The inspiration for this guide struck me with its +4 Fire Damage Hammer of Glor’goth when I realized just how much of the day I spend talking about MMORPGs alone, never mind playing. I cannot claim complete authority on this diverse topic, but for you, dear reader, I shall elucidate some of those peculiar things you might have heard that group of strange non-J.Crew-clad folk babbling about at the dining table next to yours.
MMORPG is in fact an abbreviation for “Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game,” and if you, noble reader, need clarification on any part of this acronym then I suggest you read another article than this, or perhaps visit dictionary.com quickly. The premise of an MMORPG (henceforth known as MMO) is this: a large pool of players connected to the Internet link themselves on a game server, on they may interact (kill) monsters constructed of pixels and/or kill each other, all in a safe, non-threatening cyber setting, with no “real” social interaction, if by “real” one means “inebriated” or “legally dead due to alcohol poisoning.” For all the silly stereotypes of World of Warcraft players pasted to their computers for days on end, the MMO provides a number of avenues into the study of human society in microcosmic goodness. The author shall below venture into several fields of interest for the freelance A.B. mind (any B.S.E. reader not already conversant with MMO culture must pinch herself several times, as she is most likely asleep or dead). Also, this guide is npdf and I rigorously apply the grade deflation as per the University’s standards.
Any of you who have used an Instant Messaging program will know well the temptations of that dread creature, Abbreviation. But the MMO goes far, far beyond the simple mutations encountered in an IM conversation to construct sentences such as “OMFG, some nub TKer just Leroy Jenkinsed his guildies on that mob of dire aardvarks!” Yes, dear reader, to play an MMO with flair, one must be intimately acquainted with the peculiar lexicon of the game. Below I shall define a few essential terms:
Aggro- (V./Adj.) Short for “aggress,” to attack. Can apply to monsters that attack the player’s character, or other players’ characters that attack. Also used as Adjective. Example: Careful on your way here, those Devious Kangaroo mobs aggro.
Cyber- (V./Adj.) Apart from the more conventional meaning, also used to signify the MMO equivalent of a hookup. Except instead of imbibing Coors Lite, one’s characters might indulge in some ale from the local inn as foreplay.
Dire Aardvarks- (N.) Similar to regular aardvarks, but with sharper teeth. Or any teeth, for that matter.
Drops- (N.) Items collected by looting dead monsters. Also, lewt.
Farm- (V.) To repeatedly kill a single mob of monsters or harvest a single resource, usually in the same area, for experience and items (see “XP” and “Drops”). Sometimes used in conjunction with/as synonym to “grinding.”
Guildies- (N.) Members of one’s “guild,” or organization, usually with insignia and extended interactions with other members, similar to an Eating Club. Some even require a testing process similar to bicker, though the existence of illicit cyber-activities on the third floor of the Guildhall is questionable.
Hax/H4X/etc. -(Adj./N.) Synonymous with “astounding” and “brilliant.” Originates from “Haxor” (Hacker), thus implies illegitimate nature. Example: These +15 boots of endurance are hax!
HP- (N.) “Hit Points,” also understandable as “Life Points.” These are reduced when a player character is injured in battle and can be restored, usually through rest, food, or some other magical maneuvering. Sadly for a few truly dedicated players, resurrection by eating magic bread is impossible when one loses in battle to a speeding truck.
Leveling Up- (N.) A sacred rite by which one’s character reaches a landmark in self-improvement; generally marked by the opportunity to expand the character’s skills and powers. Example: He leveled fourteen times last night! Hax!
Mob- A group of monsters.
Noob/nub/newb/etc.- Transformation of “newbie,” term for one new to the game. Often used in derision when spelled improperly. Example: That stupid noob just stole my mob!
TK- The act of killing one’s teammate player characters (often used derogatively, as opposed to “PvP”, legitimate player-versus-player fighting).
