Massively Overthinking: Our favorite MMO stories of 2021


Every year, we give a nod to the biggest MMO story, but in 365 days, a whole lot more happened than just one narrative. We publish many thousands of articles in one trip ’round the sun, and some of our best work and most interesting pieces often fall by the wayside on our journey.

So let’s just pause this starship and poke around the wayside for a minute. For this week’s Massively Overthinking, I’m asking the MOP team and our readerbase to select their favorite article or articles on the site this year, something we’re really proud to have written, published, or read, something that’s fun or clever or important or just plain wholesome.

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Man, this was tough. I’ll tone things down from my usual gushing, but I do want to say that Bree hit things hard this year, and I am always proud that she’s my editor. My WoW-playing brother is starting to get her articles, such as our Blizzard coverage, popping up in his google feeds without me linking to our site (I’ve always been terrible at promoting the site to people I know in meatspace).

That being said, there is one article I want to highlight. Eliot’s 10 point summary of MMO history. I was dying while I read this, especially the start of item 4 and all of 9.

As for my own work, I feel like I did some good stuff this year. GDC is always super inspiring, and I’m so proud of how well we cover it compared to other outlets, but I think I’m going to go with my thought piece on reconsidering social media as an MMO. I was literally scaring myself as I went through each point and saw how one could objectively argue that Twitter is an MMO, and it was neat to see some of your comments on that.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I don’t do a lot of opinion pieces, but my favorite column this year that I wrote was the exploration of how megacorps like Amazon can brute-force a small genre like the MMO genre in a way similar to the music industry’s consolidation. It seemed like coming full-circle back to the multiplex monotony piece that was one of the very first pieces I did when we founded New Massively. We blog in interesting times.

I also want to highlight a few other pieces from our team too: Justin’s call for the removal of legendary items from LOTRO; Eliot’s controversial piece on so-called welfare epics; Chris’ earnest coverage of Elite Dangerous Odyssey; Ben’s relentless pieces on the Wargaming debacles; Carlo’s research into Pearl Abyss; Colin’s sharp analysis of the Icebrood Saga’s failings; Tyler’s thoughtful breakdown of interconnected New World systems; Sam’s scrutiny of New World’s PvP; Andrew’s extensive coverage of Niantic’s shenanigans; Andy’s examination of Jagex’s bizarre scandals; and Larry’s and Mia’s triumphant returns in Hyperspace Beacon and MMO Cartographer. I’ll highlight MJ’s best streams in a separate roundup, but I am so glad we’ve got her back at the helm of Massively Uplifting now too. It was a good year!

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX, YouTube, Twitch): Phew, this is a tough choice for me. Good thing this isn’t “best article you read in the bathroom,” since I do 80% of my MOP reading on the can. So it’s actually a blessing in disguise. But after cruising through our many articles, I narrowed it down to two. One I wrote, and another that Justin wrote. I’ll start with Justin’s first. The whole reason I even learned about Massively OPs existence is through Justin’s Game Archeologist column. So for this year, my favorite Game Archaeologist article is The virtual worlds of the 1990s. That was always a mythic time for me; I was still way too young (and it was way too expensive) to play MMOs, so any peek into that past is something I’m immediately reading regardless of being in the bathroom or not!

As for an article I personally wrote, it’ll have to be Four Winds: Why are Asian MMOs monetized the way they are? It was a particularly challenging article to write because it’s one that’s never actually been done before on the internet. This article was meant to address the various Reddit threads that ask “Why are Asian MMOs pay-to-win?” and “Why are Korean MMOs so grindy?” Those threads usually end up upvoting poorly researched and anecdotal responses. They did more damage than good and inadvertently spread a stereotype rather than actually teach something new about other cultures. It actually took me a month to write it out just because I really wanted to get it right. If you ever get some bathroom reading time, I highly recommend reading it!

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): Personally, I’m unnaturally proud of my list of stupid yet fun Elite Dangerous ship designs piece. It was just a lot of fun to put together, and it was nice that Bree agreed to the whole idea. I don’t know that anyone else cared, but I liked it.

As for others’ work, this will read like a cop-out but I have to nod to everything Eliot had to write about for WoW Factor. I can’t imagine how aggravating it is to write about a game and studio that constantly demonstrates itself as being gleefully awful on a weekly basis without kicking over all the desks. Maybe the fact that he also gets to write about Final Fantasy XIV helps a bit. Maybe. Regardless, big kudos to him.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): While I don’t think it’s the best piece I wrote this year, my final Casually Classic column felt like the most nakedly honest. I really struggled with whether or not to quit World of Warcraft in the aftermath of the Blizzard scandal revelations, while also trying to navigate how other players might have reasoned out their decisions as well.

As for our other many talented writers on the site, it’s always hard to narrow down to just one — so I’ll do three! A piece that Tyler wrote about how single player RPGs can never match MMORPGs really resonated with me, I was rejoicing to see Larry tackling SWTOR again, and Mia made me snort with this MMO Cartographer title.

Tyler Edwards (blog): I think my favourite column we published this year — probably one of my favorite columns from the entire history of the site, in fact — is Eliot’s piece on the meritocracy myth: It quickly and eloquently explains not just why a game’s success or failure is often due to many things beyond its quality, but also why so many don’t want to believe this is the case. It’s the sort of thing that should be required reading for anyone who wants to comment on the MMO genre — or really any medium of entertainment.

As far as my own work goes, and on a similar note to the above piece, this year the column I’m most proud of is my Soapbox on how we need to accept a certain lack of polish from games that are trying to innovate: Time and again we see the same cycle: Someone tries to bring a fresh take to online games, it gets lambasted for being “clunky” or “janky” or lacking content, it dies, and everyone stands around wondering why MMOs never seem to innovate. I doubt my little column will do much to change the conversation, but at least I got that frustration off my chest.

At the turn of every calendar year, the MassivelyOP team assembles a traditional feast of annual content for your table. We recap the year, issue awards, highlight our favorite (and least favorite) stories, and gather your opinions together to send off the last year and welcome the new one. Grab a plate and take a bite out of this year-end Massively Overthinking!
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