Driven By Vanity
Anyone who’s seen the photos I publish on my blog will know that I’m a good looking guy. From a scale of 1 to 10, I’m either an 8 or a 9 depending on how drunk myself or my companions are. Either way, I’m a looker. Don’t think I’m being boastful either, I’m not. Boasting is about stating an opinion were as I’m merely stating a scientific fact. People also don’t appreciate the lengths that I have to go to in order to maintain my flabby physique either. Although I’m naturally trim, toned and muscular, none of those traits are conducive to either my hobby (online gaming) or my profession (programming) so I have to put in a lot of effort (or lack of) to pro-actively keep a nice layer of fat around my midriff and my arms slim and puny. You try gaming when you could crush and shatter your mouse if you accidentally flinch.
Looking good in real life isn’t my only motivation though – I like to look good in my MMORPGs too. That’s not always an easy thing to achieve though. Ironically the best looking items are either useless low-level or fluff items or high level raid rewards. This often presents a big dilemma for me because I want to have gear with decent stats yet I’m not a big raider plus I can’t afford to gimp myself by not keeping my gear up to date. There are ways around this such as Everquest 2’s display system (you can equip one set of items for display purposes only and another for stats) but it’s pretty uncommon. Several games have also toyed with the item of having fluff wear for “social” occasions only but that’s never taken off much either as usually all social activity in a MMO revolves around an interactive event.
Aside from fluff items and the odd good looking low level bit of gear used to incentivize newbies, MMORPG developers tend to use item appearance and our vanity as another motivator for the player. Not only do we want to play the numbers game and increase our stats but we also want to look good and impress our friends. There’s nothing like walking around a major city wearing glowing shoulder pads the size of cars and wielding a sword five times your own size and covered in flames.
Honestly I find it quite frustrating that my avatar’s appearance has to be linked to progression. It’s not like that in the real world – the richest, most successful people are decidedly not the best looking or best dressed. Stats and appearance should be two completely different things and represent two different facades of the game. I’d be curious to see a traditional fantasy MMO in which reward items give stats only and appearance items can only be crafted by players and have no restrictions. Everyone would look unique, everyone would look good, and everyone would be able to use their apperance to represent their character. Tim Gunn eat your heart out
Of course, we see this already with superhero MMOs like City of Heroes and Champions Online. Their system is similar to what I have in mind but the big drawback with them is that you can’t change the appearance of your avatar after creation. I don’t want my appearance to be static, I want to evolve it as I play my character. Plus, I can never settle on a character in these games because I’m constantly worried about getting stuck with an avatar that I don’t like the look of.
So there you have it. Time to call the fashion police and let your favourite MMO developer know that you want style as well as substance.
P.S. Now I’m wondering if those dress-up Barbie dolls I got given as a child have actually had some deep psychological impact on me….