Stargrace has a recent post talking about game and movie crossovers. The topic interested me particularly because of the interactive role we get to play as protagonist:
The appeal of most video games is the chance to be the hero yourself and directly influence the action. Often games will echo the kind of scenes you are familiar with from a typical action film, sci-fi space adventure or war movie, but they allow you to play the lead role.
If you’ve played many of the games in this genre you’re used to your character being portrayed as a leading character – in Guild Wars 2 we are ‘the Commander’ of a vast allied army and in World of Warcraft we’ve progressed to being the leader of a class order. Not that all of the MMORPGs give you a leading role, Lord of the Rings Online is careful to portray your character as heroic, but not quite in the same league or position as members of the Fellowship of the Ring. In Rift your character is one of many ‘Ascended’ that are tasked with saving the world – powerful, but not unique.
My attitude to interactive versus passive entertainment has shifted a lot over the years, and I would say playing MMORPGs for the last eleven years has contributed to that. I do watch movies and TV but rarely, and never as my first choice of activity. These-days, if the opportunity presents itself I would always choose to play a game over sit watching something.
MMORPGs in the current era present gaming that is varied and potentially very social. They have the continuity of characters that a TV series might have, but they are interactive – you direct the action to a larger extent. Unlike single player games or console games they have longevity and often no distinct or planned end. Some MMORPGs have even managed to release content with a regularity that mirrors a show’s seasons to some extent (e.g. GW2).
So I would value MMORPGs as overall holding more entertainment value than single player games in general, although single player games may have more complexity of gameplay or more choices as a character, they rarely match the MMORPG base playtime and lack their longevity. The chance for random social encounters, grouping and even conflict with other players in MMOs is something else that passive entertainment and single player games cannot come close to matching.