Are MMOs Making Us Less Detail Oriented?
I’m a voracious reader. I admit to having low periods of reading where I may only do a book a month, but during my peaks (summers, often), I can easily put away two or three big books a week (I read the first three books of the Wheel of Time series in about 8 days last summer). I’m an English teacher, literacy proponent in the community, and volunteer at the library, so why don’t I bother to read quest text?
It wasn’t always like this. I used to pour over every single quest in WoW. It became a problem because my buddy, who was leveling his second character then (in BC by the time I got to max level), had read all the quests (he had the Loremaster achievement before it was an achievement) and wanted me to hurry up. I didn’t, though, making him frustratingly wait as I read and then double checked for details (as this was back when you needed to actually know where to go, which might be on another continent).
Nowadays, I can’t be bothered. Pick up the quest, scan it for relevant words (if there are any), note the quest tracker direction, and head off. That’s how I play MMOs now, and I have no doubt I’m missing out occasionally on some good stuff.
It’s really come to my attention playing Neverwinter Nights with my other buddy (heretoforth referred to as my NWN buddy, or my young buddy, or my math buddy). There have been multiple occasions where he’s had to point out that the information I’m seeking is in the quest journal right under my nose. I’ll wander around a while aimlessly, and he’ll eventually clue in that I’m lost, and he’ll prompt me with, “Did you read the quest in the journal?”
Well, shoot. The thing is, I used to read all the quest text. I remember when I originally played NWN, there were other circumstances where the relevant info was there in your journal, and after once being lost and by chance checking it and successfully finding my answer, I was very diligent about reading the journal every time the game “pinged” that there was an update.
So what’s changed? I wholeheartedly admit it might just be me. Studies show that as you get older, your brain becomes better at holistic tasks but worse at details, which is why we believe wisdom comes with age but still laugh when grandpappy can’t find the glasses on his head. Alternatively, I might have seen enough “game” text to bore an horse to death (cows are far harder to bore to death. Think about it) and simply have had my fill. Still. I don’t really think that’s it. Like with most things, I think there must be an aspect to training about it, otherwise I don’t understand how I can love so much to read in one aspect of life but not bother to in another.
And really, why bother to read the quests? There’s markers pointing the way, trackers telling you the relevant tasks, and tags on the monsters verifying you’re killing the right ones. Everything you need is right at your fingertips, so why stop playing to actually talk to the NPC?
Of course, this kind of slope can be a slippery one. When convenience trumps manners, we often end up with what we see in LFD and LFR: people treated like disposable commodities. Then again, maybe I’m just making those connections because it serves my preconceived outlook on such things.
So I don’t know. I suspect MMOs are making us less detail oriented, making us read and see less. Below was the first screen in Shadowgate, an old point and click adventure for the NES. This was the very first part of the game. You had to figure out to click the skull above the door to reveal a key. There were no instructions on doing that. There were no hints. You just had to be detail oriented and figure it out.
That one wasn’t even that tough. Here’s another screen from Maniac Mansion, another point and click for the NES. Here, there’s was one loose brick out of that entire background that you had to “push” to progress. Had to push, not could “pull” or could “turn on” or just click for a piece of bonus gear or buff. Had to push. I don’t know if the modern gamer would be patient enough to figure out what was going on, since there were no real hints on how to move forward. I was perpetually stuck here, forever. I never beat the game.
So yeah, maybe it is me. But I don’t really think so. I think we’re being trained to consume more, faster, and I think that it’s making us less detail oriented, less able to appreciate the hard work the designers are putting in. That’s why sites like Postcards from Azeroth (in the blogroll) are so amazing; they make us look at things we’ve seen a hundred times with fresh eyes, to actually look instead of checking the mob tags, watching the tracker go up, and running back to turn in the quest for some new crappy boots.
Stubborn (and less detail oriented than he used to be)