it is even worse that I'm playing in an american server... The amount of... Peculiar that they bring is super extra, and of course, it always leads to politics talking).

      Sure, Taris was always mostly somber (except, you know, when it isn't like with the smuggler but then again what is), and in some places it is less so, but it is kinda haunting just how real Kaon Under Siege feels these days...

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  4. I've noticed that pandemic themed content has rocketed to the top of netflix viewing (at least according to the "popular" tab), so maybe some people find it comforting to confront it as fiction. Or maybe they are looking for ideas . . .

    The only thing that's changed for me is that I'm back into starfighter for some reason this week. I don't think it's connected though. I also still can't play anything but a bomber well enough to actually help my team :-) I'll be playing at least until I get a bomber and maybe a scout (that I completely suck with but still enjoy) maxed.

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    1. I can imagine people watching pandemic-themed movies to get an idea of what Hollywood considers the worst case scenario! Still, I think there's a difference between watching a film on the subject and actually playing through a quest where you infect other players with a plague...

      If you're as bad at Starfighter as I am, I can recommend trying a Gunship. Sniping from superior range I always manage to get at least a couple of kills in before they come close enough to kill me!

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