Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The action figure gap.

Through all the sources I skim/surf/browse/read on a daily basis about R-POWs and the making thereof, there is a constant divide I couldn't help but notice: any given writer, critic, academic, pontificating game designer or wannabee will refer to EVE-Online either very frequently or absolutely never.

I'm not talking about reviews of Marshmallow Cluedo Online™, the puzzle game, here. My eye is on bona fide MMO design discussion platforms, where you can read massive articles and opinion pieces about issues such as player-driven economy, dual-currency systems, or large scale PvP warfare without so much as a passing wink at EVE.

Conversely, many EVE-centric sites — and not just the fanboyish ones — will ignore a large selection of fairly well-known and significant titles when doing comparative analysis of features across MMO*.

At first, I chalked that on the widely shared preconception that PvE-oriented players and hardcore PvP nerds don't mix unless forced to, and plainly said, on the notion that each consider the other group as an aberration of nature not fit to mention in polite company.

But as even the blogs from well-know advocates of hardcore PvP in MMO*, famous for their massive rants in favor of unforgiving games that give players something chewy to bite on, manage to simply leave EVE out of the picture 99% of the time*, I must admit I got stumped for a while…
Then it hit me…

It's the avatar, stupid !

The great divide is not between hardcore PvP sandboxes and theme-parks railed rides, it's between men-in-tights and mechazoids. Some people will simply not acknowledge as part of the same ecosystem worlds where you run around with an action figure representation of your in-game self, and those where your game presence is embodied in a spaceship, giant mecha, or race car.

I'm not sure what it says about the meandering and crafty ways of immersion in game worlds, just yet, but I'm willing to bet the introduction of ragdolls in EVE online will make it more relatable overnight for the fraction of game designers and critics who up to then couldn't see it as a proper MMO*.


[* Yes, that's a grand total of 7 results on a search for "EVE Online" in entries between 2004 and now on Psychochild's blog, I'm not making this up…]

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