XP- “Experience Points.” The difference between a Noob and an Experienced Player; a highly coveted resource obtained by fighting mobs repeatedly. See “Farm”. Example: WTH? I just soloed that huge mob and only got 4 XP?
Any well-informed reader will know that there is no free lunch–or, for the player of MMOs, there is no such thing as free gold. Purchasing gold from eBay or www.thisisasuspicioussite.tv are but variations on the theme.
Game economies offer a powerful legitimizer for MMO players who crave more than just the satisfaction of bringing down mob after mob of Killer Oaks. Instead of mindlessly farming low-level enemies for the meager XP and drops, in-game day traders are mavens of the game market, ruthlessly buying out players less intimately acquainted with the optimal prices of Small Hobgoblin’s Boots and +1 Tridents of Spira’ga. MMO economists are the high rollers of game society, regardless of whether they actually are working at G-ldman S-chs or are instead eaters of cereal and pizza in their parents’ basement. Yes, strange as it may seem, enlightened reader, there are those who pay to play a habit-forming computer game who then spend the bulk of their time making imaginary money. Shocking, but psychologically understandable, since there are also those who pay (with their souls) to work at a habit-forming occupation who then spend the bulk of their time making real money, which then goes to costly items they never get to see.
Moral: MMORPG economies > real economies, especially since there are no spastic tax cuts for the rich, and one gets to trade in such delightful drops as Evil Pumpkin Seeds rather than oil shares. Game economies are subject to real economic factors: expanded demand and limited supply increases price. The market is rarely obfuscated by the presence of monopolies; the ease of repeatedly typing “WTS perf Dragoboots”
[Translation: Want-to-sell perfect bonus Dragoboots] is attested to by the constant crashing of my computer whenever I go to a chatroom with a lot of players. Moral: free trade > PCs.]
What more fitting way to conclude this general survey of MMOs from an A.B. perspective than to describe the patterns of behavior in MMO society? Unsurprisingly, there are striking similarities between game society and, er, “real” society, if one dares apply such a concrete term. There are masses of the proletariat and oligarchies of the elite, there are the anarchists determined to give game developers headaches the size of the Eurasian landmass through gross exploitations of coding errors, and there are, unamazingly enough, the perpetual shades of Bigotry, Elite Entrenchment, and Unjustified Violence. See the two case-studies below for lucid demonstrations of these terrible and seemingly permanent human ills.
Player who has been playing for a total of forty seconds arrives at a city gate. She is immediately set upon and derided for her existence by three players in +270 Elite Coronets of No Social Life: “omfg who do u think u r nub playing gay dark elf now we kill u retard”. Alas, sympathetic reader, racism, homophobia, IQism, and experienceism win out even in the idyllic pixel-made world of the MMO.
Player engages second player in fair, consensual Player-versus-Player battle. Second player, upon ignominious defeat, sends private messages threatening the victor: “my dad is a developer ha whos laffin now u fob i have a limousine 2 go 2 school.” Ah, dear Princeton reader, there need be no explanation here, for we are all too familiar with the wise adage–absolute legacy corrupts absolutely.
Let not these negative images of MMOs stop you, inquisitive reader, from trying your first! The bad and ugly cannot overwhelm (entirely) the good of in-game society. Apart from generous help from strangers (all the more distant for the anonymity of their pixelated faces), players benefit from close associations and clubs, or “guilds” (see Linguistics section). While such clanning does promote much ill feeling in the form of rival guilds fighting for resources and territory, they also allow players to become acquainted with new friends. And if you, cynical reader, doubt the genuine goodwill between guildies because of their purely internet-based relationship, I suggest you be a bit more careful of whom you choose to “friend” on the Facebook. Might also want to be careful of that “alohagirl567” on your Buddy List. Cybering with someone from Craigslist just isn’t quite the same as cybering with one’s in-game spouse. In all fairness, at least in the latter situation you can ask them for alimony in gold. That is, unless they are a horrid Dark Elf. Those uncouth creatures are only fit for extermination.