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Can Empathy Save PvP MMORPGs?

Tim Eisen Posted:
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Social media has desensitized us to it. Politics and media have abused it. PVP developers rarely consider it. I’m talking about the increasingly alien concept of...empathy! You know, feeling emotions for something that isn’t you, about you or related to things about you. A novel concept I know. If you think real hard you might recall having it back before you clicked your first browser icon and stepped into the dispassionate PVP MMORPG that is the internet.

99% of the internet is people yelling hate back and forth in arguments about ultra important things like religion, politics and if modern MMORPGs should have /stick. Forums, social media, comments sections, would any of them exist if people remembered how empathy used to work? What a zenful place this realm could be. Would it look something like r/wholesomememes? Or maybe an episode of Mr. Rogers featuring special guest Artist Bob Ross, no...that’d wouldn’t be a peaceful internet, that’d be heaven. (W-T-F does this have to do with PVP MMORPGs?)

I speak of empathy because I have a question for you, the millions-and The Tim means millions, (3,775,503 as of this writing) of adoring MMORPG.com keyboard assassins. Do PVP games need more empathy? Does empathy by definition (em·pa·thy ?emp?TH?/ Noun - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another) oppose the very nature of PVP games? Could developers code empathy without heavy handed PVP restrictions? (Apparently he has no clue.)

I have no clue, that part of the process is WAY over my paygrade but I do recall a striking example of the dangers that PVP without empathy represents. Lack of empathy, specifically lack of concern for your rivals playing experience, has ganked many PVP games including my beloved Star Wars Galaxies...

A long time ago on a server far far away...I logged in for the first time in a month (don’t ask) to find out the war between Rebels and Imperials had ended and the Imperials won! (YAY!) I always imagined what complete victory would look like! Did the developers get involved? I had to know more! I took a seat in our extravagantly decorated guild hall to hear the tale of how we conquered our evil foes.

I was told the Imperials started to dominate the majority of battles. Soon after their ranks thickened while the Rebel army thinned. (Scum is gonna scum.) This is the spark which so many PVP games fail to prevent until all of Kashyyyk is a blaze. Like true PVPers the Imperials were relentless. They increased their attacks until the Rebels were so outmatched and outnumbered they refused to fight! (Someone read The Art of War.) Still the Imperials didn’t give them an inch. When they couldn’t outright PVP with the Rebels they turned to verbal PVP in an attempt to draw them back into actual PVP.

After months of harassment the remaining Rebels moved on to different servers. Imperials declared victory without taking the time to realize they too had lost. Batman is only Batman because he has the Joker. The Joker gives him meaning, purpose! Why does the Joker always get away or break out of Arkham? Because Batman lets him! Batman needs him. Without his beloved enemy he would either become the villain himself of go even more insane. Before he knew it Batman would be picking fights with jay walkers and breaking legs over littering! Joker is the reason Batman gets out of bed at night. (He sleeps all day you silly.) You get my point.

The imperials were so bored they tried to convince members within their ranks to become Rebels. Of course that didn’t work, how could you become a filthy warmongering Rebel when you already had the honor of being an Imperial? (Maybe to learn to aim?) They tried PVE but, as any PVPer knows, that’s like putting peanut butter on your toast when your Nutella runs out.

Not long after the failed PVE attempt the Imperial guilds started bleeding members. To stave the wounds entire guilds re-rolled on new servers with more active PVP, mine was no exception. A few months into leveling on my new server I logged back into my old server for memories sake. It felt like a time capsule. Frozen, still. I spoke to a person, the only one I saw, in the Bestine cantina only to find out they were doing the same thing I was, logging in just for the feels while their new server was down for some reason. (LOL you are talking about SWG, like those servers ever needed or had a reason to be down on any given day at any given time!) Lack of empathy claimed another victim. How many PVP games has it felled?

So again I ask, had the players of now dead PVP games had more empathy for their rivals might their servers be alive today? I don’t blame PVPers, empathy is generally the opposite of what we feel toward our enemies, but maybe that needs to change if we wan’t PVP games that last longer than a few months before turning into digital cime capsules where only force ghosts and memories remain.


Tim Eisen

I roleplay a wordsmith that writes about the technological and social evolution within the game industry