Massively Overthinking: Let’s ban a word from the MMORPG lexicon


A while back, an MMO player I follow on Twitter who also happens to be super into sports retweeted something fun into my feed: a thread about banning annoying words. “You get to ban one word from the entire lexicon of sports. What word are you banning?”

We need to do this for MMOs. I bet you folks can come up with some whoppers that we’re all just sick of hearing. For this week’s Massively Overthinking, you get to ban one word (or a brief phrase, if you must) from the entire lexicon of MMORPGs. What word are you banning – and more importantly, why would you, or all of us, be better off with it gone?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): My banned word is “score.” No gear score, arena score, high score…. no scores. Games are fun, but MMOs feel stronger as virtual worlds than game games. I miss communities more than my ranks.

Andy McAdams: I’m gonna go for a twofer: hardcore/casual. It’s such a drama-laden distinction, both plagued by idealized (or maybe demonized) expectations of what the other is. Hardcore views casual players as ruining their game with accessibility and casual views hardcore as ruining their game with rules, meta and mandatory min/maxing.

What’s worse is that we’ve gotten into our heads that one side is better or more deserving than the other and the other should just stay in their lane because they clearly aren’t fun-ning right.

Both playstyles have far, far more in common than in contention. I wish we could realize that not only is it possible to have both in a game, it’s even desirable.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I’m cheating and picking two: scrub and tryhard. (Yes, I realize scrub is an ancient word.) These kinds of elitist put-downs grate on my nerves, especially when the people who use them non-ironically to attack gamers who aren’t super talented are just as likely to deserve the label themselves. Nobody’s born an elite gamer, and statistically most people aren’t the best. Just stoppit.

Runner-up would be things like “race to world first.” I’m pretty dang tired of developers trying to make basic MMORPG PvE into a competition. It seems desperate and sad.

I’ve made my case for “endgame” before too.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX): Thanks for opening up the can of worms, Bree. I think we need to give up the term “DPS.” Why? Because it’s too mainstream now, man. Everyone uses this term in everything and it’s honestly overused now. I would be totally fine if we went back to DD or something; what I care about is that we have a term that only MMO diehards would use. And yes, it’s only for the sole reason of people who aren’t MMO players using our terms. Does it sound super backwards elitist? Of course it does! That’s the point. The trinity terms used to be part of our secret MMO language, and it’s not anymore. Back then, you would know who was really into MMOs just by listening to their language. Now even Fortnite-playing middle-schoolers trot the term around. It frustrates me that jocks blurt the term out like they know everything about gaming culture just because they know the acronym. It drives me nuts.

Oh man, I really lost it there.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I’m not sure it’s used an awful lot anymore, but the mentality is certainly still there. “Tryhard” needs to get the boot. The idea that you should put effort into doing something but not too much effort really baffles me, let alone that trying to complete an in-game task or objective with all of your might is somehow worthy of derision. Seriously, at what point did working your butt off to help a team clear a goal become a bad thing?

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Oof, that’s surprisingly tough. There are PR phrases (“highly anticipated!”) that drive me crazy, offensive player phases (“retard, raped, etc.”) that could use to be retired, and some leet-speak that’s gone archaic at this point. But I guess the buzzword that I really want to see gone is “dynamic.” It’s one of those words like “amazing” that is overused, been applied to every situation under the sun, and as a result it doesn’t tell us anything about anything. Use other, more precise words to explain what your feature does, MMO. It’ll only take a few more seconds to do and will be vastly more helpful to those of us learning about it.

Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): Here’s a hot take: The word MMORPG should be banned from the MMORPG lexicon. I completely understand that the meaning of words and phrases change over time. But the term MMORPG really doesn’t mean the same things that it used to, and because of that, it carries such a stigma that many developers don’t even want the term attached to their games. Historically, the term was coined by developers of Ultima Online, an open-world, community-guided, and persistent online game. Now, MMORPG pretty much means World of Warcraft to most people who know the term.

Here’s another hot take: I don’t blame WoW for this. I actually blame all of the developers who believed that they could make a quick buck by jumping on the WoW bandwagon. Because there were so many games attempting to emulate World of Warcraft, the term MMORPG no longer means the same thing it used to, and to get rid of the stigma and confusion, I believe we should do what many developers have already done: get rid of the term altogether.

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): I have multiple answers to this question. I play Black Desert Online on Valencia, and I am going to take a stand against “meow.” The cats seemed to go underground for a while, but I have seen a small uptick in meowing in server chat recently. If you’ve been on Valencia for a long time, you’ll know what I am talking about. I generally don’t mind the meowing, but it used to get a little ridiculous at times. On the other hand, it isn’t sexist, racist or political, so maybe server chat needs more meowing, not less.

I could do without “meta.” I know there’s a lot of metagaming in MMORPGs, and I am fine with using meta for that, but it seems that some people think “meta” just means “optimal build” (which, to be fair, you might arrive at through the aforementioned metagaming). That latter use gets under my skin. Yes, I know that it is specialized jargon at this point, and that semantic drift happens. I am a lot less pedantic than I used to be. It’s a personal quirk of mine. I know it is stupid.

I think that MMORPGs in general could stand to lose “virgin” and/or “gay” as insults. Only one word can be eliminated? Pick either. My reasoning is: It’s 2019! Grow up, people!

Finally, “MMORPG” is largely meaningless at this point. It is used to describe so many different kinds of games that you have to really look into a game to figure out whether it is a persistent world RPG, an instance-based RPG, a lobby-based, instanced fighting game, a relatively large server multiplayer game (say, 32 or 64 or even 128 players per server), or literally any other kind of online multiplayer game that decides to tag itself as an “MMO” for no apparent reason. And a lot of people seem to associate “MMORPG” with a game being a time sink, a grind, and generally not something for people with real lives. It isn’t a terribly helpful term, and it might be working against getting more persistent world RPGs into development. They take a lot of time and money to develop, and if MMORPG isn’t clear enough to describe the project so people know what it is and the term makes many people run screaming away from the project, maybe it is time to ditch that term.

Tyler Edwards: Oh, I could probably come up with a lot, but the first that came to mind is “welfare epics.” Putting aside the petty video game elitism of it, using “welfare” as a slur is shaming to real people who rely on social assistance to survive. It’s disgustingly insensitive, a symptom of how we as a society always stigmatize poverty as a moral failing rather than the result of economic systems and societal inequality. Most people on welfare are among the hardest working people you’ll ever meet but are held back by economic factors, racism, sexism, disability, trauma, or other factors that have nothing to do with their willingness to work. Using “welfare epics” as a pejorative just further feeds the stereotype that social assistance means giving a free lunch to lazy people. The only advantage to the phrase “welfare epics” is that it’s one of those immediate signals to stay away from whoever is using it.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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