One of the world’s most popular game genres is known as “Role Playing Games” (RPGs). In RPGs, the player chooses a character (sometimes known as an avatar) that they wield control over. Once the rules and guidelines for success are laid out, the player is responsible for making decisions that will further develop his/her character. Some say that the popularity of this genre of game stems from the autonomy and freedom that players experience when playing in the world of the game. Of the myriad of RPGs, one that has gained a high level of acclaim is known as “Maplestory”. Maplestory is a free online role playing game developed by Nexon a South Korean company. It was released May 11th, 2005 and it is recognized as one of the most successful 2-dimensional RPGs of our time. The game is known for its cute animations, riveting backgrounds and trademark soundtracks. The point of the game is to defeat monsters, cultivate a specialized fighter, complete quests and outrank your competitors (fellow players). However, the game has been criticized in recent years due to one primary reason: the fundamental challenge(s) of the game have been eliminated.
All games require a purpose or objective that players aspire to achieve. A game without a challenge will most likely leave participants (and sometimes spectators) disinterested and/or dissatisfied. Meddling with the nature of a beloved game may lead to the loss of the game’s essence that made it popular to begin with.
For example, “NFL Rules Changes”, a New Republic article by Marc Tracy, describes the negative effects of institutional changes in the revered American sport of Football. Tracy states that the NFL has implemented changes to ensure that the sport would be safer for the players. However, certain rule changes such as eliminating kick-offs in the Pro Bowl, has made football fans and players wonder, “What makes football football?” Kick-offs are a quintessential part of football that add an exciting, unexpected element to the game. Another change that the NFL is making is getting rid of tackling for preseason games. Football is known to be dangerous by nature. Therefore, implementing radical safety protocols, such as disallowing tackles, goes against the game’s integrity. These fundamental changes to the game are blurring the lines of what is football and what is not. The same applies to Maplestory: if the basic foundation of the RPG is tweaked for the sake of alleviating difficulty, it can be argued that the game losses integrity.
There are five classes in Maplestory that a beginner character is allowed to advance to: Warrior, Bowman, Magician, Thief and Pirate. Each of the five classes require different ability points, which are awarded every time you level-up. For instance, Warriors require Strength points, Bowmen require a combination of Strength and Dexterity points, Magicians require Intelligence points, and so forth. At one point there was speculation amongst players that the Warrior and Magician characters (later able to be upgraded to Kaiser and Battle Mage, respectively) were overpowered compared to the other classes.
Therefore, in an attempt to even the playing field, the Warrior and Magician classes had their powers and abilities significantly reduced in a patch update. It resulted in an outcry of dissatisfaction from the Maplestory community, especially the veteran players who had invested so much into leveling up their characters when this used to be so difficult. To appease the angry players, there was yet another update that made all classes easier to level-up. In any case, the ability points used to be an important determinant of success in the game. However, ever since the game has been modified and updated, the allocation of ability points and other factors did not matter as much anymore. The once difficult goal of leveling up and developing your character was compromised. Maplestory and Football are completely different games, yet they experience the same consequences when they face institutional changes. It can be concluded that foundational changes to an established game should be made cautiously in order to maintain integrity.