I have a nasty habit of doing big, long intros and then really small bodies in posts. It’s quite difficult to get around, and reminds me of a story…
Just kidding. Let’s get right to the point.
MMO role-playing is part of a larger movement in gaming which has no “proper name” that I’m aware of. I prefer to simply call it “unintended play”: The art of playing video-games in ways that the developers didn’t intend in the first place. Unintended playing isn’t just goofing around (although it can be) but is rather about playing games to different goals than those the developers designed it for. Mucking around in Grand Theft Auto is not, for example, unintended play. That’s part of what the designers were looking for. Now, by contrast, if you decided to play Grand Theft Auto by trying to see how much money you could make as an ‘honest citizen’, now that is unintended play.
The first example of unintended play I can remember seeing was the “Dance, Voldo, Dance” machinima. (Machinima as a whole can likewise be considered unintended play in most games.) In this, two players co-ordinated their play efforts in the game Soul Calibur 2, creating the illusion that the two Voldo characters they played were dancing to Nellie’s “Hot in Herre”. And then descending into juvenile sex jokes, but that’s beside the point. The point is that you don’t need to scroll too far down to find the suggestion, “I would bet that these two are dorks with no girlfriends. Guys, you need to get out of your parents basement and get a life. “
Sound familiar? How about we move to World of Warcraft, instead, and take a look at a few examples of brilliant unintended play there, too.
Inspired by the South Park Cartoon “Make Love Not Warcraft”, this guy hit level cap killing nothing but pigs. Now, if you ask me? That’s astonishingly clever. It must have taken him a considerable amount of research and dedication. His reward? Comments like, “That’s just sad” or “Well, that’s either very impressive, or completely sad. Maybe a little of each.”
Noor the Pacifist has been levelling steadily while refusing to kill anyone – He levels entirely through battleground daily quests, helping to win by disrupting flag captures and healing. To me, this is a very difficult but impressive effort – My only criticism is that he’s compromised himself by allowing the throwing of bombs to stop flag captures. The insults continue.
Here’s my favourite one. Cautious, who is very aptly named, went level 1-80 without a single death. She did this by, you guessed it, unintended play – remaining consistently within green experience zones with little chance of death until she finally managed to hit level 80.
I can’t even get to level ten without dying.
And she was still blasted for this. “Not a single 5 man or raid. I don’t see why this is impressive. Farming lower level mobs isn’t exactly difficult or risky.” Even though really, what she was doing was barely unintended play at all.
What’s intriguing is also that the tone never changes. The accusations of ‘living in your parent’s basement’ remain. The ‘get a girlfriend, get a life’ comments continue… oh my god.
This is the thing. Naturally people deduce fairly quickly the intended goals of the game. And most people, fairly sensibly, move to achieve those goals. So when others don’t, well, it’s seen as proof that they can’t. We’re not achievers, we’re seen as pointless. As Gweryc the Melee Hunter argued, “I think the really violent reactions come from highly competitive players who can’t reconcile themselves to the idea that I am, in essence, playing a different game than they are.”
But just like the nerds in high school weren’t pointless, we are achieving something. We’re doing more. Those who mock will never get to level 70 by only killing pigs. They’ll never dance with Voldo. And they’ll never have your story.
All they’ll ever do is kill Yogg-Sagon. Like almost everyone else will. Just play the game the way you enjoy it, and hopefully enjoy the way others play it too.
Edited after excellent observation by Elleiras