Mature MMORPGs

When Age of Conan came out last year it brought something new to the MMORPG genre – blood, guts and breasts. I remember there being some controversy as people divided into two camps about it all. Some deplored the idea of grotesque combat and nudity, arguing that it glorified violence and objectified women. A highly censored version of the game was even released in Germany and Austria, forcing many gamers to import copies of it from the UK if they wanted the full-on gore and frequent nipples. Of course, others applauded Funcom for taking such a firm stance and not comprising their vision of Conan. They also enjoyed the refreshing nature of the content and the “maturity” that it offered. We can watch violence and nudity on television, what’s wrong with a bit of blood and boobage in our games?

Just Another Quest In Age Of Conan

Just Another Quest In Age Of Conan

Funcom’s take on it all was that they wanted to stay true to Robert E. Howard’s vision of Conan. He is a barbarian after all, living in a barbaric world. Every medium that has depicted the character before has always emphasised the violence and nudity aspect of it and the MMORPG was to be no different. Ironically, although many have criticised Conan over the decades for it’s violence, REH’s meaning has always been to show that humanity has become corrupted and lost with it’s attempt at civilization; we are now living unnatural lives, far removed from our genetic pre-dispositions and nature.

Personally I welcomed Age of Conan from bringing something new to the MMORPG genre. It’s the only MMO that I know of that actually has a high degree of blood, fatalities and nudity in it. Yeah, it wasn’t enough to make up for the appalling lack of content but it did provide a solid degree of immersion in the world, very appropriate and suitable to the game’s lore. Aside from anything else, it just made the game a little different from anything else out there on the market and I enjoyed that.

Now we have games like Dragon Age Origins which have a similar level of blood and guts to Conan and a mature certificate rating to go along with it. Again, the violence doesn’t make or break the game for me (or anyone else I think) but it does add a refreshing aspect to everything. No longer are RPGs and MMORPGs the realm of happy little smiling elves and scowling goblins with a gentle pat on the head by an old wizard as a quest reward. Nope, now you can decapitate your enemy and laugh in the face of their severed head before you head off into the woods to perform bizarre sexual acts on your party members.

I’ll end with two questions for y’all. Mature MMORPGs, good or bad? And how long do you think it will be before we see the arrival of the sexual intercourse mini-game (Grand Theft Auto style) in a MMO?

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  1. Thallian says:

    Not long at all IMO.

    I personally don’t like overly “sanitized” games or censored to an extreme level with fakey swinging at the air combat or happy smiling elves, but on the other hand, I don’t need to see nudity and sometimes (rarely) too much gore is just gratuitous and not realistic at all. I agree that the decision falls very much in line with the Conan lore and therefore was probably a good decision for making a Conan game. I personally don’t like the Conan lore and therefore avoided said game and so on, but that’s me. I think that people (adults) should be allowed to play and see what they want. However that doesn’t stop me from discouraging porn and bizzare sexual acts as anti-social or destructive to families. And me discouraging it doesn’t stop them from doing it, so the cycle goes on. and that doesn’t stop me from discouraging children from getting their hands on it too. Its yet another avenue for children to get exposed too early to things they are not ready for, and lack the age and wisdom to make proper heads or tails of, especially if their dad or mom thinks its ok.

    I predict that eventually, you will be able to find MMO games that let you do anything under the sun to women, children, goats, jackalopes and otherwise. People will cheer it as an advance of freedom and ‘realism’. However it will only be a mark of how uncivilized they have become.

    What I am looking for personally is something that accurately reflects the physics/politics/interpersonal relationships of this world, without glorifying extreme or criminal behaviors that usually get people thrown in jail nowadays. I’d really like to see a game that had realistic plot lines, with realistic outcomes, (in a fantasy world or otherwise, I don’t care) but not created by a jaded bunch of cynics or by happy land Disney-style developers either.

    • Gordon says:

      Funny thing is that a game like Conan is so over-the-top it’s totally unrealistic and almost cartoony in it’s violence and gore. Personally I’m not affected by that sort of thing – I find psychological horror far more scary.

  2. spinks says:

    I dunno if this is true or not but I always assume there are probably porn type MMOs around, somewhere under my radar. I can’t believe that there woulnd’t be.

