Aug 22, 2017 Last Updated 11:24 PM, Aug 21, 2017

Who's the hero in an MMORPG?

Published in Editorial
Read 222 times
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Tagged under

I killed Arthas Menethil, the tyrant of Northrend. So did thousands of other World of Warcraft players. Icecrown Citadel sure was crowded that day. (I wonder who ended up going home with his crown?)

Who's the hero in an MMORPG? How do you know when you accomplish a great feat? Can “winning” ever feel singular? When I raided with at least one crazy Canadian (you know who you are), a Discipline Priest who kept me alive over all the other DPSers (because dwarves gotta stick together), and a guildmaster who trolled us all by crafting arrows in the middle of boss fights, with this motley crew — like so many others — I “enjoyed” experiences at once common to the player base, and unique to my team.

In MMORPGs that attempt a main story, the protagonist of that story is a hydra with however-many-subscribers-login-daily heads. Players buy into a kind of doublethink: you're in a situation like the ending of Spartacus, except instead of sharing the blame, you share the glory. If everybody's the hero, nobody's the hero, but spoiler alert: you all still receive recognition, rewards, and punishment.

Singular significance and heroism

Is Arthas dead? Who's the Kingslayer? My raid group shared kills. I had a role. It was a team effort. But endgame hardcore raiding by definition attracts the hardcore and competitive, including myself, so I competed within fights to be the most valuable player, and I wasn't alone. It was always me and the Canadian warrior, neck and neck, and we definitely never lost first- or second-place to that one Warlock who was a rabid superfan of the Chicago Blackhawks. Not even on Lich King 25, where every warlock cheats, I swear.

We used a point system to distribute loot and, from the moment I joined my guild, I saved up my points for one item: Deathbringer's Will. It only dropped once, and I bid more points than my guildmaster. He had to award it to me (Such is the burden of leadership). I'm never vendoring that thing. It was one of the trophies I felt set me apart; rarity notwithstanding, it boosted my damage consistently past the warrior and the warlock, not to mention my poor guildmaster. And don't let them tell you different.

My method of chasing singular significance and heroism in World of Warcraft actually places me in the minority. Most subscribers don't raid. Other players see how rich they can get, how many alts they can make, how many fish they can catch, even though there'll always be a bigger fish and another group of noobs spawn-camping a big story boss.

A world so like our own, despite fantastical differences

MMORPGs ultimately prove that there's no one way to play a game. In fact, they inevitably invoke Jesper Juul's definitions of emergent, and even subversive, play (I doubt that Blizzard ever intended pacifist runs of World of Warcraft). MMORPGs ultimately teach the folly of the very idea of main characters in a world so like our own, despite fantastical differences.

Multiple viewpoints. Delusions of single player mode. Sounds a lot like real life, doesn't it?

And… anybody who jumps up and belligerently insists that no, they're the real Spartacus — they've missed the point entirely.


Kelsey Erwin

Kelsey seeks out RPGs with the narrative clout of Greek tragedy and strategy sims more punishing than QWOP. Their favorite part about being a gender neutral PC gamer and reviewer is that it's probably the only thing no one else on the site will put in a biography. Super saiyan special snowflake originality! Kelsey always keeps a pot of hot tea close at hand, and the sign of a truly great game is when it can monopolize Kelsey's attention so completely that the tea grows cold. While a dedicated believer in the PC Master Race, Kelsey also still spends time with their old favorite console, a cinderblock size Playstation 2.

Related items

  • Hecho en México

    Enzo Scavone, senior journalist at OPNoobs, traveled to Mexico and met some of the leading figures of the wider professional videogame community in Mexico. Although his wallet was picked, his interest in the state of game development was also piqued, and he shares his thoughts here.

  • Wild Buster: Heroes of Titan Land West Q4 2017

    Publisher InselGames revealed its cooperation with developer Nuri Works to bring the Sci-Fi Action-MMORPG ‘Wild Buster: Heroes of Titan’ to Western markets in Q4 2017. The newly released teaser trailer shows the first glimpses of gameplay.

