21 and under club?

So wait, only teens want a challenge and have the time needed to put more than a Farmville-level of effort into a game? Wha?

The average person does not get more time to game as they get older. As husbands and wives, careers, kids, bills, and mortgages enter the picture, gaming time tends to slide until it either disappears  or the classification on your gamer card changes entirely. MMOs are becoming more casual because, you guessed it, we’re becoming more casual.

Sure, I don’t have as much free time as I did back in HS, and certainly not college, but I’m not down to 30 minutes a week here. And the group I play with, all around my age, aren’t either. I’m also pretty sure people who have hobbies like golf, tennis, poker, etc, also don’t reduce those hobbies to next-to-nothing because life happened. Sure, some people just DON’T have the time, I get it. And I feel bad for you. Not having enough time to dedicate to a hobby you care about must suck. Especially if that’s just the hand you were dealt and you can’t do anything about it (which if people were honest with themselves, is not many). But I’d be willing to bet that group is the vast minority, and for every doctor/lawyer working 24/7, you have two or ten people with nice and easy 35 hour a week jobs that can easily drop 40 hours+ on a hobby if they really wanted to.

On top of that, one would think that as you get older, you get a little smarter, and so things that challenged you as a teen are pretty easy for you now (non-twitch of course), yet somehow in addition to a reduction in time, we also need a reduction in thinking? That we can’t handle social situations? That we can’t grasp the concept of not everyone being the hero? At what point did getting older turn into becoming an oversensitive baby who needs a trophy just for showing up? That sounds a lot more like becoming a child than growing up.

And ultimately that’s where the disconnect lies. It’s not that games like WoW are trying to adapt to a maturing fanbase; it’s that Blizzard is trying to morph their game to appeal to the twit generation, where anything above 140 characters is TL/DR, and if the content is not available RIGHT NOW and is not over in 3 minutes, it’s ‘a grind’. And sadly the twit-generation is not just young kids, but ADD (clinical or not) riddled ‘adults’ that have become so entitles, so expectant, that anything beyond instant gratification is not good enough.

Like I said before, if that’s who you are targeting, good luck, and may the Farmville be with you. But that’s not the only market out there, and the idiot-clicker genre is becoming awfully crowded.

Note: Not saying Chris reflects the above (but maybe you do?), his post just got me thinking. It’s not Friday anyway.

37 Responses to 21 and under club?

  1. W says:

    You’ve been married how long again? You aren’t the demo he’s talking about. You’re at the lots of free time end of that scale. Have kids and you’ll understand.

    • SynCaine says:

      So kids y/n is the only factor? Because I’ve got the rest, including a job that’s over 40 hours, house, dog, etc. And I have friends with kids, and somehow they still manage to game as well.

      I also have friends who don’t have time, kids or not. But in most cases, it’s more on them than anything else, and they know it.

  2. playsomethingelse says:

    The point is that if you don’t have time to play an MMO, you don’t have time to play an MMO, and that’s a choice we all make. I get tired of “busy” adults expecting MMOs to cater to their lifestyle. If a game does that, it’s no longer an MMO, and frankly there are plenty of casual-friendly games out there to choose from, so developers and publishers needn’t wreck the virtual world aspects of MMOs to pander to folks who have chosen to do something else with their time.

    TLDR, everything doesn’t have to be for everybody, and MMOs have always been for more hardcore folks with a lot of time. It seems to me that the “grownups” who don’t recognize this fact need to grow up a little more.

    • MMOCrunch says:

      I agree with that. Not all games are made for everyone and if you don’t have the time to put into a MMO game, play something else.

      However that doesn’t stop developers from trying to broaden then market by going after casual gamers.

      If Nintendo has taught us anything in the last few years is that there’s a lot of casual gamers who are willing to spend money on games even though they don’t play them.

      • SynCaine says:

        The other thing Nintendo has taught us (with the Wii) is that if you cater to the ultra-casual crowd, you better have something else planned in a few years, because they jump ship fast. The Wii went from being the hottest thing out to needing the earliest replacement. Contrast that to previous Nintendo systems, that while trailing the PS, had pretty deep runs with solid returns. There is a reason Nintendo is trying to get back to it’s ‘core’ market.

  3. bhagpuss says:

    I just commented on this over at Bio Break since I saw his post using the same quote first, so I won’t repeat what I said there.

    I will agree with W above, though, that it’s only once kids come into the picture that the 40 hours a week you rightly suggest are available for the ordinary working person to do with as he or she will turns into 4 hours. If you’re lucky.

