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Player Versus Player: The God Complex

Columns By Christopher Coke on June 09, 2015

The God Complex

MMORPGs have changed compared to what they used to be. They are now much more story driven, providing the player with a rich immersive story, but are we losing the core aspect of MMORPGs because of it?

Player Versus Player is your bi-weekly debate column where two MMORPG writers come head to head to discuss the issues you care about. Taking the podiums this week:


Chris “Fine Being a Hero” Coke - Chris enjoys an epic storyline. In the words of Enrique Iglesias, he can be your hero, baby.

Ryan “More the Merrier” Getchell - Ryan believes the future of MMOs look bleak if they continue down the path of creating a single hero story lines.

Ryan: Hello Chris, glad to have you here this week. I want to discuss something that has always bothered me: The God Complex, where the stories in MMORPGs have the player basically becoming a god within the world, performing tasks that no other person is able to do. Maybe it’s to defeat the main antagonist, someone who according to the story is this person of immense power and everything everyone else has done has failed. So they task you to go and kill him using powers you’ve obtained and more than likely learned from a trainer -- which means they are more powerful than you since they’re teaching you!

MMORPGs are suppose to be social games, yet the God Complex is removing that aspect. You can’t be the hero if your friend or a group of people are also heroes. Do you agree that the God Complex is something that should stay in single player games and should have never been introduced into MMOs?

Chris: Hi Ryan! Well that’s a doozy of a question.  I’d have to say I disagree but with a caveat. The God Complex is definitely something that’s gone too far but you have to respect the spirit behind it. MMORPGs want you to feel like the hero. That’s fun! I think what we’re about is the part of our brain we have to shut off when the NPC says “Hail, Hero!” then turns to the next guy to click him and immediately spouts off the same “Hail, Hero!”. It’s weird. But then again, I kind of like being my own personal Frodo. Don’t you?

Ryan: It’s not just about the NPCs calling everyone Hero, it’s the story lines. Why am I so much more powerful than, say, you or any other player. Like I said, there are trainers in the game that teach you everything you need to in order to defeat these bosses. Yet they can’t and they continuously speak about how powerful the antagonist is. It makes no sense. Couple this with story lines in MMORPGs being soloable, not requiring you to join a party or anything to complete it. Even if they made it require groups to complete things, allow me to create a group filled with NPCs so I can still in a way solo it. I play MMORPGs to be social and play with like minded people. I like being my own personal Frodo like you say, but in single-player games, not a game where I’m playing with other people, a game where I’m supposed to be just another person within the world.

Chris: Well, that’s the thing. I don’t mind the hero story lines because I don’t want to be just another person within the world. No matter what role I fill, I want to be exceptional somehow. If I’m a crafter, I want to be a renowned crafter. If I’m an adventurer, I want to save the world from evil. If I’m… well, you get the point. My question is why those things have to be mutually exclusive. Can’t I run through a hero storyline, with all of its epic beats (because epicness is what developers are going for, I think), and still be social with other players? Would it be better if you could turn your back on it and be that low key person or is it the existence of this type of gameplay that bothers you?

Before I toss it back, do you think these games could be mainstream if they did focus on the being “just another person in the world”? Many players, I think, turn to MMOs to escape being just another person in the world.

Ryan: I think I need to clarify, being a god or having a solo focused storyline is fine in a single player, but in a multiplayer game where you’re in a world filled with other real people how can you have a solo centric storyline. How can multiple people be the “Hero”. It makes no sense. A MMORPG is supposed to be a social game where is the social aspect when you have a game that is designed completely around a solo centric storyline? That’s the point I’m trying to make perhaps I’m not being as clear in text as I am in my own head. Take ESO for example you have a storyline where I, and only me, kill Molag Bal, or at least prevent him from executing his plans. However, everyone in the same world did that, how does that work? It doesn’t.

You think that players turn to MMOs to escape from being just another person in the world, whereas I think true MMORPG players, the ones who’ve been playing them for years and aren’t accustomed to the World of Warcraft ways (which I think ruined the MMO genre) play MMORPGs for the social aspect. To work as a team and become a hero but not THE hero.

Chris: Woah, woah, there buddy. I’d argue that lots of people like to be social and also be the hero. Why just one or the other? But I see your point, it does make no sense. I guess from my perspective, it doesn’t need to; years of video games have trained me to turn a part of my brain off. This conversation reminds me of why MMORPG worlds are so important. If you have a solid game world, you can have the best of both worlds: an epic storyline to follow and the ability to live in it, not just save it from the dire doom.

Ryan: But why do we have to turn parts of our brains off? Why can’t developers make games that coincide with some form of realism. That’s what immersion is all about, how well we connect with the world we’re playing it. But perhaps this topic that we’re beginning to delve into should be saved for another day.

Earlier you mentioned that you wanted to be just a crafter, as much as I would love this to be true, it’s never a possibility. At least not in any modern MMOs. You’re stuck to being the hero first, then you can focus on being that crafter. MMORPG worlds are so combat and solo story driven that there is no aspect to the game aside from blood and murder. But I digress this is for a different day I think.

Chris: I agree, and I think what the big point we’re agreeing on is this: MMOs need to be places you can exist in as more than just the hero. I like that I can take part in epic story beats but I also like to turn down and build up my fort, or chop lumber, or find a new recipe for HogBoar Stew (it’s delish!). If developers can do that, they can have the best of both worlds.

That’s all for this week, readers. Give us your opinion in the comments below!

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.

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