  • The Town of Light: Sales to Benefit Mental Health Awareness

    To kick off the start of their year-long campaign to help raise awareness and bring attention to the importance of mental health, 25% of the net receipts from every copy of The Town of Light sold between August 16 and September 6 will help to fund vital services offered by Take This, Inc.  To help maximize the impact of the campaign, multiple digital retailers will offer a 20% discount on the game during the same period.

  • Devolver's CODumentary Releases September 9

    Devolver Digital Films announces CODumentary, a documentary following a story centered about Call of Duty, releasing worldwide on VOD on Tuesday, September 19th at 10 AM PST.

  • Capcom Vancouver Gets New CEO and Studio Director

    Capcom announced that Tim Bennison has joined Capcom Game Studio Vancouver as Chief Operating Officer and Studio Director. Bennison will head up Vancouver operations, reporting to Kiichiro Urata, CEO of Capcom U.S.A., Inc. and Capcom Game Studio Vancouver.

  • The Mind Behind Play NYC: Dan Butchko

    Despite a flourishing indie game development scene, New York does not have host a games convention. Many claim that the need is covered by PAX East, in Boston, or GDC, far away on the West Coast. Furthermore, the supposedly little interest that is suspected to exist locally would be covered by branches of New York ComicCon or the Tribeca Film Festival. The success of the video game components of the two events, however, shows that the interest is growing and might not be satisfied as it is.

  • Albion Online Review

    Albion Online, the brand new MMO PvP game, from the Berlin-based studio Sandbox Interactive, is portrayed as a sandbox MMO with a player-driven economy and robust PvP. However, it falls short on both its promise and entertainment value. With thousands of players online simultaneously, a huge landmass to explore, and plenty of room for Guild vs Guild combat, Albion Online has potential to be an outstanding experience — but this is yet to be the case.

  • An Interludo on Game Development, with Ludovic Servat

    For a young man barely eighteen, it’s often considered foolhardy to quit traditional school in order to study by one’s self. Though it’s not unheard of today, dropping out seemed to carry a greater risk at the turn of the 21st century. However, in the summer of 2001, in Toulouse, France, a young Ludovic Servat decided to forge his own path outside of the school system. Rather than continuing his studies in university, Ludo instead began doing odd jobs, saving his earnings for his own computer.

More in this category: Starsector Preview »

Latest Shows

Starpoint Gemini…

A unique blend of space sim, RPG and 4X games. Conduct research and construction in your own gigantic space station, command your war fleets and heroic companions to invade enemy t...

OPN DevLounge Mo…

Episode Six, Season One! OPN's DevLounge Monthly is a lively conversation between game developers on Twitch, on the hottest PC games to be released this upcoming month. Watch it on...

Out Soon

PC Gaming Incoming

The Inner World …

The flute nose dynasty has been watching over Asposia for centuries on end. In secret, they fill the...

Total War: WARHA…

Sequel to the award-winning Total War: WARHAMMER, Total War: WARHAMMER II introduces a breathtaking ...

The Long Dark Re…

The Long Dark is imperfect, but it could be one of the best experiences in the survival genre. For the impatient, single-player gamer, The Long Dark holds little promise. However, ...

Total War: WARHA…

Yet another in an already long line of excellent pieces of DLC for what has shaped up to be a living classic in the realm of PC games. If you like the game, you'll almost definitel...

Strategy & T…

Strategy and Tactics: Dark Ages by Herosoft is the latest iteration of a risk-style board game that is enhanced by persistent upgrades to generals and leaders and a large variety o...

Pyre Review

Gamers will talk about Pyre for a good while. Vivid visuals pair well with energizing audio, and both complement the subtle, mechanical gameplay; Pyre, a stunning package,provides ...