Perfect Ten: 10 reasons MMO characters seem truly insane

We all like making the occasional observation about the weirdness inherent in video games, but most of us also recognize that what we’re really doing is poking fun at the anthropic principle. The real reason NPCs tend to fight rather than just fleeing at the sight of us is, well, the alternative isn’t particularly fun to play. It’s part of an acceptable break from reality, and for most of us, we are willing to accept that fact with a bit of tongue-in-cheek prodding.

What I don’t see very often, though, is an appreciation of the really insane part: What all of this looks like from the perspective of the NPCs – because however many breaks from reality we accept from the game, we are the real breakers of immersion.

Consider, for a moment, that you’re an NPC. Imagine that you have full knowledge of the fact that this is a video game (there’s an old humor blog entry that sums things up nicely). Now imagine that you’re watching PCs. You would quickly come to the understanding that player characters are nuts. Why? Well…

1. They’re sociopathic murderers

Imagine that you’re a sand troll in World of Warcraft. You have your sand troll friends, you have your eyes on a cute other troll you want to date, you like playing sand troll games like Checkers But There’s Sand Because We’re Sand Trolls. Now, imagine that one day a group of people invade your capital city for no reason at all, murdering dozens of people who are just trying to defend said city, and then kill your leader.

And then rifle through his clothes and take everything they consider valuable on his and every other body. And then, worst of all, they start dancing and laughing.

If you know that you’re a character in a video game, sure, you understand not being afraid of death. But there’s a difference between “I know death results in respawning” and “let’s teabag the boss now that he’s dead.” Player characters seem to downright revel in things dying around them.

Gotta go to work, work all day.

2. If they’re not, they’re workaholics

All right, so maybe you haven’t had to see all of the murdering. Maybe… let’s say you live in Kugane, in Final Fantasy XIV, and you’re excited to meet Eorzeans coming over. And look, there’s a player character now, and she doesn’t look like a murderer at all! She’s dressed nicely, and she’s got a saw, but it’s clearly meant for cutting lumber.

Then you watch as she drags a workbench into the middle of the street, kneels down, and starts making a cabinet. Then another cabinet. Then another cabinet. And when she’s made a bunch of cabinets, she runs over to sell all of them before dragging her workbench back into the middle of the street and making more cabinets. Occasionally, she mentions making lots of money.

You’re not sure where to start with how weird this is. But let’s start with the social part.

3. They constantly act socially weird

Who builds cabinets in the middle of the road? Who just jumps up and down while standing by someone? Who dances naked on a mailbox just because? Who just slaps people randomly?

Every single PC seems to act with a solipsistic abandon that would seem out of place in any other social setting. Some of them just stand in crowded places unleashing powerful attacks that they know full well won’t hurt anyone, because… it’s new? It’s a button to hit? The whole thing seems nonsensical and weird.

4. All of them are wholly greed-driven

Of course, the weird thing isn’t just that someone was crafting cabinets in the middle of the road (and you are well aware that it doesn’t make much sense that this was the not-weird part). The really weird part is that all the money she was making wasn’t in service of anything. She just wanted more money.

Greed is what motivates all of these people. But then that feeds into a bigger and stranger issue…

Just so we're clear, I did not put this picture here to make a subtle point. It's not subtle at all.

5. All of their greed is for functional advancement

There’s a guy in Final Fantasy XI who just keeps killing the same monster, over and over. He just sits where it spawns, and when it shows up, he kills it. That alone is socially weird. He’s been doing that for about a week. Why is he doing it? Greed, sure. But that greed? Entirely informed by his desire to get a nice ring from that monster.

You could understand someone killing a whole lot of monsters for reputation, but the sociopathy doesn’t even extend that far. If all that killing doesn’t result in getting something notably stronger, few PCs seem to care all that much, and even those who do tend to want it for something. No one just wants a nice vase or a fun book to read or a well-cooked meal. Everyone’s favorite foods are based entirely on what they need next, and no one ever goes back to a restaurant in an early zone because it has really great steak or something.

Most people hang out in bars because a given bar has a nice atmosphere and clientele. PCs seem to hang out in the bars that make it easier to kill people or build cabinets, even if those bars are covered in spiders.

6. There are either none of them or loads of them

As mentioned, the spider bar with the best stat boosts is where everyone stays. But as soon as there’s a better bar, everyone goes to that one. Doesn’t matter how large it is, it’s pure functionality. Old areas become phantom towns, devoid of player characters, while the latest good thing is swarmed to the bursting point with people.

For whatever reason, this seems to change every couple of years. No one is totally sure why, but everyone who now gets some space to breathe is thankful for it.

7. They just vanish every so often

Oh, look, it’s the cabinet-maker in the street again. She’s just… standing there.
And… now she’s disappeared. And in a few hours she’ll just reappear, and she’ll act like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

I should probably give some credit to Age of Wushu’s whole offline character thing trying to address this weirdness. Granted, it introduces a totally different sort of weirdness, where your badass master of seven martial arts now willingly accepts being sold into slavery, but that also ties into the whole “greedy sociopath” thing. It takes a special sort of person to see someone calmly standing in the street and say “hey, I bet I should sell that dude as a slave.”

Community organization is painful.

8. Every event is swarmed by them

You’re living on Taris in Star Wars: The Old Republic. That sucks. There’s been an outbreak of the rakghoul plague. That sucks worse. But suddenly a huge number of PCs descend on the area like locusts, desperately intent on beating back the plague.

That’s a good thing, in context. It’s a less good thing if you consider that the exact same thing will happen for the equivalent of a small-town Halloween celebration as well. Any sort of special event, no matter how small or insignificant, can suddenly become a swarming point for PCs if they think they can get some new hats out of it.