    • playsomethingelse says:

      So play a single-player game or something more casual. Honestly, how hard is that to figure out?

      Instead, gamer parents want MMOs to change into something else entirely and lose all the VW coolness in the process.

      It’s pretty selfish imho.

      • Yes, those damn parents are so selfish! How dare they have offspring and yet continue to enjoy online worlds! They are clearly ruining everything!

        It certainly has nothing to do with the MMO company noticing that revenues go up… for Blizzard… at least for a while… when ever they make things more casual. Devs chasing dollars rather than their original intent or vision is clearly caused by people having babies.

        • playsomethingelse says:

          Well, “ruining everything” is hyperbole trying to be humor, but ruining the depth and complexity of online worlds? Yep, they are. And by they, I mean casual consumers AND devs (kind of obvious but ty for pointing it out I guess, lol).

          Again, it’s a choice.

          Get involved in a hobby that demands a lot of your time, or have a kid (or you could do both and be a bad parent mebbe?).

          Anyway, I think Syncaine was onto something when he mentioned entitlement.

        • SynCaine says:

          So in 2-3 years, and 5-10 million more lost subs, can we come back and say “shoulda stayed with your core and kept those 10m interested”?

          Or can we just point to EVE here?

      • spinks says:

        All players are selfish and would like more games tailored to our playstyle/ available time.

        • playsomethingelse says:

          That’s true, but the thing is that there are infinitely more casua/quick games out there than there are virtual world MMOs. So I would argue that folks wanting MMOs to get even more casual, and even less like VWs, are a bit more selfish.

          Why change something that some people like when a person can just go play something else that’s more along the lines of what they like?

      • bhagpuss says:

        No-one in their right mind would ever play a single-player, offline game after playing an MMO. It would be like going back to watching a 12″ black&white tv set.

        • Drew says:

          Do what? That comment is so far off-base I don’t even know what to say. The two things offer completely different experiences.

          Single-player games are pretty much the only medium that currently exists where choice matters. Where what I (as a character) do makes any difference at all in the world. Break the law in Oblivion and get caught? Go to jail, pay your fine, or fight your way out. Then deal with the consequences. I love that, and there are very few MMOs which offer that today.

        • While I am not as adamant as Bhagpuss on the subject, I get what he is saying. After a big world full of live people, a single player game can seem a bit “meh.”

          Yes, your actions can change the world, but only you and the computer notice, and who cares what the computer thinks.

          Meanwhile, in an MMO I may do a dungeon that will reset itself to the way it was the moment I am done, but I will have done it with real live people working with me and how they behave will impact me and how I behave will impact them, even if it is a silent random dungeon finder group. To some, that makes all the difference.

        • Drew says:

          I get the reasoning, but like I said – the two things offer completely different experiences. To completely banish single-player games to the realm of black & white TV seems a bit over the top. MMOs and SP games each have their merits. Although I’d argue the community impact of today’s MMOs is A) more obnoxious and B) less meaningful than it used to be, but that’s a post or six for a whole other day.

      • Ephemeron says:

        The problem with that arguement is that it works both ways.

        If you want to play something hard, challenging, cruel or time-consuming, play a single-player game like Dwarf Fortress or I Wanna Be The Guy.

  4. I agree that there is not some sort of linear time reduction scale in play here.

    I do not have as much free time right now as I did when I was 9, or 14, but I have more than when I was 27 and working at a start up or 35 and getting married, buying a house, and running a department that had staff on three continents. And while becoming a parent changed my gaming habits… there was a lot more Wii and Pokemon… I think my net time gaming probably went up some as time went along.

    What has happened as I have gotten older is that I have become a lot less willing to invest in a game unless I am really convinced I am going to get some payback out of it in the form of fun, satisfaction, or both. I behave like my time is a lot more precious, but I am not sure if that is because I have less of it or if I have just played enough crap games like Mutant Beach that I have become more EuroGamer-like in my investment in a game before I am ready to drop it and move on.

    That has lead to a gaming conservatism on my part. I tend to go back to where I know I will find some fun rather than branching out into places where my investment of time may not find a decent return.

    Most people I know who no longer have time for gaming have generally just found something else they would rather do. Their time didn’t go away, it just got reallocated, because we will always find time for what is important to us.

