The Daily Grind: Why don’t players use emotes more in MMOs?

    
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The other day I was reading up on Fallout 76’s emote wheel — brought to you by Bethesda’s console tunnel vision — and was ruminating on just how rarely I see other players emote in MMOs these days. I seem to recall witnessing more emotes back in the day, especially in games like City of Heroes and LOTRO, but now I suspect that emoting has died out among the general populace as the novelty of bumping into other real people online has worn off.

Or perhaps it’s something different altogether. After all, it’s not as if most MMOs make emotes super-accessible. Occasionally you do have a game with an emote window that features icons you can drag to hotbars, but for the most part these games are still operating in the 1990s with slash commands that require memorization. Maybe it’s just hard to remember these on the fly, apart from the frequently used /wave.

Why do you think that players don’t use emotes more in MMOs? Are emotes doomed to be regulated to roleplayers only, or will facial recognition emotes usher in a renaissance of expression?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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Vorender

Make emotes activate with voice commands. Let the player say “emote dance” into their headset for example. I think more people would use emotes if it were a fluid, hands free thing.

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Carebear

You can actually do this by using a program called Voiceattack! Check this video: https://youtu.be/K2sccDxOwwE

I dont know if its allowed on MMOs but i cant see why not..

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Fisty

/train in WoW all day long.

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Mr.McSleaz

Forgot about that one, brought a smile to my face.

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Toy Clown

I really like FFXIV’s wide range of emotes. They have an absolute slew of them and many are added each major patch. Roleplayers always make use of emotes. I’ve also seen a large portion of the non-RPing community in FFXIV use the emotes. They’re always using them in dungeons, using them to pose for screenshots, etc. Dance is always popular with the non-RPers!

It’s that way to varying degrees in other MMOs I’ve played as well. I know many people that enjoy logging in and sitting down, going through every emote in game. I have a friend that’s an emote fiend! He found the “bodily noises” one in Age of Conan and I just laugh every time I think of how much of a kick he got out of that.

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David Goodman

See them all the time, but i’m on a roleplaying server (and in WoW no less). Dunno what to tell ya.

Why don’t they use them on non-RP servers? Mainly because, outside of /spit’ing on people, emotes are an inherently RP ‘mechanic’ (for lack of a better word, and I don’t want to think too hard about this.) Non-roleplayers probably aren’t going to use them a lot.

I don’t honestly see a ton of focus on roleplaying in a lot of the newer games either. Mostly, it’s about getting you into a gameplay loop that pushes microtransactions in your direction, and player interactivity – that isn’t PVP – doesn’t seem to be much of a concern.

Specus
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Specus

Usually one of two reasons:

  1. They look lame.
  2. They’re too hard to access.

In games where the jump looks cool, I’ll sometimes jump for celebration, but if it’s just a lame looking action or I have to do something complicated like bring up three levels of menus or type half a sentence, I’m not going to bother.

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Hravik

Basically this. It comes down to how quick and easy they are to use, and the majority of games don’t make it either one.

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McGuffn

You don’t know where someone’s camera is pointing. You don’t know if people can see them. They’re borderline useless. Jumping up and down is faster.

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Arsin Halfmoon

In ffxiv, I had a lalafel ask me to make my female au ra /bow a few times so he can take upskirt pictures.

So yeah, emotes are still alive and well. Theyre just used out of context.

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Mewmew

Today in the era of Free to Play MMORPGs, emotes have become fluff that you pay for instead of things that are a base part of the game. A good number of games come with a few limited emotes and the rest you have to pay real money for. Like having a cool expensive mount, using emotes that you have to pay for have made them end up being more of a status symbol than something actually used to communicate. And then it’s especially noticeable that they’re using emotes that you don’t have access to and so they don’t come across as natural at all.

A great many of the games have it so they do need to take up a hotslot which we have limited amounts of and so we don’t want to put them there. Others have you remember what to type, which isn’t too bad but isn’t too fast and handy for a lot of people either.

And then there are those who when they think of emotes, they think of afk characters – people setting up emote loops to keep their character logged in the game, or people dancing naked on mailboxes. These are annoyances for most people and so the emotes get equated with those annoyances.

Often when they do get used naturally, they aren’t seen. The only way we notice is if they also do a sound or text in the chat box at the same time. Which brings me to my next paragraph…

Many MMOs just use the emotes as parts of contests. There are limited amounts of extra events these games can do, and often as part of some in game event, everybody has to use certain emotes at the same time. It can be a dancing event such as in Star Trek Online, or it can be a Simon Says type event such as in Guild Wars 2, but during those events all you see is a bunch of emote text spam and start to think of these emotes as a bit spammy rather than something fun to actually communicate.

Yes, on hard core RPG servers they absolutely serve a purpose, but the reality is that it’s a minority of people that play on those, and they’re just as happy to make up their own usually as text rather than use the limited built in ones.

You’re probably going to get replies of people who do use all the emotes all the time and think they’re important, but those people are very much the minority. For most of us emotes aren’t really a natural part of the game anymore in normal game play. We all use waves sometimes, and there is limited use of laughs and dancing, but basically the biggest crowd of gamers ignore them as a whole for their intended purpose.

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Stormwaltz

For me, because the commands to fire them are usually over-complicated.

typing “/lol” in LotRO and ESO makes my character laugh. I use it a lot because it’s quick, easy, instinctive.

An emote like “/dance_elf3?” No — especially because of the underscore, which requires chord-keying to type.

If an emote chat line command requires more than 3-4 characters, I can stumble over it, miskey and have to backup and retype… by which point the moment is lost.

Having to search from a menu to find exactly the emote I’m looking for, usually by figuring out which of the obscure little icons I want? Again, too much time, too much hassle.

I appreciate LotRO adding the ability to slot emotes into hotbars. My use of more obscure/longer emotes has gone up since I realized I can do that. I set them up myself, so I always know where to find exactly what I want.

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Avaera

My personal theory is because most games have designed for and conditioned us to expect communication between players (not characters), so making our characters emote is a bit like being able to add fancy coloured shadows to an IM text. It seems a bit silly and superfluous to play with the expressiveness of the tool/medium instead of focusing on what you or the other person is saying.

I’d say it is pretty rare now that games expect you to communicate in-character, so in-character reactions don’t get as much use. There are probably some exceptions where the emote can be more clearly interpreted as coming from the player (like big pop up emoji bubbles saying hi, etc).