For the past three weeks or so, I’ve been considering writing something tangentially related to MMORPGs for The Devil’s Advocate. You see, there is this wonderful group of players who end up discussing the development of their characters on the most popular sandbox adventure known to man.
In observing their community for nearly a month, I’ve come to realize that while some people play games to cope with stress or enrich their worldview, some can take their life and modify their worldview within the context of an MMORPG and let that help them enhance how they treat life.
With a host of worthwhile features and the best graphics ever, I’d like to introduce you to Outside, “a free-to-play MMORPG developed by Deity Games” that hosts over 7 billion players concurrently on a single world server.
Going Outside, Inside
If you haven’t figured it out yet, today’s short essay is a discussion on subreddit known as r/outside. It’s hard to explain the premise of the subreddit aside from calling it a self-referential metafictional exercise, but I’ll try.
People who post on r/Outside are using the subreddit’s community guidelines to ask questions about life, personal enhancement, social mores, and existential philosophies. The catch is that everyone treats this as a forum for the game they’re all playing: real life. Using their own take on gaming lingo, the Outsiders (as I like to call them) use the subreddit as a place to destress from the idiosyncrasies of life. They also act as a support group, finding ways to better understand human situations using gaming terminology as the means of creating helpful analogies.
The subreddit is, at times, hilarious. For one thing, there’s a clever fellow who livestreams his games, by which I mean he takes videos of his garden while he tries to open a bottle of beer or saw wood robotically from a first-person perspective. He also sounds the part of someone who does professional livestreaming, which makes the sequence believable as well.
On the other hand, the subreddit is also open enough to accepting people asking for help with serious issues, such as dealing with the [Low Self-Esteem] debuff or being more social despite having the [Shyness] trait. It’s a safe space for serious conversation using non-threatening language.
Keeping Hopes Alive
While very little of this can actually be verified, some of the situations where people ask for help seem bizarre. One recent post talked about how one guy had a “pvp battle” with members of the justice guild and he was indicted and unable to continue his “street pharmacist” questline. The most sensible response, in my opinion, read:
“You can get booted off the server for any number of small things, it's way more likely (in doing the ‘street pharmacist questline’) than in almost any other questline. Seriously, go upgrade your character with a low-credit option (community college or something) and start a new questline. You can use the credits you've already gained to boost your new stats. It'll be a lot easier to switch questlines now rather than later on.”
Perhaps my favorite discussion was this life-afffirming thread where someone looked to be contemplating suicide (Deleting their character). In the link I’ve just posted, the best advice came from Spam4119, who basically explained that Outside constantly has new content coming in, and while some believe the acquisition of loot and gold is the endgame, that doesn’t have to be the standard of play for everyone.
“I find the in-game environments and interacting with other players to be the best part. That is just me though. I really have never found a game as open-world as this one... Skyrim doesn't even come close...
There are a lot of other players who also sometimes get fed up with the game. Griefers are around a lot... and they don't always get banned like they should. Sometimes people exploit the various quests and the admins don't seem to notice or care. We all deal with these things. Sometimes some of the feature implementation for immersion also seems to be too difficult such as the "pay to play" services in order to move out of your randomly assigned default starting location (and lets be honest, some default starting locations need to be waaaaaaay nerfed. Even "good" starting locations many times have too many random events that are way above most players' levels (even the high level ones)).
But even with these random events I have yet to see one that a player can't get past with some ingenuity and help from guildmates and by using the forum... Unplugging is an option, yes, but due to the DRM nature of the game once you unplug once all saved data is erased. For that reason alone I would suggest waiting out unplugging from the game.”
Spam4119 then goes on to suggest finding a support group or a “therapist” GM to get the post maker through the difficult times, adding that “These GMs are specialized in helping you enjoy the game again, as well as helping you explore and find a specific play style you can be happy with. I can tell you, this function is greatly underutilized.”
Simply put, Using non-threatening and non-judgmental language, one poster offered words of support and encouragement and went as far as to break character to offer the poster resources to get them through the tough time. As someone who’s been through those dark times myself, finding someone who will treat you with respect and offer you help to keep your hopes alive is a wonderful thing, and I’m amazed that a community of this sort came about to frame serious topics with a light sprinkling of gaming awesome.
The Point Being...
If you’re expecting some grand point or argument to be made as a result of this article, there is none. I admire the folks of r/outside for the cohesiveness and good-natured discussion, as in this day and age, it can be hard to find. Because of their interactions, I’ve grown to enjoy the practice of thoughtful discussion, allowing the things we love to shape us for the better instead of letting our fandoms become a crutch we rely on for the day-to-day.
Life is the biggest sort of showtime most of us will likely know, and while it isn’t a game, being able to step back and see the world as an interconnected masterpiece of social interactions, personal capabilities, and interrelationships between the people and the world is an impressive sort of skill to have.
Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate and ArcheAge columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.
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