  5. Armand says:

    Kids (I have 17 month old twins) are the single biggest time sink you will ever have & if their not you are doing something wrong.
    I’m lucky if after my kids have gone to bed & the general tidy up has been done to have 2 hours free in an evening. So at best that 14 hours game time.
    Add in time spent with the wife, friends, any additional chores or simply being fecked tired because your upall night…it dont leave alot of time for gaming.

    Before I had kids I could easily but in 20+ hours gaming a week with a ton of time to spare….
    So yes as we get older we get more casual. If you dont have kids your still a few steps away from that and until then your really talking about something you dont fully understand.

    • Drew says:

      I’m in full agreement, here. Having a child(ren) is the single-biggest game-changer (pun intended) when it comes to free time. As I parent, I’ve come to believe that virtual-world MMOs are simply not the right niche for parents. Games like the EverQuest and FFXI of old simply require too much “sit down in one play session” commitment to be a logical choice – at least without infringing on others. Admit it, no one likes the repeated “afk” person in the guild trying to raid.

      The problem for Syn, I think, has become that everything is basically catering to the “time crunched”, and that’s frustrating for those who aren’t. I’d probably still be fully immersed in FFXI with friends or Fallen Earth if I didn’t have real-life responsibilities, but those game choices are becoming few and far between.

  6. [...]  I suspect SynCaine has started a full-scale war with his latest post, http://syncaine.com/2011/09/20/21-and-under-club/ [...]

  7. Tim Young says:

    Hold a 40 hour/week job, sustain a house and wife, as well as one or two kids, and see what happens to your gaming. If you are still gaming 20 hours/week, then you might want to re-evaluate your priorities. That or you just thrive on only enough sleep that you can count on one hand.
    This is the situation that I’m in, but I’m not bitching that developers need to cater to me. MMOs are time sinks, even the easiest ones. Most developers are trying to make their game more accessible because that targets the most people.
    It’s not about kids or jobs or training for the next Bloodsport competition. It’s about money.

  8. Wyrmrider says:

    “…yet somehow in addition to a reduction in time, we also need a reduction in thinking? … At what point did getting older turn into becoming an oversensitive baby who needs a trophy just for showing up?”

    YES, this!

    I’m absolutely in favor of complementing the traditional time-sinks (e.g. raiding) with gameplay that works in smaller chunks of time.

    But time is only one axis out of several that should be considered: solo/social, easy/challenging, etc. These others are being marginalized to the point where it’s almost impossible to even have a rational conversation about them; people just reduce everything to a question of time investment so that they can call each other “undedicated” and/or “no-lifers.” (Look no further than this comment thread.)

    This kind of simplistic thinking has infected the developers as well. Here’s one example that really aggravates me: WoW used to have iconic, class-specific quests that were a solo effort and took relatively little time, but were quite challenging and immensely satisfying to complete. These interesting, diverse, well-loved, ***already-existing*** quests were stripped from the game and replaced with new class-specific quests. The new quests are a solo effort, take relatively little time to complete, and are yawn-inducingly easy (click some objects in an LFG dungeon). The developers seem to think this is more or less equivalent, but the magic is gone.

    Maybe the “twit generation” really does want a reduction in both time and thinking. But I believe the “gamers with families” generation still wants to fill their free time, however limited it may be, with a non-trivial experience.

    • Rynnik says:

      In my opinion, this is the best comment so far.

      I could jump into the fray and boast about how I am a father of 2 with a full time job who can spend 8+ hours a day on EVE and Darkfall and games like them since I have a joke of a job and an incredibly organized wife who has everything done when the kids are tucked in. Gamers like me do exist in the “married, house, kids, dog” stage of life and that kids take time is irrelevant to this conversation.

      Wyrm hit the nail on the head that the real issue is that a lot of the problem is that time is the only axis that developers seem to design their content around. Challenge, thought, group, social, and all the other key words I can apply to really good gaming experiences have already been discarded by those chasing twit generation dollars and now ‘time’ is being attacked as well as the last bastion of non-trivial gaming experiences.

      At least I can still log into EVE and find fun in my preferred avenue of that sandbox. In darkfall I am having more and more trouble doing the same, but yah.

    • Drew says:

      Best comment in the thread.

      There’s a sweet spot somewhere between “taking too much time” and “being too hard” that just needs to be found.

  9. Azuriel says:

    At what point did getting older turn into becoming an oversensitive baby who needs a trophy just for showing up?

    At the same point these companies realized how many more customers show up when trophies are handed out.

    It’s business. It has always been business.

