Last week, MJ and I were discussing a stream she was planning on Conan Exiles where she planned to help friends capture “thralls” to bring back to their bases and put to work. The term “thrall” is the game’s way of softening what it really is: slavery. The slaves are NPCs, mind you, not other players, but honestly, the idea creeps me out a little bit anyway, far more than, say, Revival’s long-ago proposed NPC prostitution design.
(But the mechanic is cool. Wouldn’t it be nifty if player modders found ways to replace human slaves with elementals or automatoi or summoned spirits? That would basically negate my squeamishness entirely.)
Interestingly, as I reflect on why I find it mildly unsettling, I am thinking back to folks who roleplayed slaves, usually twi’leks, in Star Wars MMOs, and while I might roll my eyes, somehow that bothers me even less: Even though they were human vs. AI, there was a voluntariness about those storylines, play-acting instead of making an uncomfortable social statement via NPC. Conan actually rewards people for enslaving NPCs — if you opt out on a server with the mechanic, you’re at a disadvantage.
I don’t know. I’m conflicted. What do you think about slavery as a concept in MMOs? Are Conan Exiles’ slavery mechanics something you enjoy engaging in?