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The Day of the Living Video Game

September 20th was very frustrating for me. One, EA decided to release Star Wars Battlefront’s latest “Death Star” DLC. It also was the launch of the much anticpated “Rise of Iron” Expansion to Destiny. On this day, I sat at work, itching to get home so I could play either one of these updates. In an effort to scratch that itch, I made the mistake of diving int the official Subreddit for both games, as well as engage in my daily skim of the No Man’s Sky Subreddit.

For nearly a month, I’d been reading the No Man’s Sky Subreddit and watching as a wave of drama like unto that of the Bachelor swept over the online community. There were constant posts about the trade-in value of the game after just a few weeks. They raged about various bugs, developer lies, glitches, and the abundant silence of the developer Hello Games.
Tired of the hate, I bounced over to Destiny and Battefront Subreddits and just skimming discussion titles, I could already see the difference in the communities. Post after post appeared declaring the thrill of players who recently finished the final mission in the new storyline (which is totally epic, by the way). Users talked excitedly about new weapon drops and new things they discovered. In the Battlefront Subreddit, users rejoiced in the new mode Battle Stations and how thrilling it was to dive into the Death Star trench and blast that thermal exhaust port. And Behold My Eyes Were Opened….

The contrast between the two communities was intriguing to me because when both Destiny and Battlefront launched, the amount of salt in their respective subreddits would have put the Dead Sea to shame. The disappointment of these much hyped games was almost tangible. The die-hard fans still rejoiced, but they were largely outnumbered by the the vocally unimpressed. All 3 games earned MetaCritic scores in the low to mid 70’s and scored between 4.5 and 6 on the User Scores. It got me thinking what had changed. The answer I found was that these games are part of the evolving paradigm of modern video games. They are living entitiies that are a reflection of the giant online communities within the interwebs. Destiny is a great showcase of this. Ask any Day 1 player and they’ll tell you that it is an immensely different game than it was at launch. The Taken King expansion that released in September of 2015 earned much greater scores than the vanilla game did by completely overhauling several mechanics. Year 2 players will never know the grind of running chest loops to get enough resources to upgrade your gun enough to maybe take on a Nightfall. While not every change has been well received by the community, the developers are listening and changing the game based on the community to the point where Grimoire lore is being written to include guardian behavior (Dancing in the tower to unheard music or you should never capture point A in Shores of Time).

Battlefront itself has been welcoming of community input, though not as speedily as Destiny. Still, the community told the developers that A-Wings were too OP and appropriate nerfs were made. With the Death Star DLC, many Reddit users declared that the game was finally becoming what they’d wished it was on day 1. The developrs even said “It is like we’re listening [to the community]” when commenting on the new features.

This new paradigm isn’t without its faults though. One day EA and Bungie will stop supporting their respective games. With Rise of Iron, Bungie bid farewell to their users on last-gen consoles, closing them out from new content and favored events like Iron Banner. DLC itself is only as good as the servers can support. In 20 years, an X-Box 360 version of Mass Effect 2 will likely be unable to download some of the incredible DLC that fans loved.

In short, video games are changing. Developers are beginning, more and more, to capitalize on the relative close internet proximity to their players to tweak and change their games over time to the point where the game you play day 1, may be completely different than what you play in two, five, or even 10 years. If a game bombs at launch, give it time to see if that ugly duckling of game becomes a beautiful swan…with flaming axes stoked in the flames of the old Iron Lords….

Or something like that.


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