Vets vs. the FNG: Gaming Mentorship

It is summertime, and certain aspects of my life have ramped up to insane levels. As always, gaming is a refuge.

But alas, no energy.

Mass Effect 2, Dragon’s Age: Origins and Splinter Cell: Conviction in rapid succession sort of sucked the gaming out of me for a while. And again with this “real life” stuff that keeps on hammering away at me. What’s a girl to do?

Easy: casual or turn based games. Turn based games engage the mind, but leave the tension behind. Lately, my go to game has been Magic the Gathering: Duel of the Plainswalkers on XBLA. So much so, I finally bit the bullet and joined up with Magic the Gathering: Online (MTGO).

Now, I used to play back in tha’ day. So I understand the mechanics of this admittedly complicated game.  However, I ws not prepared for what I was to face.

Trading systems, deck requirements, deck restrictions, different game types, live chat, clans, buddies, and on and on. None of it intuitive. None of it explained. Very little help. Now, I’m a lucky lass with connections, so I was basically in a great clan before I entered in my credit card number to buy my membership. (check that nerd cred, yo) But I have no idea how others do it. And this isn’t vanity talking. All my clan members agree… this is one complicated and crappy interface.

But how do you change something as big as  MTGO to be friendlier to the newb, without alienating the hardcore fans? Slim down the number of cards and abilities, fix the interface (with presumably a certain downtime or time on the new learning curve) and the established players are upset. But if you don’t; you gain no new members… and older members always leave and need replacing.

We see this often with on-line multiplayer. If you are mere weeks behind the curve in Call of Duty, and the like, prepare to be pwned. Everyone else has leveled up, and you are stuck trying to figure out maps in vain while rocking the basic load out. Forget it if you have never picked up a controller or played a FPS.  And if you don’t have some type of rank or levelling system, well, that kind of sucks too. It’s fun to get better and get a reward for it.

So. The argument is as follows:

1. As Vets leave, or ramp down their gaming time for a variety of reasons, developers and publishers have to keep adding new players (FNG) into the gaming experience.

2. You can’t alienate your current fan base (Vets), a sure thing, for the possiblity of new fan (well… you just have to do the risk assessment). This is marketing 101.

Therefore…

3. There is a pull between two different groups: the Vet, and the FNG.

So… what do we think developers might have to do? They are going to, in some respects, stack the deck a bit for the FNG. Maybe make things a bit easier for them, dumb down controls, who knows? Got to get new players.

But that isn’t the only option.

Vets, us gamers, can also be the heroes here. It’s not that fun to beat up on the little guy. We all learned this (hopefully) in kindergarten.

Let’s be human. Help the FNG learn the damn game. You see someone who has no clue what they are doing… don’t spam kill them. Hell… maybe even send them a FR and (gasp) take them under your wing for a few games. The more FNGs we, as gamers, can convert into Vets, the less the game developers have to do the same.

Mentorship. It works. Let’s do this.

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Comments

  • 2Belts  On July 24, 2010 at 11:28 am

    Mentoring in games is a great way to work new players into a game especially a complex one like Magic: The Gathering. My first tentative steps online were in Final Fantasy XI (FFXI) which also was quite complex and I was incredibly lucky to meet some great higher level players that showed me the ropes. One of the best things they did was show me to FFXI related forums which had a wealth of info on gear choices, macros, stats, etc. Class specific forums for any MMO I’ve played have always been super helpful from having tons of info in stickies to players of all skill levels passing through.

    A pretty cool feature in EVE Online was the Help channel which was a chat channel just for asking questions. There were always at least some vets around as well as GMs. Also everyone gets put into a starter corporation (like a guild or clan) chat channel based on your character. This channel was a great mix of new players with no corp and vets either between corps or playing solo. Both these channels were great ways for vets to help newbies while still doing their own thing.

    For FPS games like COD I’d just hop into free for all matches so the vets had to worry about equally good players not just me. For class based games like the Battlefield series I found the best way to learn was to pick the support or medic class and latch onto someone who knew what they were doing and tossing them med kits/ammo.

  • Tim B.  On July 24, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    I’ve never played those type of games, so I have never had that experience. However, playing FPS I find that playing with friends first helped me gain the much needed ground on COD4, MW2, and Halo 3, for example. Mentoring is good because it gives a chance for the veteran to share his/her experiences with the younger (by that I mean new to the game) crowd. In turn, the n00b gets a positive gaming experience and will be more willing to pass down the knowledge to other, possibly new, gamers. It’s a win, win situation.

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