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The RPG Files: This is Why We Play MMOs and RPGs

Columns By Christopher Coke on November 11, 2016

This is Why We Play MMOs and RPGs

Sitting down to write today’s column, I knew that I had to depart from the plan. With the election of a new President, the United States is burnt out and angry. We’ve spent so much time thinking about the serious business of who should lead, mulling over which is the lesser of two evils with controversy after controversy to make sure we never get a minute to rest, and social networks that so easily became debate stages and argumentative echo chambers. This is exactly why MMOs and RPGs are so important. Today, this week, there is no better time to be a gamer.

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It’s times like these that I am so grateful the I discovered RPGs. When I go home today, I have no other plan than to relax, spend time with my wife and kids, and sink into my couch to forget about the world. And you know what? I won’t be playing Call of Duty or any other jingoist pipe dream. I won’t be playing some serious business action game or the latest indie title that wants to teach me about social justice. No, tonight I’m loading up The Witcher 3. After that, I’ll probably play some Skyrim. Maybe later, Diablo. Frankly, I need it. Whether your candidate won or lost, I’m betting you’re probably ready for a break just as much as I am.

Why is it that we play MMOs and RPGs? The mechanics, sure. There’s nothing quite like building a character up from scratch. But speaking for myself, the reasons I play go deeper than that. For both genres, I love sinking into a whole other world. I like the freedom of it, the heroic nature of playing a role in an epic fantasy; saving the world never feels so good as after 30 hours of flirting with evil only to cast it on its face. It’s these long stories, these epic journeys that suck you in and make a meaningful respite from the day to day world.

Other games do this too, of course. What they tend to lack, however, is character. I enjoy many genres of video game. Most of us do, and if another genre does this for you, that’s great. For me, it’s the avatar, the embodiment of myself in another world that makes it click. The choices. The empowerment. It all only goes so far, of course. These are games, after all, and escapism is only healthy when done responsibly. But when I’m thinking about a new talent build for my Orc Death Knight and then hitting a 5-man to test it out, I’m not thinking about the bills, what I need for my kids, politics, or the rest of the world. For that little bit, the stresses and rigor of day to day fade away and I can just have fun. That’s the power of video games period.

Expressing this, people sometimes scoff. They trot out a lines about handling your problems and stressors and how escapism is a bad thing. Then they go off and drink a six pack or hide out in their garage or spend 16 hours in DOTA 2. Escaping all the time is a bad thing. Responsible people don’t hide from the things they don’t like in their lives. But taking a time out to do something fun isn’t just fine, it’s necessary. The same people telling you to look in the mirror all the time are the people who forget their own hobbies (or are just miserable).

Games, like movies, books, or nights out with friends all give you a break. Whether or not you use them that way doesn’t diminish that truth. For me, games are often not an “escape” so much as a time out; it’s a window for me to do something I enjoy and want to do instead of something I have to do. When I’ve wanted an escape, though, they’re good for that. And a lot of times, the instances we consciously want to “escape” are overwhelming and when we probably need “me time” the most. Responsibly.

Most of us are lucky enough to live in parts of the world where something like a bitter election is our biggest concern this week. Others aren’t so lucky. So take a minute and appreciate that the dust is beginning to settle and we can finally get back to what connects us instead of tears us apart.

Quick Hits

Bill has a review in of Obsidian’s new CRPG, Tyranny. Many of us were worried the focus on replayability would cut the campaign length to pieces, but with a 20-25 hour campaign and 40+ hours for completionist, Obsidian surprises us again! Bill gave the game an amazing 9 out of 10, but if that’s not enough be sure to check out his 30 minute Let’s Play.

Crate has updated their blog with information on two new baddies coming to the game - a swamp golem and the Aetherial Sentinel - and dropping a cryptic hint about what to expect in the upcoming expansion. Bonus points for using a Yoda quote.

Well this is interesting! Square has partnered with MZ to make an MMO based on Final Fantasy XVfor mobile. But don’t play the sad trombone yet! MZ is a gigantic company behind games like Game of War and Mobile Strike. Yes yes, those games are disappointing, but the tech underneath might just allow Square to pull off a large scale MMO on portable. With MZ’s 1000+ employees, development time might be less than we would think too.

November 7th marked “N7 Day” for the Mass Effect community and with it we got a whole slew of new details for Mass Effect: Andromeda. Of special note is the return of loyalty missions, which was a standout feature in Mass Effect 2. It’s also exciting to hear that you won’t be limited by class and can instead pick and choose skills to craft your own character. It also looks like we’re moving even further into the Action RPG world, as combat is said to be faster and jet pack fueled. Check our Suzie’s take here.

Finally, it wasn’t the expansion pack we hoped for, but Diablo 3 will be receiving exciting new content this year. To commemorate the 20th anniversary, Blizzard will be remaking the original Diablo inside Diablo 3. This will be a yearly event with 16 levels of dungeon with all new loot for your dungeon delving efforts, as well as remakes of classic items. The game will also be receiving its first paid class pack in the form of the Necromancer, though the price and official release date are not yet confirmed (though it is coming second-half 2017).

That’s all from us. Let us know what you think 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.