The Daily Grind: What are the moments in MMOs that make you feel powerful?

    
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You know, for all the fun of going back and curbstomping low-level enemies, that doesn’t make me feel powerful in an MMO. What makes me feel powerful is when I barely scrape by.

That might seem counterintuitive, but it’s something that I’ve realized in Final Fantasy XIV. Absolutely rolling over a boss makes me feel like myself and the rest of my party is strong, but that sense of really powerful is when I’m watching other members of the party get walloped by mechanics even as I’m dodging by razor-thin margins and taking down the boss. Seeing it finally drop with the feeling that it was a close match? That makes me feel downright powerful.

But the distinction might not be universal. Heck, I know that some of my friends in the game feel powerful when they look at retainers flush with gil after all of their items sold, or when they log on to a chorus of greetings from enthusiastic friends. So what about you, dear readers? What are the moments in MMOs that make you feel powerful?

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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Oleg Chebeneev

When I have scores like this in BGs.

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Crowe

It was City of Heroes and I was playing a dark/kinetic defender. It’s been more than a few years so I don’t remember all the details, but I remember pulling off a group battle rez that raised 7 other people in my team. The group was hit by the boss’ alpha and wiped everyone but me (I don’t remember the mechanics now but I wasn’t where I was supposed to be so it was a surprise that I survived even with just a sliver of health). While I had the group rez ability, my character wasn’t built for to take advantage of it so it was just the luck of the dice that this one landed and everyone survived the long animation, etc. I don’t think anyone was more surprised than me that I pulled it off. I was so shocked I almost failed to follow it up with a group heal. But at least I remembered then to the the kinetic super team damage buff afterwards (which I *was* specced to do!). So we went right from a near wipe to everyone up, healed, and boosted. We still wiped on the next boss but this event had made me realize my character could be better utilized than just as a buff/debuffer which was the role it had been selected for.

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Fenrir Wolf

I like your interesting questions, MOP.

I suppose that circumvention is what does it for me; to trivialise, undermine, or circumvent. In other words, to find ways to avoid doing what the game wants me to using whatever tools are at my disposal without resorting to cheating.

This usually implies proper application of stealth and movement to circumnavigate my way through circuitous, dangerous terrain. One of my favourite titles is Thief II, which should speak volumes to anyone who’s become acquainted with me as it’s focused entirely around human characters which I’d normally find exceedingly dull. Still, I feel there’s an ethereal, intangible magic to Thief II that’s beyond my ability to easily explain.

It probably has a lot to do with its strength of character overall, though. If I find myself enjoying the gameplay and the world has oodles of personality pouring from every pore like… this metaphor is really disgusting. I admit, I was tempted to run with it and even use the word ichorous, though.

The point is, I like to be swept up in a world’s charisma. And I absolutely believe a world can have charisma, in spades. In the case of Grant Morrison’s Danny the World, quite evidently. Identity is important to me, nothing turns me off more than a generic setting, which is why I could never bring myself to have any kind of interest in Skyrim’s shenanigans.

Too much insecurity and toxic masculinity. It was like a horny, confused teenager who didn’t have the first idea who they were, but as a game. I don’t necessarily experience a compulsion toward such a person. Indeed, I’m not certain I understand those who do.

Diff’rent strokes, yes? I mean, there must be something there or they’d not play it. It just isn’t for me.

Can I segue? I mean, I do, a lot. I’m probably using up my allowance, but…

I’m very confused when people are offended by the notion that something might not be for them. I imagine it comes from a position of privilege, yes? If you’re spoilt, you’re entitled, therefore everything must be for you, naturally, as that’s the way the world works. That a product might not be targeted at you is simply inconceivable!

(I like that word.)

I’m not bothered, though. Can you see why? I’m all too aware as someone who’s of an under-served demographic that many things aren’t for me and that’s okay! Of course, if you target something at me and then madly veer away at the last moment, I’m going to be miffed. I wouldn’t consider that an unreasonable response. I might be more confused, even, since this action would cost the veerer profit.

If something isn’t aimed at my interests from the outset, though? Okay! Someone is certainly going to have fun with it. Fun is nice. I support fun.

It doesn’t have to mean that I’m permitted to have fun with it. I’m more than familiar with that reality, as I often feel quite alienated by video games. It’s rare that one feels truly inclusive in any really meaningful way. Those that do, however, will earn my unending adoration and respect.

