A week or two ago, the MOP writers were chatting about people flipping tables over River Hobbits in Lord of the Rings Online (sigh) when MOP’s Chris deemed it a “certified bruh moment” of the sort that make you kinda embarrassed to be associated with an MMORPG. Obviously, I had to steal this idea for Massively Overthinking because even though I would defend this big dumb genre to the death and have devoted way too many years of my life to chronicling it, there are most definitely some cringe corners of it that I wish weren’t there. And it’s easy to forget how niche our genre’s turmoils are until suddenly you find yourself explaining some obscure uproar to a normal person and you listen to the words coming out of your mouth and oh no.
So let’s do this, writers and readers: What makes you embarrassed to be an MMORPG player?
I think the most embarrassing part for me is the time sink, especially on repeatable content grinds for gear. I spent so much time in raids, banging my head against content I’d beaten several times before for… nothing. Yeah, maybe eventually I got something neat that wouldn’t be upgraded in a year, tops, but those raid experiences were both boring and unrelatable to most gamers, let alone non-gaming people. I feel like, when talking to non-gamers, it’s easier for them to understand if I collected a million pieces of wood to build a ship that I nearly lost to other players than saying I raided Fire God 2.0 for three months to get a cloak that gives me a few statistical bonuses. If I’m sinking my time lately, I want the content to be something I can share with friends or relate to non-gamers. That, or at least get some exercise out of my grind!
Andy McAdams: I generally wear the “I love MMOs” as a badge of honor and talk extensively about the positive impact they’ve had on my life over the last… longer than I want to think about… time. But the thing that makes me embarrassed to be an MMO player are communities of MMOers. Whether its forums, Reddit, Discords – there are so many players who make it seem like a given developer is the Second Coming, or as if they personally targeted individual players, murdered their families, and kicked their puppy.
We even see that behavior here in our own comments sometimes. There’s a whole lot less nuanced conversation about MMO games than I would prefer. It’s really hard to make it seem like we are a rational group of people when you see things like, “You changed this skill and absolutely ruined the game and it’s going to die and you should feel bad and die in a fire” (roughly paraphrased of course). This group of folks exists in every community and fandom, but MMOs just seem to be “blessed” to have them in spades.
And here I am, talking about how amazing these worlds are and how great the people you meet are, and a lot of folks’ only frame of reference is the “DIAF” crowd and South Park.
tl;dr The community is both the reason I love MMOs and the reason I am embarrassed to be an MMO player.
Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Honestly, I am seldom embarrassed by the actual games (all games are silly, and they are supposed to be). I’m not embarrassed when mainstream gamers try to make us feel lesser (they just come off like jerks). I’m not even embarrassed by some of the weird things people do in MMOs (you wanna sex chat in the inn while wearing a robot vampire dinosaur outfit and collect eighty billion minipets, I don’t care, whatever, you do you). I am mostly embarrassed by the way the most toxic MMO players behave when they know people are watching – the tacky low-effort trolling in general chats, the entitled diva behavior on forums, the self-assured ignorance on Reddit, the death threats and brigading and reviewbombing and tribalism. I’m not gonna say it’s never been worse (believe me, it was bad in 1997 too, just smaller), but embarrassing? Yes. The genre has grown up, but too many players never did.
Also, maybe I’m gonna sound like Your Mom here, but the next one of you who buys a preorder/early access game and then comes back here to complain at us about it being bad/unfinished/broken after we DONE WARNED YOU is getting a colorful commenter title. Like seriously guys, can we stop acting like willing marks for the industry scameroonis for five seconds?
So that’s my answer. It’s not the games. It’s the people who make MMO gamers look like assholes or idiots. Or both. Stoppit.
Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX, YouTube, Twitch): OH GOSH, there’s SOOOO many! Big standouts are pretentious players that are overly zealous about literally everything related to their game of choice. I’m talking about those smarter-than-you types who act pretty smug when they talk. I’m talking about the types who will take every opportunity to nag someone in chat if a conversation somehow goes in a direction that they don’t like. I’m talking about the types who would probably punch you through the computer with a printed copy of the game’s TOS balled up into a fist the very second someone talks about modding a game. Extra cringe if they open their sentences on YouTube comments with, “I must say…” like they’re some kind of royalty.
I had a bad experience with these types when my guild transferred to a new pair of leaders, and while they aren’t bad people, they attracted the exact type of folks I described above. It was horrible. Our Discord became a labyrinth of unused chats. It eventually got so bad that our old leader came back and cleaned house, got rid of all the randoms, and consolidated everything. Things are fine now, but my guild got lucky. Just knowing those overly bloated, overly compartmentalized, and overly moderated guilds exist just make things even more difficult to attract people.
Honorable mentions go to overly negative MMO players and YouTubers!
Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): The first and most immediate cringe moment from a game I otherwise adore is definitely the ill-advised ERP venue billboard from Final Fantasy XIV, but I also have to admit that I’m embarrassed to consider myself a Destiny 2 player considering how horrible sweatlord PvPers are treating Bungie’s devs, and of course there’s the bugbear of having found enjoyment in Blizzard’s games like Diablo III with all of the studio’s malfeasance now laid bare.
I also have to admit that I kind of feel disgusted being even barely associated with interest in Blue Protocol considering how many people are still shrieking like poked chickens about “censorship” in the game. That’s perhaps more a problem with anime fans in general, but it still makes me rake my fingers across my face.
Finally, I have to once more nod in the direction of Lost Ark and its endgame gatekeepers who almost immediately laid stakes into the ARPG at launch to ensure there were immediate demands of players at max level. Thanks for blowing apart literally any interest I otherwise was building in that game, guys. Very cool of you.
Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): I have moments where I am explaining how MMORPGs work to someone so that I can tell them a story about what happened in a game, and I realize, “Oh, man… I am that nerd.” At least I don’t usually have to explain why I am paying $15 month for the privilege of being that nerd anymore.
I do get why people have strong feelings about what goes on in their MMOs. You’re making a significant investment of time, effort, and your personal social capital. It’s really hard to talk about that in a world where games are not associated with making commitments. That said, sometimes what I read in server chat makes me embarrassed to be a player in the same venue as those buttmonkeys.
Sam Kash (@thesamkash): I think trying to explain the fun or how I enjoy content in an MMO to a non gamer can make me a bit embarrassed, mostly because lots of people outside the genre still think of MMOs as only WoW and the old stories of people losing all their time to it. I think after a few comments you can relate it to spending time in many hobbies, but it can still be tough to break that stereotype barrier in their mind.
Tyler Edwards (blog): Mostly other MMORPG players. The elitist raiders. The teabagging gankers. The ERPers in Goldshire. The people who go out of their way to make their outfits and behaviour as immersion-breaking as possible. The racist trolls in general chat. The Lost Ark players who get weirdly angry when child-like characters can’t wear lingerie. The unending cycle of outrage over every single attempt to make money off an online game.