  3. Stabs says:

    I thought the Conan game dropped the ball on this. Sure they had M rated graphic elements but there was no M rated story.

    In fact the story seemed written for a younger audience than the novels (which I first read and enjoyed aged 13).

    The hallmark of Conan stories is that he generally gets the girl. Instead of that the AoC plotline had a victorian prissiness that totally failed the IP. The beautiful whore “will do anything for you” and the only dialogue choices are to ask her to prick her thumb? Blood from a non-virgin is not available from any other source even though you’ve killed a couple of hundred people by then and are living in a brothel?

    Don’t get me wrong I’m not asking for porn. A Gone with the Wind style curtains blowing in the breeze effect that implied sex would have done fine. But not to be able to act like an adult would?

    And this went on throughout the game. Various Kill Ten Rats quests and ideas lifted from the novels but without the IP’s feeling of being a hero against diabolical forces and Lovecraftian horror.

    I hope to one day see a game with good writing aimed at an adult audience. The closest is Eve in terms of quality of writing but it’s a poor game for delivering story. The Wrathgate chain in WoW was great too – bit of passion and betrayal is what we need, not more grocery lists.

    • Gordon says:

      I think what’ve you said links in a lot with the content in AoC… it was pretty terrible. Had Funcom been able to deliver more on the content and quests, I agree, the game would’ve been a heck of a lot better.

  4. Stabs says:

    A couple of other story ideas: use the M rating to show real nastiness in the villains. Murders, tortures, bestial orgies of fanatical cultists.

    Grey your hero’s morality. Say have a “quest” where the character wakes up in a cell with another prisoner, escapes, and then can choose to walk free (they only really want the other guy) if you leave your companion to a horrible fate or face a tough fight.

    The real value of M rating is the difference it makes to your themes, not the free reign it gives to your artists.

  5. Occam says:

    It’s hard to say this without sounding like a perv or a horny adolescent (or both), but I would welcome more mature MMORPGs. It’s not because I’m obsessed with gore or am that desperate to see pixellated breasts, but I want a story I can immerse in. That means it needs to be realistic, not necessarily in everything (I mean obviously elves and magic and whatnot are fine), but in behaviors, politics, etc.

    I always thought it weird how I can land dozens of blows or hit with dozens of arrows, and after a while, the mob’s hitpoints reach 0 and it just sort of falls over. If you think about what that would do to a real creature…it’d be a bloody mess. I don’t necessarily need fountains of blood or to see NPCs’ entrails spilling out, but it would be interesting to see stuff actually have an effect.

    As for nudity or sexual content…again I’m not looking to be titillated. Anyone with the internet connection required to play an MMO has easy access to such things within a couple keystrokes. But I can’t help but feel like it’s a little silly that my EQ2 character can put a piece of armor or clothing in an empty slot and end up wearing less than if it were left empty. The default “naked” clothing for most females is a rather bulky dress IIRC. The males even throw on a tunic if you give them no alternative. I feel like as an adult I can “handle” seeing nudity without turning in to some kind of deviant.

    But it IS a video game, and that means kids WILL play it. And on top of that we (Americans anyway) are still REALLY prudish, despite all the lamenting about the decline of morals these days. In many countries it is not a big deal to see a breast every once in a while, and why should it be? It’s not like the youth of those nations become raging sex addicts. It’s our own reaction to it that MAKES it “bad.” We have it backwards. We think it’s bad so we get offended by it…but the only reason it’s “bad” is BECAUSE we get offended by it.

    I wonder if some of these people think women should be wearing burqas. There is nothing shameful about the natural human body. Centuries of religious dogma have brainwashed us into thinking otherwise, however.

    As my friend remarked when his parents wouldn’t let him see the Shaft remake (with Samuel L. Jackson) back when we were in high school due to the potential for sexual content: “They have no problem whatsoever with me witnessing acts of hatred and malice, but freak out over the possibility of me seeing an act of love.”

    I’m not as naive as I’m sounding…I know a lot of people would get really pervy about it. But again, this is a problem we brought on ourselves. We made it the forbidden fruit…now it’s all the more appealing.

