We’re Just Grown Men Who Like To Play With Dolls

EVE Monocle

I shudder to think how much a pair of glasses would cost

Y’know, all of the fuss that’s being caused by EVE’s ridiculously over priced in-game NEX store has tickled me a little. Not because I find the idea of charging $68 for a monocle humorous but rather because, regardless of how old, wise, intelligent, grown-up or otherwise sophisticated and cool we become, we’re still just kids who like to play dress up with our dolls.

Yeah, some of you may find that statement emasculating if you’re male or chauvinistic if you’re female but it’s pretty accurate. How else would you explain and describe the huge impact that vanity items, in a whole range of MMORPGs, have on us? Answer is, we simply like dressing our avatars up. We like making them look cool, we like making them look sexy, we like making them look unique. Heck, we go out of our way, spending countless hours on end, doing nothing other than making them look good. It’s the ultimate doll parade.

Vanity is a powerful and motivating force, one that helps deepen our connection with our virtual avatars. By being able to alter, customise and tweak their appearance, we gain power over their form and strengthen our relationship with them. The simple act of picking clothes for them, grooming them or decorating their homes and habitats imbues them with real, human qualities and faux personalities. The term is anthropomorphism and our obsessive fascination with it would make psychologists weep.

Now the cynic in me would say that CCP spotted this fact a long time ago and have just been itching to release Incarna ever since, not for any gameplay reason, but for the vanity-exploitation opportunities it affords. After all, pimping out a cold, metal spaceship is one thing but getting the chance to outfit your living, breathing buff avatar in a hot pink t-shirt or jet black leather jacket is something else all together. I mean, the core gameplay of EVE hasn’t changed, it’s just that now we get to wander around tiny space stations admiring each other and showing off our exceedingly expensive designer footwear in an attempt to make others jealous. No doubt wars in EVE have been started over less.

I wish I could say that I’m immune to the draw of dressing up my doll but I can’t. I’m just a simple creature after all, easily manipulated and controlled by the god-kings that run these luxurious virtual shopping malls. Plus, y’know, some of the items really do look awesome.


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  1. ironyca says:

    Haha spot on!
    Vanity items has lots of performance value. You can show how far you’ve gone in the game by wearing powerful gear, but vanity items that are just as rare or hard to get, can send the same signals of effort or uniqueness.

    MMO’s have been called reputation games for a reason and that certainly includes all the vanity fluff.

  2. ScytheNoire says:

    I’ve always known this, along with others I used to play WoW with. A bunch of us guys all played female characters, and we’d have fun in slow raid spots dressing up in alternate outfits and being dorky. Then one of the women in the raid pointed out how we’re a bunch of grown men playing with our virtual Barbie dolls. It was a good laugh, but very true. We were just playing Barbie dress-up like my little sisters used to. Creepy, but true.

  3. UnSub says:

    I don’t play with dolls! I play with action figures!


  4. Syl says:

    Very true story Gordon. :D This is why games like farmville are so popular too, people just love creating and decorating a space of their own in games. In MMORPGs the sim aspect is smaller, but just think of how people furnished player homes in UO and on a different level how much time is spent on character creation, collecting gear, mounts, pets or farming gear sets. Even players who claim to be ‘above’ it will at the same time ask for raid gear to look different from pvp or non-raid items etc….we’re all vain in one way or another and player decoration matters (:epeen:).

    • Tesh says:

      “people just love creating and decorating a space of their own in games”

      It’s a great outlet when the core game design is fairly constrained. Player agency is huge, and giving players the chance to customize things is a Smart Idea. Charging them for it taps into the luxury market, making money for the game without breaking core game design balance.

      …WoW still needs player housing and appearance tabs.

      • Gordon says:

        I’m really surprised WoW hasn’t introduce player housing yet – it would really appeal to their market plus keep people hooked for even longer by enticing them to spend time decorating their housing. Oddly enough though I’ve never had any interest in it myself.

    • Gordon says:

      Vanity is such a powerful motivator, isn’t it? I shudder to think how much some of these MMOs exploit our base instincts for their own gain!

  5. Shadow-war says:

    Maybe I’m an abberation, but I’ve only ever bought vanity items once in any game. EQ2, where it cost me very little to do so, thanks youth triple points deal over memorial day weekend. I’m probably the worst customer for Riot, as I will never pay for costumes, and I am almost level 30 now, With a decent collection on runes and champions.

  6. Bristal says:

    Have never played EVE, but I’m fascinated by the controversy over all this.

    I have to say, though, that monocle is pretty damn cool. I would probably have to get one for my doll, er, manly Picard-like action figure.

  7. vortal says:

    “Looking Badass is only half the battle” the other is gameplay, and all that other stuff people want in their games. But think about it 50% of a game (in my opinion) should look really good, that is how they catch people’s attention. Give them nice looking art, then vanity items to try and make them look like whatever or follow that nice looking in game (or not) art.

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