In another “it’s Christmas, let’s all feel better about ourselves!” article, MSNBC is touting Everquest as the harbringer of a new age of kinder, gentler video games. Well, when compared to Carmageddon and Soldier of Fortune, maybe.

Verant\’e2\’80\’99s pro-social strategy isn\’e2\’80\’99t just a touchy-feely novelty. It makes good business sense. \’e2\’80\’9cTo prolong the longevity of the game, you don\’e2\’80\’99t want to promote people playing alone for a few hours and then quitting,\’e2\’80\’9d says [Jeff] Butler[, Everquest’s producer]. Especially since EverQuest relies on a $10 monthly subscription fee. So far, Verant\’e2\’80\’99s strategy seems to be working. Butler says more than half the players who buy the game keep playing. That makes 285,000 active subscribers. Fans say the social focus is key to the game\’e2\’80\’99s success: \’e2\’80\’9cIt will be a long time before any other games can offer the challenge I get from playing against real\’e2\’80\rdblquote and thus unpredictable\’e2\’80\rdblquote people I meet online,\’e2\’80\’9d says Jennifer Bowen, a 28-year-old mother who\’e2\’80\’99s been playing EverQuest since its inception.

For more on the future of online gaming as seen by MSNBC, check the full article.