A famous dictum says “Standing still is moving backwards”. If a system does not evolve, it will disappear. Think of Soviet Russia. Research has shown that it did not disappear because the magic worked out (the revolution was made not by the people but by the power), it disappeared because there was no magic left. The system got stuck in the late seventies and didn’t evolve anymore (Ironically the Soviet Union was brought down with a fax; the system itself was too late to respond to that “novelty”). The dictum also explains (partially) why Chinese communism seems to survive. Throughout its recent history, the Chinese government has radically rethought its goals and its ambitions. China will have a system of high speed trains in the next years and is already, both secretly and openly, researching tools to block climate change. Most Chinese companies think ahead, only those who manufactured goods for the West – cuddle bears, clothes and other commodities – perished in the recent global crisis (the possibility to adapt is also the reason why the West fears China nowadays: not because it has the largest number of people on this planet but precisely because technological evolution is a clear ambition of the Chinese government).
Of course, a national system is not a game or an internet page… But is the dictum correct for these too?
For sure. The internet has seen in the past many bubble programs which were a huge hit at first – Second Life probably being a case in prime – but burst quite soon afterwards. Mostly the cause was… standing still. Currently we see some “walking dead” online: the aforementioned Second Life is now a deserted place. Hardly anyone – apart from some die hard fans – still owns an avatar or walks around. Second Life looks like all the cities around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor: there is proof of a past society (houses, goods, …) but everything is abandoned. Websites like myspace or twitter are equally doomed. Although the idea in essence is good, it leaves limited margin for “revolution”. Some features can be added, some inherent problems can be fixed but the “been there, done that” is always luring around the corner. People will get bored with the quazillionst twitter message from their absolute hero – you should try it: it is tremendously boring after a while – and they will look for new ways to express themselves. Somewhere in a backroom a tech geek is preparing the next revolution… to die out 5 years later.
Our beloved game does not fall into the “standing still” trap. Every five months or so a major update is launched. Quite amusingly, every update screen never fails to mention: “The most significant game update in our history is almost here.” They kept promise every time. Site radically changed. The gameplay radically changed. The forum radically changed. Features were expanded (from leagues over clans to now the career mode). It is almost as if you aren’t allowed to get bored. Once you get used to something (and you develop patterns of playing and certain stereotypes), it changes. The comparison with real life football is striking. Although there is a certain order in the quality of teams – Real Madrid will never demote – every new league start is a fresh start: new players, new opportunities and new threats. Powersoccer is just the same. Every update is a new start.
In the past couple of hours, I have been exclaiming “ooooooooh” and “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah” all the time. Couldn’t get any work done. Curiosity forced me to be in Powersoccer. I honestly think I would have given a finger if somebody told me “give me your finger or I will pull the plug”. The website got an extreme make-over, gameplay got a radical update – making some actions less comical – and a new career mode was launched. We are given some months to adjust and then probably another radical change will be our part again.
The system evolves, the system survives and more than one hundred thousand people can continue to live the dream.