Emote Control:

How MMOs Make us Feel

by Shayalyn

intellect may be confused, but your emotions will never lie to you.”

- Roger Ebert

Can a computer make you cry? That’s what the Ten Ton Hammer editorial
staff is wondering this week. What sorts of emotional experiences do
MMOs evoke? Since I have no Vanguard experiences to emote about yet, I
chose to dig into my past with other MMOs, namely EverQuest and Guild
Wars. With EverQuest, my most emotional experiences were born of
interacting with friends. In Guild Wars, a game I played largely solo,
I found myself moved by well-written and engaging quests and lore.

I’m one of those people who can have a good time in a game playing
solo, and I did plenty of that in EQ, but my best times involved
getting together with my guild friends. What I remember most was
laughter, and plenty of it. Humor was never in short supply among my
friends, and we made the most of it. There are plenty of funny events
that have gone down in guild history.

I recall a time my druid friend and I, who were accustomed to hunting
as a duo in the dangerous zone of Maiden’s Eye, took my husband, who
played a mage, on an outing. href="http://vanguard.tentonhammer.com/modules.php?set_albumName=article-illustrations&id=xi_vius&op=modload&name=Gallery&file=index&include=view_photo.php"> alt="Xi Vius"
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 80px; height: 150px;" align="left"
hspace="4" vspace="2">Our friend, Manazz, was enjoying a game of
Scare the Mage, pulling multiple gorangas and evil cloaked Xi Vius to
our camp repeatedly (we handled them--we were good; but the squishy
finger-wiggler was still unnerved). Manazz went off to pull, and sent a
message to the group saying, “Incoming...LOTS!” My scaredy mage
husband, deciding he’d had enough of these antics, memorized Call of
the Hero (a mage specialty spell that summons group members to the
mage’s location) and zapped a confused Manazz back to camp before he
could say, “We’ve got adds.” The stunned druid could do nothing but
repeat, “I can’t believe he summoned my ass!” over and over.

MMOs can also give us pride and satisfaction. After working hard to
complete the quest steps to earn my epic weapon, and slaying a dragon
with my guild, I found myself standing before the great treant,
Xanusus, with the final quest items in my hand. I turned them in, and
after a brief trumpet fanfare (a sound that ranks right up there with
EQ’s coveted “ding” sound that signifies a new level gained), I had the
Nature Walker’s Scimitar in my hands. It was well past midnight, but I
remember shouting to the zone and to my guild that I finally had my
epic weapon. Congratulations poured in from friends and even complete
strangers. The energy that night was so high that once I logged off I
laid awake in bed for over an hour happily reminiscing about my
accomplishment, and all those friends and guildies who helped me along
the way.

If you consider embarrassment an emotion, I certainly managed to pull
that one off more than a few times. Once, a couple of the Big Kids in
our guild were helping a couple of our mid-level members earn some fast
and furious experience outside of Karnor’s Castle. They invited my
husband and I to join them, and being the mid-level exp junkie that I
was, I jumped at the chance. I was also a bit puffed up about being
able to demonstrate my “leet skillz” to these high levels, one of which
I’d never grouped with before. So, I cast levitation and led my mage
sailing high over the Dreadlands. I was feeling quite accomplished,
navigating an unfamiliar zone and using my tracking ability to get us
where we needed to go. We came upon the group and began to descend when
I happened to catch sight of a message in my chat window:

“Veltar hits Spiritmystic for 187 points damage!”

What the...? Who the heck was Veltar, and why was he hitting my mage?
Ack! I’d href="http://vanguard.tentonhammer.com/modules.php?set_albumName=article-illustrations&id=veltar&op=modload&name=Gallery&file=index&include=view_photo.php"> alt="Veltar"
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 59px; height: 150px;" align="right"
hspace="4" vspace="2"> brought some named mob down on our group.
For some reason, Veltar decided the mage needed to die first, and I
watched in horror as he beat Spiritmystic to a bloody, elf-shaped pulp.
One of the high ranking Big Kids who’d been helping power level the
little guys attempted to pull Veltar away, only to find himself
flattened by a seriously cheesed off Iksar monk. Some of us fled to
Karnor’s Castle, where we stood panting and wild-eyed. I quickly
learned two lessons: Pride goeth before a fall; and never fly through
Veltar’s airspace.

Of course, anyone can experience a range of emotions when playing with
friends, but the true test of a game’s quests and lore comes from the
emotions it inspires when you’re playing solo. Perhaps my most
emotional experience happened while playing Guild Wars. I had soloed my
way through most of the newbie quests, all the while marveling at the
beauty of Ascalon City and the surrounding area. I’d grown attached to
the rolling hills, the swaying grass, and the rippling river. I often
stopped to marvel at just how gorgeous the scenery was. I fiercely
defended my homeland against the encroaching Charr.

Eventually, when I’d fulfilled all my duties, I was recruited to fight
against the Charr and move up to the next level of gameplay. I talked
with the appropriate NPC, ran through a brief quest gauntlet with a
group of other players, and was ready to move on to the next href="http://vanguard.tentonhammer.com/modules.php?set_albumName=article-illustrations&id=Charr&op=modload&name=Gallery&file=index&include=view_photo.php"> alt="Charr"
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 150px; height: 150px;" align="left"
hspace="4" vspace="2">phase. At that point, a cut-scene movie
began showing the Charr moving in on Ascalon and laying waste to my
beautiful lands. When the movie was over, I was deposited in a
burned-out, shattered Ascalon full of jaded survivors just trying to
make their way in the new world. I’m almost ashamed to admit what an
emotional creature I am. The devastation gutted me, just like it had
the city. I logged off to give myself time to let what had happened
sink in. Those lands I’d fallen in love with were gone; replaced by a
ruined landscape, and I felt genuine sorrow.

My enjoyment of an MMO doesn’t come from gaining just one more level or
completing just one more quest, but from my involvement in and my
emotional attachment to the game world and the people in it. A game
that can engage me on two levels--both through its sense of community
and through well-written and meaningful quests and lore--will
definitely prove a winner, and something I’ll want to play for the long
haul. I’m hoping Vanguard will have that kind of depth.

that you've indulged me my emotive MMO experiences,

style="font-weight: bold;">
why not href="http://vanguard.tentonhammer.com/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&p=3222#3222">share
some of your own in our forums?

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Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.