We won. Esamir was ours. Our enemies had slunk away a short while ago and taking this last bio lab had been more of a formality than anything else. Still, the conquest of this frozen landscape has ensured Vanu soldiers across Auraxis discounted armored vehicles for a while.
Flush with victory, I checked the map, wondering where best to deploy next. That’s when a curious message flashed across the chat:
Everyone back to the Esamir VS Warpgate! Lightning race in 10 minutes!
Well, my outfit was pulling out to make a move on Amerish… and I did need to farm certs for that new scope… but… a tank race? A spontaneous, player organized event that would bleed my resources without giving anything back? How could I… How could I refuse! What a wonderful idea! And a great use of this conquered continent now devoid of all foes! How could I miss that! I dumped a hundred of my precious certification points into a shiny, new high-speed chassis for my Lightning tank and made for the Warpgate.
The arrival of free-to-play titles and online gaming has created an interesting wrinkle in the way we play. In response to the social obligation model pioneered by Farmville and the MMO ideal of keeping players busy, as perfected by World of Warcraft, many of our favorite virtual pastimes are in danger of become something more akin to chores or obligations than entertaining endeavors. Social structures like guilds are created and incentivized by developers to keep like-minded individuals egging each other on. Time-sucking reputation systems offer tantalizing trinkets only after you log in every day for a month to mindlessly hammer on a button for an hour. RPG-styled player progression trickles out a constant stream of perks, achievements, titles, and pleasant noises to give gamers the illusion that their time actually matters. All of this is carefully orchestrated to keep people logging in everyday even after the magic has gone. Backed by reams of data gathered from hundreds of thousands of players, developers and on-staff sociologists are constantly devising new ‘gameplay’ systems not just to entertain, but to obligate.
In this modern era of psychologically exploitative and time devouring entertainment mediums it is important to remember just why we’re here: To have fun. Not to ‘Keep up with the Joneses’ or make sure we ‘Don’t let the team down’, but to enjoy ourselves. And sometimes you need to be a little inventive with your toys to do so.
So, how did the player organized tank race across Esamir fare? Well, I was fortunate enough not to be one of the lead dozen instantly vaporized by friendly fire. Sadly, I would not escape fate for long. I was sideswiped about a quarter-mile out and jackknifed through the middle of the pack. Knowing what was coming, I spitefully fired a salvo a the poor sod who happened to be ahead of me. Four tanks collided with my hull an instant later, flipping me end over end before my racing career concluded in a spectacular fireball. I may not have gotten far, but the spectacle was worth it. I laughed and checked how long it would be before I could build another tank. The timer taunted me with a glowing red 10:08. I decided to log out rather than play the waiting game.