6 Surprises Players Can't Handle
by Tyler Edwards, Sep 19, 2012
As much as MMO players may pine for more dynamic games, the truth is that they are, by and large, a group that doesn't like the unexpected. MMO players tend to be creatures of habit, and surprises, especially unpleasant surprises, are not welcomed. In some cases, their minds seem to shut down completely in the face of something unplanned; they are unable to comprehend this unthinkable turn of events. These are some of the unexpected things that can fill MMO players with horror, anger, and utter incomprehension.
6: Men playing as women:
We've all heard the stereotype: If you meet a female character in an MMO, it's played by a man. While the population of GIRLs (Guys In Real Life) may be exaggerated, it is true that they are incredibly common.
There are many reasons a man might choose to play a female avatar: eye candy, rol-playing reasons, a change of pace, not liking the male models. Considering MMOs are full of people playing as zombies, Elves, Dwarves, Ogres, and aliens, it doesn't seem so odd for someone to choose to play as a gender other than their own.
But despite its prevalence and its myriad of potential explanations, there is still a surprisingly large number of MMO players who find it absolutely baffling that there are men who play with female avatars.
"But you're not a girl! Why would you play as one?" they ask - probably without such appropriate grammar. The irony of the fact that they're a human cashier playing as an Orcish warrior is apparently lost on them.
It's difficult to understand the confusion and derision people direct toward GIRLs, considering it's such a common phenomenon. Perhaps they're scared they might enjoy playing as a woman if they ever tried it. Perhaps they had a bad experience where they tried hitting on a girl, only to discover it was a GIRL. Maybe they just don't have a lot of imagination.
5: Unusual game mechanics:
After years of slogging through Warcraft clones, MMO players are starved for new experiences. A fever of excitement greets any game that dares to defy the standard formula. But yet, many players may not be as ready for these new features and mechanics as they think.
The sad truth is that, after years of sameness in the MMO genre, players have become accustomed to playing a certain way, even if they don't realize it. When they enter a game where things are played differently, their minds sputter and stall as they struggle to remember how to play a game that isn't World of Warcraft with a fresh coat of paint.
You'll see this if you play something like Guild Wars 2. Many people were excited by the game's rejection of the "holy trinity" of group roles - tank, healer, and damage dealer - but it seems players are not so able to let go of the trinity as they thought. This is particularly apparent in the dungeons of GW2; by all reports, many groups are hitting the wall as their thieves and rangers still tunnel vision on damage dealing as if someone will come along and heal them, their warriors still act as if they can simply charge in and face-tank bosses, and their guardians struggle to remember that they're not paladins and can't simply heal all the time.
People will probably adjust to innovative games eventually, but in the meantime, it's a struggle to brush the cobwebs off of brain cells left atrophied by years of playing variations on the same formula.
4: Any disagreement:
To be fair, this issue isn't unique to MMOs. The Internet in general is infected with a very severe case of, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON'T AGREE WITH ME?!?!!"
It seems that the moment anyone sits down at a computer, they lose the ability to understand or tolerate any viewpoint but their own. Whether it's a weighty political debate or something as inconsequential as whether some random starlet looked good on the red carpet, any difference of opinion seems destined to lead to a knockdown, drag out flame war that can grind on for what seems like an eternity.
The dense populations, complex rules, and real time communication found in MMOs make them something of a perfect storm of bickering. Character builds, boss strategies, PvP tactics, lore, roleplaying, fashion, and game design all form a powder keg of potential arguments.
"I think X build is better than Y build because Z."
"WHAT DO YOU MEANů"
"I think Raid A was more fun than Raid B."
"WHAT DO YOU MEANů"
And so forth.
Even the more wary among us may occasionally find ourselves stumbling into these mind numbing yelling matches disguised as debates. You make one innocent remark on one aspect of the "conversation," and suddenly you find yourself drawn in. You try to bow out, but, as if trapped in quicksand, your struggles only cause you to sink deeper into the quagmire.
3: New players:
You're probably noticing a trend in this list by now. Most of the things MMO players can't seem to cope with are things that don't fit into their own personal experiences and goals. Nowhere is this lack of empathy more apparent than when people encounter someone new to a game.
It seems as though many MMO players lose the ability to recall that there was a time when they, too, were new to the game. As far as they're concerned, they logged in with a full set of raid gear, perfect understanding of all boss mechanics, and intimate knowledge of the best builds for every single class - and everyone else in the game did the same.
So nothing short circuits their brains faster than the revelation that someone is new to the game and doesn't share their vast repertoire of knowledge.
"Hi, guys. I haven't done this dungeon before. Can someone explain the mechanics real quick?"
"WTF, this dungeon's been out for six months."
"I just joined the game."
At this point, the more experienced player will either fall into silence as they suffer a massive aneurysm or else begin bashing their keyboard in a red faced, caps lock abusing apoplexy of nerd rage.
Of course, not all MMO players are so harsh to the inexperienced, but if they try to defend the newbies from their less tolerant counterparts, things will devolve back to entry #4 on the list.
2: Non-traditional builds:
One of the downsides of MMOs is that theorycrafters will always find the "best" builds for every class and role. Once they do, the vast majority of players will always use these builds, but there will always be a few renegades running with builds of their own design.
Maybe they care more about a certain aesthetic or play style than performance, or perhaps they enjoy the challenge of making a less than perfect build shine. But to other players, these people are mind boggling enigmas.
This is similar to the reactions given to new players, but there's a difference. Whereas it tends to take a certain elitism to frown on newbies, everyone is confused by players with unconventional builds.
If you play with an uncommon build, you can expect virtually every player you run into to try and convince you to change. Some will rage and insult you, and others will be kind and helpful, but all will treat like a visitor from Neptune for your bizarre desire to step off the narrow path off theorycrafted perfection.
1: Server crashes:
Another unfortunate downside of MMOs as a genre is the inevitable server downtime. There are technical limitations that ensure no game will ever be playable 100% of the time. There are crashes, maintenance, and the like. This is common knowledge, but it's still amazing how many players react to it as if it is as unlikely as being struck by lightning while disco dancing in a graveyard with Kim Kardashian, and as appalling as a chainsaw massacre at an orphanage.
Server downtime is frustrating, of course. Especially if it's unplanned or runs long. A little grumbling from players it to be expected. But the reaction downtime creates is far beyond "a little grumbling."
If you ever want to know how people will react to the apocalypse when it comes, you should visit the official forums for a massively multiplayer game during server downtime. Every corner of the forum overflows with rage, grief, begging, horror, and confusion. Players insult the developers, plead to be let back into their game, and struggle to understand how such an unimaginable turn of events has taken place.
You might also find a few people who actually accept downtime as inevitable, who will invariably begin raging at all the complainers. See entry #4.
And then servers come back up again. The sun pokes through the clouds, tears are dried, and life goes on. Yet those same people will be back the next time the servers go down, once again reacting as if it has never happened to their game or any other ever before.