This brings me to the point of this segue in a roundabout way. Sometimes to feel powerful you have to feel empowered, which is where many games can ultimately fail. I feel that the video games industry isn’t very body or identity positive, it shies away from that with a never-ending, ceaseless, and tireless effort of flavourless ad populum.

I imagine that many more women would play an MMO, for example, if perhaps one of the available races to choose was mightily akin to D&D’s bugbears. Have you seen them? The official art is… infectious, I feel it’s got a memetic factor as it converts its viewer into bugbear fans on glance alone.

I’ll pull that up.
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I like the original concept of bugbears too as they were just shepherds of lost children, pretending to scare them back home so they’d go to bed on ti–No! Bad! Too much segue!

B-but… a lot of fantasy creatures weren’t as we know them today. Werewolves aided wounded travellers. Ddraig (dragons) were wise, benevolent advisors and healers. An–No. Stop!

Ahem.

Where was I? Oh yes. I feel that more body positivity would lead to further empowering players, and thus giving them what they need to feel powerful in the first place. If the player isn’t entirely comfortable with their character, enjoying the experience of overcoming adversity may not so readily occur.

The Elder Scrolls Online (which is one of the reasons I had fondness for it) has made some baby steps in this direction, but it’s not enough. We must push further into allowing people to realise themselves in whatever way they wish! I feel that anyone playing an online game deserves that chance, why wouldn’t they?

Why shouldn’t we allow people to represent to others as they see themselves? I feel that should be encouraged.

I suppose the only other thing I could add to wrap this is up is that I like puzzles! I’m quite fond of them. It’s matching my wits with the developer who came up with the challenge, which is why one of my all-time most memorable titles was once again one with at least mostly only humans.

Though there were the baaro. Hands up who already knows where this is going?

Uru: Ages Beyond Myst was… oh, it was spellbinding. The alien locales, the peculiar and anachronistic technologies, the unusual culture of the D’ni, and the puzzles. Oh, the puzzles! There are few joys greater in regards to gameplay than cooperative puzzle solving in a small group. Especially a group of two.

Discovering Shroomie is one of my most beloved video game memories; superseded only by taking my partner to meet her.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

I don’t feel powerful when I roll over a boss. Instead I feel like “This is too easy and a bit boring”.

If you see others struggling or failing at something you’re able to do at the same level as them, that makes you feel a bit powerful. Though you still want to have to put in effort, rolling something doesn’t feel like power it just feels like the enemy is weak instead.

In games where everything is too easy like most of the world in the updated One Tamriel and *everybody* rolls over the bosses, it doesn’t make me feel powerful at all. I feel overpowered in relation to all the open world content and it only gets worse as you level up your champion system stuff. I feel like a bully, or like a God getting involved in business I shouldn’t be involved in or something. Anything but powerful.

I don’t want every fight to be artificially long, like they tried doing in Skyforge, though when you do gain enough power to take them down faster there that does give you a feeling of strength.

I like power that takes a long time to gain. When you put all your time and effort into it and finally get to a point where you’re able to do things faster and easier than the average top level person. I never want to plow through things too easily, but just easier.

In a lot of these action twitch type games I feel more powerful just because of how I’m able to aim to do head shots and get out of the way of attacks of others, using my own skill rather than the power of the game character.

Game designers need to look at how to make people feel powerful without making things easy.

Though sometimes you’re made to feel power by being given that power only briefly. Like you’ll be playing a game that’s pretty difficult in some area, then they’ll give you a tank or suit or something for a short period of time that you can go through an area you usually know as difficult and just wreck everything. Because it is usually difficult and have experienced that difficulty and the power gain you now have is only short time, you have a feeling of real power for a bit. If you were always in that tank or whatever you wouldn’t feel powerful all the time though it would just feel like everything was too easy.

To me feeling powerful in a group is when everybody struggles a bit but all give their all and you just barely are able to take down something incredibly strong that took all of you and everybody gave equally. If any one of you weren’t there, it wouldn’t have gone down, and you all did your jobs perfectly.

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Fenrir Wolf

I’m curious if it’s just not possible to encourage a sense of power in a player-vs-environment scenario where there are other players. I think that perhaps the illusion of it is possible, as that certainly seemed to be the case in Champions Online. I recall a friend who had a brawler character there, he really, really got off on both punching bad guys off of cliffs and becoming super-sized.

