The Psychology of Video Games podcast recently did a bit on “murder hobos,” and yes, Dr Jamie Madigan does point out that the term is insensitive, but it’s also shorthand for the type of players who allow their characters to kinda just roam the world and do whatever they want without much of a moral or even logical compass. Madigan is focused on tabletop games, but of course MMORPG players have been using the term for more than a decade, maybe two, and in my mind it’s even more applicable to our often homeless, often tattered, often murderin’ wanderers.
See, unlike the “good tabletop role-playing gamers gone bad” Madigan describes, MMORPG players aren’t just traipsing around killing everything in sight for a few coins because we as players are bored or have lost our moral compass. We don’t have to “manufacture reasons for [our] characters’ malicious behavior” because the MMORPGs themselves do it for us. They put us in these ridiculous situations and shatter any illusion of moral choice from the first dead rat; they make us literally homeless, without family or friends or furnishing, and push us along from random unrelated purpose to random unrelated purpose until we’re not even reading or thinking about what we’re doing for coins and progression. They treat it as a joke, so we treat it as a joke – here I’m thinking back to the “illusion of life” and “empathy degradation” piece we did last year.
And sure, there are exceptions to this rule, like MMOs with branching storylines, alignments, and non-combat activities, but overall, it’s kinda like MMORPGs are the worst DMs ever.
Are you playing a “morally disengaged murder hobo” in MMOs? How often do you go out of your way to be anything but? Which MMOs are the best for people who want to avoid these pitfalls?