Tenfold Hate

The Psychology of MMORPGs
February 21, 2008, 10:31 am
Filed under: MMORPGs

For several years now, Stanford Ph.D. Nick Yee has maintained a wonderful website–The Daedalus Project–that explores the psychology and motivations of MMORPG players. There are several surveys you can fill out on the site if you’d like to put your two cents in.

The most recent addition to his site is an article entitled Our Virtual Bodies, Ourselves? that examines what our choice in avatars might say about us. As someone who tends to play gnomes and/or halflings, I was interested in what this might say about my own personality.

In fantasy games, I like to immerse myself in the fantasy element of things, so I tend to stay away from “real life” options as much as possible. For example, I have yet to roll a human character in any game I have played (excluding Guild Wars if you consider the necromancer “human”) and I seldom create warriors because hypothetically, if I really wanted to I could learn to fence and run around carrying a rapier (until the men in white coats came to drag me away in a straight jacket).

I’ve always preferred flawed heroes in fiction and film, so I tend to favor the slighter, less idealized races (dwarves, halfings, gnomes) to the polish of tall, majestic elves or bland, buff humans. Also–as with most–it was Tolkien who opened up the world of high fantasy to me so I’ll always have a soft spot for apprehensive, self-doubting hobbit types just because as an unsure, introverted kid I found characters like Bilbo Baggins so easy to relate to.

In one sense, this goes against the mirroring the Daedalus article attributes to a lot of character creation–players creating idealized versions of themselves. But on another level, I think the races I select might be more an internal mirroring than an idealized external one.

When I look at myself, it’s not a far stretch to see my dominant character traits embodied in the races I generally choose–grouchy and stubborn like a dwarf; self-doubting and apprehensive like Tolkien’s hobbits; and eccentric, curious, and solitary like gnomes. How about you?

Here’s Where the Story Ends.
February 12, 2008, 9:53 am
Filed under: MMORPGs

In my last post, I defined RPGs as a communal form of interactive storytelling. Talyn over at Pumping Irony wrote a killer piece about storytelling, character, and a lack thereof in MMORPGs to date. He articulates his points perfectly and says it a hell of a lot more succinctly than I probably would. Here’s a taste:

In an MMORPG, players are not presented with a medium for telling their own story or developing that character’s beliefs. By and large, our only “motivation” is to acquire wealth and raise our attributes, which we (perhaps mistakenly?) refer to as “character development.”

This is a must-read, so do yourself a favor and check it out.

Carebear Mountain
February 11, 2008, 4:16 pm
Filed under: MMORPGs, Warhammer: Age of Reckoning

Over the past few months, debates have been popping up around the gaming blogosphere prompted by PvEers excited about the promise of meaningful PvP in Warhammer “even though they don’t normally like PvP” and PvPers concerned–and legitimately so–that they don’t want to see WAR watered down for the carebears.

I think many PvPers like to paint a picture of PvEers as geriatric pen-and-paper role-players too squeamish and atrophied from years of playing EQ to take on anything but sluggish, scripted AI adversaries. But this is not the case.

Look at the RPG in it’s purest form: Dungeons and Dragons. The RPG is simply a communal way of interactive storytelling. This is something sorely lacking in MMO PvP.

I enjoy PvP, but it gets awfully boring awfully quickly in its current state. The old school gamers who level criticism at LoTRO and WoW for not having “enough risk” should turn their attentions to PvP rather than shunning it. I personally think it’s laughable to use the word “risk” when we’re talking about computer entertainment, but engaging in combat with other players delivers a sense of excitement that corpse runs or real time travel–no matter how long–ever will.

We play MMOs because other players add a wonderful sense of life to the worlds we inhabit online. Good PvP IS good PvE because both ideally involve participating in an engaging story, having an impact on the virtual world we’re playing in, and working with others towards a shared goal.

It’s the current state of MMORPGs that fuel these divisions between the camps because in most every game after Ultima Online, PvP and PvE are mutually exclusive (WoW) or PvP is totally pointless (V:SoH).

If PvP is implemented in a more creative way than me getting griefed for no reason by some immature jackass venting his poxy teenage angst–or me mindlessly grinding out honor for gear rewards, numb to the ultimate outcome of the battle–that’d be a healthy baby step. And if there were implications for the ganker and the gankee–both good and bad, now that’d make things interesting.