"...if you kill the dragon, it's dead forever."

The pop culture time machine that is my living room has lately been inhabited by The Aristocrats, The Sopranos (season one), and Firefly. Yesterday I listened to The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill all the way through for the first time. So I can't really claim to be on the cutting edge.

Still, the premise of this article strikes me as wrong. Or maybe confused is better.
Two decades ago, games played by one person at a time, in which the player's character navigates a high-fantasy world of goblins and elves, constituted the best-selling state of the art. But today, fantasy role-playing games that can be played by hundreds, thousands, or even millions of players at once, all meeting in cyberspace and navigating the world they collectively inhabit, have become vastly more popular. And in the process, single-player fantasy swashbucklers have been relegated to dustbin status, an afterthought, if any thought, for most game makers.
By focusing the action on an individual character — a stand-in for the player himself — a single-player game can often deliver a more emotionally compelling experience than games in which countless numbers participate. And if, by chance, that individual character is charged with saving civilization from some terrible evil, well, all the more so.

There are actually two aesthetic impulses at work here, but the author mashes them together. One has to do with solo-gaming itself, and the other has to do with dragons and goblins and orcs (oh my!). For all I know the author is right that there are fewer single player goblin epics than there used to be. It's a mistake, though, to think that this is tied to a decline in the solo-gaming genre itself.

For example, on my antiquated playstation II the game of the moment is Bode Miller Alpine Skiing, though I've also been spending some quality time with GTA: Vice City, Splinter Cell, and one of the sixteen thousand Medal of Honor games. None of those games has a multiplayer option, and each of the last three are story driven to at least some extent. The solo-gaming genre, then, is going strong. Moreover, it's strength has at least partly to do with the fact that solo games are able to offer more robust narratives than their multiplayer counterparts.

What's in decline, World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings notwithstanding, is the cultural cachet of fantasy epics. When I say cultural cachet, it may be that what I mean is geek cred, but I'm not sure. Maybe today's true geeks are still into monsters but are a much smaller piece of the video game pie than they used to be. Or maybe the mainstreaming of fantasy archetypes has caused them to lose resonance among geeks. All I know for sure is that ninjas aren't very cool anymore either.

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