  10. nobody says:

    is this much ado about nothing? aren’t there still games like Eve online and Vanguard that are much more “hardcore”? and what’s keeping the hardcore/non-casual crowd from playing as long as they like? or however they like? am i missing something?

    • Remianen says:

      The problem is, with developers making everything of faceroll difficulty and FarmVille depth, there’s no point to using your available time in large chunks anymore. So you go from newbie zone to max level in 2 days (as opposed to 2 months), now what? There’s nothing to do because the developer bet on people taking 2 months to get to where you are because of their ridiculously restricted playtime.

      The problem with this approach, as SynCaine pointed out, is that the demo they’re chasing is notoriously flighty. They have little to no loyalty and will often jump to whatever requires LESS effort than their current diversion. It also paints you into a corner because you can’t introduce anything more difficult or time consuming than the status quo. You can only go in one direction (LESS difficult/time consuming – hi Cata!) and that sends you down the boring road and chases the core gamer right out of the game.

      I have no problem with folks having their own issues. Different people manage their time differently. What I have a problem with is my range of choices in the MMO genre going from almost a dozen titles to three, despite the number of released games tripling. It makes it so that if you’re not time starved, you’re going to reach the end and get bored all the more quickly because everything’s being designed for people who play a fifth as much as you do (for whatever reason). It also makes it so that the themepark model is the only one that works (self fulfilling prophecy) so if you don’t like being led along by the nose (heaven forbid you actually have to find anything on your own!), the game’s not for you. I think that’s where the problem lies.

      Great post, SynCaine and a perspective I completely agree with. People always have, uh, “explanations” as to why things should be changed to suit them. It’s human nature to want things created in your own image, so to speak. But I think we’re now seeing the consequences of the “accessibility movement”. The wages of accessibility are now coming due, so to speak.

  11. Bronte says:

    *gets some popcorn*

    I agree with most of what you are saying, and no, my weekly playing time isn’t down to nothing either, but I don’t have a fraction of the time I used to in school, or college, or, to some extent, graduate school.

    I could raid five nights a week, 3-4 hours a night, in addition to putting in additional hours for refining my character, playing alts and the like. I can’t even think of dedicating 3 hours on a single night to raiding. The same also applies to single-player games. Where most people finished Dragon Age: Origins in a few days or a couple of weeks, it took me 7 months to wrap up the bugger!

    I know what you are trying to say, and I know we are all smarter with age so the games get easier because games too are being tuned for a lower intelligence quotient, but the fact remains that I just don’t have nearly as much time as I used to, much as I’d want to.

  12. [...] to attempt to tie the previous two posts together, to hopefully reach some sort of conclusion. It might work… The Sims Social is just as [...]

  13. Gank says:

    Edit: whoops, bloody tabbing….posted this in the wrong place. Please delete, thanks.

  14. [...] SynCaine refers to as Farmville-level effort is still harder than what Everquest [...]

  15. [...] Specifically, there are less of you, ergo you are a vanishingly tiny niche not worth catering to, at least with AAA titles. That is capitalism working as intended. Syncaine does have a point insofar as the MMO mold can only be morphed so far while still retaining the things that make it an MMO, at least by any given definition of MMO. Where things go completely off the rails is when he stages a Tea Party-esque rally of entitled bourgeois to attack the players, instead of the game. And sadly the twit-generation is not just young kids, but ADD (clinical or not) riddled ‘adults’ that have become so entitles, so expectant, that anything beyond instant gratification is not good enough. (source) [...]

  16. bonedead says:

    Old people always trying to take a poopoo on everything fun. Yeah, you had your fun, stop trying to shit on mine!

    • Asmiroth says:

      As long as “old people” have more disposable income than teens, game companies will design for them. Pretty sure the last study on F2P pointed that out rather strongly.

      I am one of those who has been gaming for near 15 years – I am a gamer. In UO I had plenty of free time, played with friends at night after school. EQ came next, in between classes, at night when I wasn’t going out to the bar – quite a few all nighters here. WoW when I was finishing school, moved into my first place, I was still able to play 2-3 hour stretches 4-5 nights a week. Got married and that dropped to 2-3 nights a week, though for the same period. Having a kid though – I have the same amount of free nights but nowhere near the same amount of time for a session. Maybe an hour, 90 mins tops? Spending 40 minutes of that play session trying to find a group, and hence complete an ounce of content (since there is no social/exploring content anymore), is not my idea of fun. So the game that caters to that particular need will have my cash. Simple really.

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