9. Even their hobbies seem terrifying

Jumping puzzle. What the hell is a jumping puzzle? There are lots of scary things in Guild Wars 2, but the people who fight those things seem to think that a good way to relax is to jump between narrow walkways, with one wrong jump meaning a broken leg and possible death.

Sure, death isn’t permanent, but it is still really, really weird. You’ve considered making a new sort of board game that gives you money when you win, just to make things feel a little bit more normal.

10. They constantly blame you for breaking reality

There’s the real kicker. You ask one of these greed-motivated sociopaths to take care of the smallest tasks for you and promise to pay them an exorbitant sum for a simple task of killing a few things. Saves you time, right? Everyone gets what they want.

“Stupid NPCs asking me to run errands for you,” mutters the PC. Like you’re the one jumping up and down naked after building cabinets in the middle of the street.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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23 Comments on "Perfect Ten: 10 reasons MMO characters seem truly insane"

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Jon-Enee Merriex

#Fair

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Anthony Clark

I am not crazy.

My mother had me tested.

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Chillos Smith Jr.

This is excellent! I love portrayals of games from the perspective of the NPC’s.

In tabletop, we often refer to player characters as “murder hobos”.

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Bruno Brito

Uh, i agree to a certain extent.

Are you saying the Sand Troll BLOODLETTER is a nice guy? If he’s eyeing the cute sand troll girl from the village, there’s a bad horror movie right there.

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Utakata

…least they don’t have a Twitter account! FAKE NEWS! o.O

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Rolan Storm

Gave me a jolly laugh. Thank you. :)

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Ryuen

12. They are incredibly gullible. You ask them to murder a village because said village is ‘evil’ (no real reasons given) and they will do it without asking questions… for a new hat.

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Maggie May

I dunno running around killing rats that just happen to be carrying a metal cuirass and some coins that I can go to the local convenience store and sell would be useful.
Other than that, I am of the opinion that reality is stranger, much stranger.

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squidgod2000

11. Everyone is always running.

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Melissa McDonald

that’s an alt-game in LOTRO… actually WALKING from Bag End to Rivendell. Takes a good long while, and if you’re a new character, extremely dangerous once you get to the Trollshaws.

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

There is a WoW challenge, the Pacifist, where you are not allowed to kill or be killed, and level to 110, it just shows people want to do what the game does not allow them to do, or at least what the game does not offer.

Again this is about theme park vs sandbox and everything in-between, if i have a choice in the games, i prefer to play support role, mostly crafting, exploring and socializing.

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Koshelkin

That article, even though sarcastic in nature, raised two interesting questions:

1) Aren’t we able to enjoy a game if we don’t get something valuable? Is greed really a defining factor for enjoyment in MMO’s and if so, what can we do to alleviate the fact.

2) Alot of MMO player habits break immersion in a Fantasy world. Is the presence of other players detrimental to the atmosphere and what can we do to alleviate that fact? How to make interaction with other players and player activities more immersive?

1) is clearly an issue of the usual structure of MMO’s these days. They are built around looting, they are designed around the simple premise of character advancement through allegorical, numerical experience and virtual armaments/equipment. To change the fact that games revolve around progression+loot we need to stop designing them around it. That said, I seldom perceive the need for loot as a form of greed.

2) It won’t help to police player behaviour(because that would be fascist) but if avatars in MMO’s would jump like real people(and not like rubber balls) the players would accomodate to the fact that jumping looks akward and doesn’t help with getting around at all. Black Desert does it, e.g., and I don’t see many bunny-hopping/joy-hopping people there. The point here is to make not just player activities but the actual physics of avatars and the world around them more akin to real world rules.

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Sorrior Draconus

Wierdly i play for story and to see the world more then rewards but yeah alot seem to focus on greed

Siphaed
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Siphaed

“Kill 15 boars, bring back their livers as proof.”….

So not only does the NPC -who’s not a butcher, mind you- want the PC to slaughter a bunch of animals in the nearby forest. But they also want the PC to desecrate their carcasses in order to bring a random body part from inside the animal. Sometimes it’s because that NPC is a ‘farmer’ and a singular boar stomped on a few of their plants.

Who’s the psychopath now?!

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Melissa McDonald

It puts the lotion on its skin… it does this whenever it’s told.

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Melissa McDonald

… And they are none of these things without You and Me, and all the other Yous and Mes in this world, animating them, inhabiting them, and performing these behaviours.

Polyanna
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Polyanna

All that, and they still manage to get 22 hours of sleep a day.

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Wilhelm Arcturus

I wouldn’t say that my characters revel in killing NPCs, but they certainly don’t ask any questions when offered what is essentially a murder for hire contract. Wipe out a village, kill the leader, and bring back his head, all for 19 gold? Sure, on it.

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Ket Viliano

The “Sisters of EVE” are *not* on a mission of mercy.

Trust me. I know.

styopa
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styopa

I think the sociopathy of PCs being willing to slaughter dozens and scores of living, breathing creatures on the basis of “well, that person over there (whom I literally just met a moment ago) told me to – because they said they’d give me something I honestly don’t even need” is pretty much enough.

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A Dad Supreme

11. They collect hundreds and hundreds of locked treasure chests that they keep in their houses or in their backpacks for weeks, months and years because they don’t have a “key” to open them.

These characters never use any of their powerful weapons or insane magical or physical skills that can defeat dragons to force open the chests to get the loot inside and are defeated by a simple locking mechanism that requires.. a key.

Instead, they just throw them away or sell them for pennies to other NPCs who don’t have keys either but take them anyways.

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Sorrior Draconus

I get the feeling you main GW2 or neverwinter

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