I just thought it was really ruddy funny, myself. I mean, it’s so absurd, isn’t it? I love absurdity when it’s done right. You’ve punched someone off of a cliff, oh no! Except, no, they’re getting up and dusting themselves off, they’re fine. They’re okay, everyone! It was so artfully Looney Tunes.

I didn’t quite feel the sense of power he did; though I did appreciate the narrative of it. It made me giggle. That’s the trick to cartoon violence, though, isn’t it? It’s not very violent. Violence is in the aftermath, not in the action. The gore, the suffering, the death, and the tragedy.

So I feel unconvinced that a semblance of power can be acquired there as, for most, power derives from being something of a Mary Sue, but if you’re just a bit player in World of Mary Sues Online, the effect is somewhat diminished.

Still, like I said, you can feel empowered whenever a game allows you to be as you see yourself. Though that has very little to do with the gameplay itself.

And whilst I value empowerment, the concept of feeling powerful in a PvE scenario is one that’s worth ruminating on the worth of. I mean, is it important to the experience to feel powerful? Has any game ever allowed you to know that feeling?

It is, after all, a video game.

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Lars Rönnbäck

I remember the sense of power that came out of killing Nagafen for the first time in EverQuest, having taken part in my first large raid. Those raids were so dependent on everyone doing their job and trusting that no one would steal the loot.

Also, figuring out almost game-breaking builds in GuildWars, having scouted new areas to “steal” elite skills from mobs and combining these with skills from other occupations was truly awesome.

As of late, only games by From Software has given me the same kind of rush and sense of power. Way too many games these days seem to follow a formula in which it is alright to insult the skill and intelligence of the players.

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Barnoc N'Draak

When a game has introduced a number of mechanics separately, but then throws them at me faster in unexpected combinations and I do them effortlessly.

It’s like in karate kid when Daniel-san suddenly realized that he really is learning karate.

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Dean Greenhoe

Personally, as a solo player I generally never feel powerful in an MMO and that is why I keep playing and struggling to attain that elusive power.

On the other hand, when I am part of a well oiled group / organization and we accomplish goals beyond what a single person can accomplish I start to get that feeling of power.

Those few games where there was little to no challenge and everyone was “powerful” lost my interest/ money quickly.

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Ashley Bau

For me, one thing that gives me moments of feeling powerful is coming up with good / unexpected strategies.

Pulling off the maat fight in ffxi with my own strategy and managing to not even take a single hit was pretty great.

Ffxi was great for this in general, the game always allowed for a great variety in effective strategies while still being fairly punishing. As a result, like most mmos people loved their cookie cutter ‘best chance of success’ strats. My group and I were pretty relaxed on roles to play so we often didn’t have the jobs needed for the cookie cutter way of approaching fights. It was a great thrill working out ways to tackle the obstacle with what we had.

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Fenrir Wolf

I can relate to this but I always felt clever rather than powerful, it’s matching wits with a system by trying to find the most unusual way to overcome its adversity. I can’t say that ever made me feel powerful, per se.

It was certainly a nice feeling, it felt good; I felt comparatively clever and confident. But powerful, though? I wonder if I just don’t have a concept for what the sensation of powerfulness is like.

This isn’t judging you, by the way. I always worry about that. This is me being tremendously autistic and trying to understand things beyond my grasp.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

Playing a traditional tank class when you can wade into a few dozen low lifes and have the NPCs go through a futile attempt of taking you down while you slowly kill every last one of them leaving a pile of dead in your wake like a George Washington Slept Here kind of sign.

Usually I prefer a more evil type archetype like a Death Knight or Shadow Knight, makes me imagine I strike more dread and fatalism into every place I step, like your end is here so make your peace.

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Fenrir Wolf

That or “Oh dear god no, not another nihilist. I don’t think I could stand another reading of Nietzsche’s Greatest Hits.

Perspectives!

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Mr Funktastic

I think the first thing that comes to mind, for me, is the first time I offered to craft some armour and weapons for a new player in ESO. I made him blue quality gear, which he seemed pretty impressed by – but, by that point, I had so much crafting material stock-piled that I could have just as easily made purple.

It’s probably more an example of feeling wealthy, rather than powerful. But, money is power, right? I’ve had plenty of my own experiences of beating tough PvE content, or actually doing fairly well in PvP, but that was probably the first time I actually felt like kind of a Big Deal in a game.