Earlier this week, Polygon ran a piece on Animal Crossing: New Horizons players who were not happy. It’s not because of the game, or the devs, or nerfs, or bugs, or anything like that. It’s because, according to these folks, social media is busy enshrining the best characters, coolest outfits, best rooms, niftiest decor, and “regular” players feel very much left out, as if they’re playing an entirely different game. One gamer said he felt “shabby and inadequate,” while another noted he/she felt really good about his/her museum but came to Twitter only to realize “everyone else has just finished constructing the [M]esopotamian empire.”
“It’s like the Instagram effect that comes with seeing what rad time other people are having and then feeling bad about your comparatively boring life, but applied to a video game,” article author Patricia Hernandez opined.
FOMO and jealousy have long been an issue in MMOs, of course, since we can see other players in our games all day long, and it’s not just some free-to-play problem. Some MMO developers have willingly exacerbated these feelings under the deeply misguided and potentially harmful belief that it is envy that begets high-level play and retention. For example, here’s a former WildStar boss, explaining why he wanted raiders to get all the best stuff: “Having people run around in that awesome raid gear that you’re like, ‘Holy crap, where did you get that?’ and then not seeing everyone in the city in the same stuff because you dumbed the raids down so any schmuck could do it.” Gee, wonder whatever happened to that game?
Anyhow, I don’t really think Animal Crossing is going for that on purpose, but it happens anyway. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” yes, but avoiding comparison is hard as heck in the modern world, especially when studios are using it for marketing and psychological tricks to part you from your money – and make no mistake, people posting their elaborate constructions on Twitter are performing free marketing for Nintendo. So how do you handle it? How do you deal with jealousy and FOMO in your MMORPGs?