In third grade, my teacher sent home a report card with the note that “Justin is wonderfully strange.” Ever since then, I never found the terms “strange” or “weird” to be pejorative but rather a signpost pointing the way to interesting paths less traveled.
To be weird is to deviate from the safe and predictable and instead venture into the wild and woolly lands of the imagination. When it comes to MMORPGs, I feel that more devs would love for their games to be more strange while the risk-averse studios (and their publishers) pull hard to keep traditional tropes in play.
Still, every once in a while a game comes out that walk on the weird side. These MMOs don’t usually boast universal appeal, large numbers, or even great respect, but they do offer vivid imagination, hidden qualities, and a certain uniqueness that is rarely found elsewhere. Today, we will celebrate the wonderfully strange in online gaming with these 10 titles.
One of the genre’s oldest continually running games (it is 21 years old as of 2017) is also one of the oddest in tone. As the name might imply, Furcadia allows players to live out their fantasies as an animal, whether that be completely feral or as a human-like, well, furry. Players are encouraged to set up and run roleplay “daydreams” with others, making this a mix of sandbox, chat room, MMO, and potential fetish fuel.
Bizarre sights and ideas go hand-in-hand with Asian MMOs that we don’t tend to blink at most of the goofiness that erupts from such titles. However, among this class of games is one that keeps standing out for its outlandish behavior, over-the-top visuals, and general craziness, and that is TERA. It’s the kind of MMO where there are cartoony police cars, far too much attention given to underwear, and something called “mood clouds.” Prim and proper, TERA is not. It’s part of its charm.
How do you even begin to explain this one to someone who has never seen it before? “It’s a game where you’re a sort-of deer with a human-like face that kind of wanders around the woods while emoting, exploring, and solving light puzzles. And no one can talk or fight.” And even that is doing it a massive injustice.
The fact that this game sounds like a skin condition is by far the least weird thing about it. The fact that it’s an MMORTS where players command units via programming language is. If you ever thought you were hardcore in an MMO, ask yourself if you ever had to write programs, compile them, and weed out errors to win.
Part of Project Gorgon’s appeal is how much it zigs away from the MMO genre’s zags. It shakes MMO players out of complacency with an array of unrivaled oddity, including cannibalism, flower arrangement, and cows that have their own skill lines and armor sets while still presenting themselves to others to be milked.
To understand the cult of adoration that still worships Glitch, you have to acknowledge the imagination that saturated this 2-D MMO. And we’re talking actually in-game imagination, as the events are all taking place in the minds of slumbering giants. It was a dreamscape like no other, with the ordinary taking up residence with the off-kilter and somehow making it work.
There have been (and continue to be) many online games that take a stab at the pirate life, but only one MMO that’s ever looked at buccaneers and went, “Eureka! Let’s pilot ships by puzzles!” With a Playmobil aesthetic and cooperative puzzles of the sort that you used to waste time playing when you should’ve been studying or working, Puzzle Pirates carved itself out a niche that no one else seemed to want or conceive.
Just because a franchise is Godzilla-sized popular and has a hundred offshoots doesn’t excuse it from the possibility of being weird. Oh, The Sims has quite a lot of eccentric moments, particularly with its failed attempt to bring the series online. What started with the best of intentions for player-created towns and mutual projects devolved into seedy red light districts and broken, grindy systems that are hilarious only in hindsight.
Say “fantasy MMO” to someone, and almost assuredly he or she will imagine the stale, typical medieval/Tolkien setting that’s dominated the genre over the past few decades. Ryzom, on the other hand, created an alien fantasy world so unlike anything we’d picture that it demanded players learn it from the ground up instead of merely assume it. We need more of this, not less, in this humble reporter’s opinion.
Proving that weird doesn’t mean shunned, Trove delights in the peculiar and has amassed a sizable following because of it. From Candy Barbarians to toilet chair mounts, this game eschews seriousness and logic for the simple pursuit of fun — even when that fun is encased in the ridiculous.