I saw a comment in passing on Twitter today, that MMOs are just housing simulators, or something to that effect. And it didn't strike me as odd - in fact I pretty much agreed with that assessment. Houses are a great way to express yourself in a game world, a place to belong and make your own. Some games have you buy housing in predefined plots, others let you build them from scratch, truly making the space your own.
We have a whole column series now devoted to showcasing the hard work players put into housing as a matter of fact. But do you remember that first house? The first one you bought, whether it was your own personal player house or a guild hall?
I remember my time buying a house in-game. It was The Lord of the Rings Online, and the housing update had just come out. My entire kinship took the time off their busy jobs in order to sit at our PCs to secure the best housing plot in our neighborhood for our Kin House. 5 Waterbank Road, Gunlad, Falathlorn Homesteads, Arkenstone server (RIP Nimrodel). I personally didn't have the money to buy my own house, but we pooled what money we had as a kin to purchase our own home (and the rest of my Kinmates dominated the neighborhood by snapping up the rest of this primo Elvish real estate).
I remember being on a Teamspeak call with Ghunnar, our resident healer, and considered by some to be the best Minstrel on Nimrodel at the time, as well as a few of our other kin members as we all logged in to try to secure the plot, believing that the homestead would quickly fill up.
I love our Kinhouse. It's expansive, it's next to a really beautiful flowing waterfall just between a few of the smaller houses on the plot, while the river that runs through the neighborhood (and lends Waterbank Road its name) lazy streams by the perfect fishing spot. A gazebo stands alone among towering statues and trophies of our Kinship's victories, all flanking our "Best House in the Neighborhood" trophy.
But it might not have been had Ghunnar not been able to secure the plot. I remember the joy in all of our voices when we were able to secure 5 Waterbank Road (Ghun also bought 4 Waterbank Road for his house...which I now own because he's moved on to other games). I remember the first Kinship photo we took outside that house, all excited to make our mark more permanent in Middle-earth, regardless of it being tucked away among identical instances.
This was our plot of land we could shape, decorate and make our own. We've staged great Kin nights out of the shadow of the Kin hall, we've changed wallpapers, gotten drunk at the grog barrell more times than I can count. During the time where Class trait pages were hard to come by, we stored them in our chests for all of the kin to use when needed. Lathfara and Agarethir, two of our most vigilant members, have furnished the Kin house to make it a marvel compared to some others in our neighborhood.
It's home, even if I don't visit it every day, or even every week.
The memory of us trying to secure this house is one of my most cherished in all my years playing MMOs. I don't remember this same rush in ESO, mainly due to how the housing instances work - you can simply by the same house as someone else and furnish it how you want. Games where you build your own, whether it's a survival game like Conan Exiles or an MMO like ArcheAge give your house more individuality, but I'm not sure that first time I laid eyes on my Kin hall is beaten by the empty fort I built in Exiles. Final Fantasy XIV's housing comes close, with players staying up till 3 am recently just for the chance to become homeowners, something both Emily and Victoria covered so well in our recent FFXIV columns.
So I ask you, dear reader: Do you remember buying your first MMO house? How did it feel? Was a rushed affair, or were you able to shop around, take your time and really make a choice you're still happy with today? I know I am - whenever I get tired of the drap wastelands of Mordor or Minas Morgul, I venture home, to Gunlad, and stroll along Waterbank Road, smiling as the first large trophy of Eruchin's escapades comes into view.