    (Sorry for rambling)

    • Occam says:

      Oh, forgot to mention one of my favorite book series of all time: A Song of Ice and Fire. Man oh man, if this could feasibly be made into an MMO I would be there SO damn fast. It is very very gritty, very grey in terms of characters’ morality (no obvious heroes and villains), and very VERY entertaining. There is plenty of sex and violence, but then again, there is plenty of that in Earth’s history too. It’s not ABOUT it…it’s just realistic.

    • Gordon says:

      Having grown up a bit in Holland, I’m very open minded about, well, everything. I too find it incredibly ironic that people go crazy about the mere idea of showing some breasts or depicting sex yet are quite happy to let extreme violence be shown on TV and in movies. You also gotta wonder how anyone can really be prudish about sex and violence when sex is a totally natural thing that happens everywhere, all of the time and violence is in abundance during all of the wars we fight. We try to ban violent video games but then actively encourage our young men to go to Iraq and kill real people?!? Crazy.

  6. Longasc says:

    There are porn online games; I am not sure if one can call them MMOs, they are a bit more like Second Life. “Red Light District” for instance.

    I guess they would profit a lot from a “Free 2 Play” models with micro-transactions, but they always shove you a “enter credit card number” and a ton of boobs right into the face. This is rather turning people away.

    I wonder if there are any of these games that use the HOLY TRINITY system. I guess they have classes (straight male/female, gay/lesbian, bi, dunno, alien, etc.), but they for sure don’t apply the “tank & spank” scheme.

    I guess if they have something in common with the usual MMO, it is probably the spanking, but not the tanking.

    • Gordon says:

      I heard Second Life was full of sex – I even saw an interview in a documentary with a guy who sold sex aids in SL as a means to earn a RL living – but I’ve never witnessed it. I don’t think it’s something I want to partake in but I find it all quite fascinating.

  7. Tesh says:

    Standard disclaimer: The ESRB’s definition of the word “mature” has little to do with anything resembling true maturity.

    I have little use for the ESRB’s “mature” content, and would be happy to see it disappear. It’s a free country still, though, and part of that freedom is allowing people to produce and consume trash. It’s not healthy for either party, but many things we are free to do aren’t healthy. I detest “mature content”, but in the interest of maintaining agency and freedom, I simply draw the line in the sand on my property, rather than on someone else’s.

    That said, yes, I’d love to see more *truly* mature game content. This means showing realistic consequences for actions, intelligent storylines, great writing, subtlety, and responsibility for choice. That’s not what the mainstream wants, though. They want fantasy power trips, titillation and cheap thrills. So it goes, but I think it undersells the potential of games as an art and storytelling medium. (But hey, sex sells, morals don’t. It’s a commercial world out there.)

    • Gordon says:

      It’s a strange world we live in, no doubt :) I for one find it mind boggling that some drugs are illegal yet alcohol and smoking aren’t. Just goes to show that nothing is black and white and that everything is subject to different points of view and motivations. But that’s another discussion :)

      I agree with your point about maturity though. Throwing in some violence or nudity doesn’t really make a game “mature” by any means. I’d love to play a game that showed consquences for actions and intelligence and all of those sorts of things too.

  8. Hirvox says:

    Mature MMORPGs are like western civilization: A good idea which is sorely lacking a good implementation. Currently, we’re at teenager level at best, where sex & gore are an end in itself, not choices among many.

  9. Junglist says:

    and music videos, BBC ‘high end’ drama and movies are different how? – same stuff, no pixels. As to sex in MMO/MUVES – well how was the internet build – porn. And there’s something iffy going on in Goldshire Inn too.

    Of course “M” appears where ever people appear … doesn’t mean you spank your monkey over it, not start rounding up women for you bedroom dungeon.

    • Gordon says:

      It’s funny because some games obviously just want to be violent for the sake of it. Look at Manhunt which was banned etc.

      Of course, they also tried to ban games like Doom… which is so tame compared to games now :)

  10. Thallian says:

    I’ll give a third vote to Stabs’ notion of ‘mature’ games. I like meaningful, plot changing choices. Such choices are so rare, so rare..

  11. Masada says:

    Of course mature MMO’s are just around the corner if not arguably already here. You mentioned the Sims, but even more graphic is Second Life. There is a lot of extremely seedy content there. I’ve read that there are other full-on sex simulators out there as well. IIRC, Red Light District.

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