The Multicultural Aspect Of MMORPGs
One of the reasons I enjoy playing MMORPGs is because I get to meet and interact with people and I suppose one of the advantages of playing on European servers is that I get to meet a large variety of folk from different countries, giving me a great opportunity to study the multicultural aspect of the genre. Although we all exist within the same game world, we are from very different places outside of it and, with the advent of technologies like voice chat, it’s becoming increasingly more obvious.
Back in the day, when I played Everquest I played solely on US servers (Druzzil Ro originally then Stromm when it was created) and I became very accustomed to interacting with Americans. It wasn’t until I tried Dark Age of Camelot and I was forced to play on a UK server that I suddenly found myself swarmed by a new culture – my own. Suddenly my chat was getting overwhelmed with “m8″ and “bollocks” and I remember feeling like I’d just walked down a wrong alleyway in cockney London. Ahem, sorry, I mean “Lun-din, me ol’ chippa”.
Then when I played on the DAOC FFA PvP server (a single server for every European player) I found myself playing with people from a huge variety of different countries all with varying degrees of English. Strangely enough, it was actually very enjoyable and one of my fondest memories is grouping in the Tomb of Mithra with a fully multi-national group and having to have every instruction to our Latvian Cleric translated by another group member. Giggles and hilarity ensued as we wiped constantly.
Of course, the difference in culture doesn’t just end at language as sometimes it even extends right into the core principles of the gamer and this has never been so apparent to me as during my brief stint in Lineage 2 a few years ago.
For those who aren’t familiar with the game, Lineage 2 has a complete free-for-all PvP system in which anyone can be killed by anyone else. However, the only thing preventing mass anarchy is a pretty basic ruleset: if you kill someone who doesn’t fight back, your name goes red and you become ‘outlawed’ from towns and will be attacked by guards. However, if your opponent fights back then it’s game on and may the best man win.
This created an interesting cultural divide on the server I played on as, for some reason, although it was an American server, it was filled to brim with curious Koreans. Both players had a very different take on PvP. The Americans tended to regard it as a honourable practice and, on the whole, avoided griefing and instead favoured equal battles or even no PvP at all. The Koreans, on the other hand, saw PvP as an intrinsic part of the game design and they loved nothing more than trying to provoke anyone they saw into fighting them. This usually meant standing around you whilst you were fighting mobs in a dungeon and poking you repeated until eventually you broke down and attacked them back, absolute slaughter being the usual result. When challenged on it, the Koreans would simply respond “it’s the game”. Hard to argue with that.
Now, I’m by no means a psychologist or an anthropologist, all of this is just taken from my limited observations so I’d really be keen to hear everyone’s feedback and any stories they might have. What I can definitely say though is that as newer MMORPG start to enforce localisation and restricted our choice of server country, we’re going to unfortunately loose something quite unique to the MMORPG genre – their multicultural aspect.