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.

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12 Comments

  1. Tesh says:

    I love playing with people across the pond. (I’m in the ‘States.) Some of the greatest players I’ve played with in Puzzle Pirates are non-US residents. Some of the most interesting comments on my blog are from those who aren’t in my neck of the woods. I like the international appeal of these games and the internet at large.

    Now PvP, that’s something that I’m not a big fan of…

  2. Gordon says:

    @Tesh Me too. I think it’s a shame that a lot MMORPGs now force you to place on local servers. WoW, AoC, WAR, just to name a few, don’t let us choose where to play. I’d have to import a US copy of the game if I wanted to play on US server. It’s a real shame.

  3. Wolfshead says:

    I agree with both of you. One of the wonderful things about MMOs is that you can associate with people from different parts of your own country and all over the world.

    I too am opposed to this idea of “local” servers. I hate being Balkanized by my MMO company :)

  4. Sharon says:

    I recently spent some time playing EVE, and I was struck by just how culturally diverse it is, compared to other MMOs. Not only are there a variety of languages being spoken in the chat channels, I think a lot of interactions are affected by the cultural context of the player.

    I’m opposed to localizing servers, but I understand why companies do it. Localization is a mechanic that makes the game easier to moderate and support. Even in a game like EVE, the new player channel is English-only, probably to make it easier for the mods to control things. Speakers of other languages are directed to channels specifically for that language. Maybe creating language specific servers would be a better option than region specific servers, sort of like the language specific districts in Guild Wars?

  5. Draxi says:

    Cultural diversity is nice but I have found myself quite a few times having to translate Greek to English in PUGs formed with four Greeks and an English speaker. Many of us (Greeks) can understand writen English enough to quest and play any MMO but when it comes to typing/speaking its another story.

    Your story about Lineage 2 took me back 10 years when I started playing in a private Greek server. There PvP and griefing would often go outside the game there have been countless forum flame wars between Greek players and some of them errupted into fist fights when one side found out the net cafe the other used to play from. I’ve seen a fight like that right after someone stole a weapon and the victim showed up in the net cafe I was in to claim it back… Sad but true.

  6. Longasc says:

    This is why I like Guild Wars. Initially you had some restrictions to change to the “American” servers and the asian ones were completely inaccessible to Europeans.

    Nowadays you can switch as you want. The “english” districts of the EU servers are the multinational servers where non german/french players and east europeans meet, there are not that many italian/spanish/russian/polish players, and the smaller countries do not have a language district of their own. Mostly the english districts are full of Scandinavians, who speak English very well.

    Many native speakers went to the US servers, or the number of British players playing Guild Wars is lower than ever.

    I was already a bit unhappy about the language districts, as the multicultural groups were really interesting. I often was ashamed of other German players, they were often as rude as French players were insisting on speaking French all the time. Strangely enough, the most numerous population groups somehow seem to produce the most dickheads as well.

    But grouping in Guild Wars is virtually dead, but this is another story…

    Playing with players of different ethnic/national/whatever background is the exotic and exciting element of MMOs, much more so than the list of generic player races and backgrounds that players can pick.

    Cultural transgressions might also generate conflicts, but interestingly I see people more arguing about issues if they have trouble understanding each other due to language, mentality and all that.

    I would even go so far and say that the “home/native” districts are just boring in comparison.

  7. My first international experience was on text MUDs. I played one game where college students from the U.K. regularly hung out, which was pretty awesome to me; I hadn’t traveled much beyond a student exchange trip to Mexico in high school.

    There are a number of reasons why companies have segregated servers. The most common is licensing. One way to make money before launch is to license your game to another territory. Everyone wants players to play the game in their territory, so there are some regulations on where players can play.

    There’s also the question of good support. The German licensee for Meridian 59 were able to support the game better than our small team ever could have. They were also able to run fan events that we couldn’t have dreamed of doing. Some of my most fond memories are of visiting Germany to meet M59 players. :)

    So, as a player I agree: mixing is awesome. But, from a business point of view, it’s not always the best solution.

  8. Beej says:

    My first multicultural experience in MMOs was Ultima Online with Asians (Azns) playing on US servers with no language comprehension and making the game harder for everyone involved.

    Since then, I’ve played more group oriented games, and I’ve really enjoyed grouping with people from different nations. I’ve not run into any language barriers since then, but it’s always interesting to see the difference in playstyle and mindset between someone from the UK, the US, or say, Australia. While the cultural personalities are completely different, the raid group or PvP group or Forum Community or whatever is generally much more enjoyable than when it is, for example, a group of college frat boys pwning things on a LAN in their living room.

  9. Gordon says:

    @Draxi Wow, that’s incredible. Maybe I’m sterotyping but it certainly works with the image of the passionate and firey Greek temperament :)

    @Psychochild The licensing point is definitely a big thing. Mythic licensed WAR off to GOA and WoW did it in China. I guess it takes a huge amount of hassle of the developers/publishers hands and lets them just take a cut of pie without any of the worries of trying to deal with localisation and servers etc. Still, GOA is a perfect example of how – for example – European players can end up feeling like second class citizens because the customer service and patch management is so poor compared to the US developer.

    @Beej I loved my guild on the EQ2 US PvP server (before it disbanded) because we had such a huge mix of players. Being a European guild was also very handy for a few of the American members we had because they could raid during their day time. One player even used to raid with us during the day and then again with another guild in this evening :)

  10. Richy says:

    Hi guys, I am conducting research into multicultural gaming for a private collage paper I have to write, and would be really grateful if you could reply to some of the following questions stating where in the world you are from. You don’t have to waste a fleet chat just whisper me if you like thank you in advance.

    1. Do you enjoy mixing with other nationalities in games in general?
    2. Why?
    3. Do you find the language barrier hard?
    4. What benefits do you see in multi-cultural games?
    5. Do you think you benefit from this?
    6. What is you preferred language to use when dealing with international gamers?
    7. Some people play games they don’t like in order to mix with friends and guildys is this the case with you?
    8. Do you find the language barrier hard sometimes?
    9. Do you think there is a future in multicultural gaming?

    Thank you for taking part, it is much appreciated also thanks for the info on this page :D

  11. Richy says:

    ignore that bit about fleet massages lol tring to get this around as many places as i can :D

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