Immersion Broken: The Problem With Meme Reliance in MMOs
I have had this happen before… people calling me hypocritical for laughing at corny jokes and writing in one game, while bashing another for doing the same thing.
I laughed when Kaguya in Onigiri used the Doge meme.
I groaned in frustration when quests in TERA said things like “Gotta Kill Em All”
I chuckled when an NPC in the Secret World screamed “Get your stinkin paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”
I shrieked at my monitor when MegaGWolf linked me to the image of a Primal fight in FFXIV called “Quake Me Up Before You O’Ghomoro”
Why is it “ok” for that to happen in one game, while other games that do it infuriate me like no other? Well, as I said in the video that likely brought you looking for this article, “It’s all about context.”
In games like Onigiri, Loadout, or ZMR, the tone of the game is fitting of this kind of humor. Even in games that aren’t exactly lighthearted, like The Secret World still have moments of humor, and the real world setting of the game means these references aren’t uncommon or out of place. TSW’s leader of the Illuminati, the Pyramidion, is a disembodied voice that speaks using internet memes, and yet the character is presented in such a manner that you feel they actually are a character, and not simply a sequence of jokes serving to compensate for someone’s failed career in stand-up. Balance is key.
Alternatively, we have TERA, FFXIV and hell, even World of Warcraft. These are all worlds with established lore, yet plagued by stupid shoehorned modern day memes and stupid jokes. I can sort of give a pass to WoW, as the game is Blizzard’s through and through, but they have an occasional tendency to rely on memes too much.
This is why EnMasse is so much more suited for ZMR than TERA. ZMR is a Chinese GoW clone, filled with busty scientists, jiggle physics, guns, robots, zombies, Egyptian gods, and undead concubines. The game is clearly batshit insane and should be treated as such. Regardless of the choice outfits in TERA, however, that game is a world with established characters, an ongoing story, and a fantasy setting. The constant barrage of rampant perversion and stupid jokes with modern references seem painfully out of place in the setting, and comes across as blatant disrespect to the developer and their story.
This is also what makes Final Fantasy XIV so intolerably frustrating. As I said, it’s a FINAL FANTASY GAME. Why did the translation team need to rely on that stupid crap to carry the story? Were they being lazy? Were they not aware of the pedigree of the game they were working with? Are the blissfully unaware of the seriousness of the story, and what came before it?
Here… I’m going to put this in perspective. Below is a video showing the final moments of FFXIV 1.0 before the “extinction event” that took that version of the game down forever. I want you to put yourself into the shoes of these players… to stand around and witness the burning sky of their world…the slow haunting music singing them to their end… the inevitable countdown to their demise that all culminated with this cutscene:
I didn’t even give a shit about FFXIV 1.0, and all for dancing the “Suck it, Squeenix” dance upon its failure, but holy hell if that scene didn’t resonate with me on an emotional level. To witness such utter despair, to see the world people had played and lived in, torn apart by fire and destruction… to see the look of hope upon that Elezan’s face as he manages to port away most of the population of that world, smiling before being consumed by a wall of flames, and fading out to black… it got to me. Now I have to imagine that image. That scenario… every time I come across another instance of “Giant Enemy Crab”, “Give It To Me Raw” or the EX Shiva achievement being called “Let It Go”.
The translation team feeling its story is so weak that they have to rely on stupid jokes and memes for nearly everything in the game is blatant and utter disrespect for the source material, and I find it utterly reprehensible and disgusting. Hell the whole thing gets me so riled up that I had a knee-jerk reaction of anger when I saw a quest called “Too Many Cooks” until I realized there was no way that was made in reference to that very recent Adult Swim sketch.
Now, I understand that we are not all roleplayers. Not everyone cares about the story, or the characters, and that’s fine. But keep in mind those that do. Lord of the Rings fans aren’t going to be pleased when they’re trying to roam around Middle-Earth and take in the sights and sounds of Bree, while seeing an elf named Bonerlord69 running by.
When the game itself starts making the boner jokes instead… we feel the devs really don’t care about the game that we care about, and our confidence in their abilities, our hope for the future of the game, and our immersion, is completely broken.
I’ll leave you all with a final link to a video that Rob “Tyger” Rubin did on his show MUD2MMO that also covers the subject of immersion and memes, and his reasons for abandoning all hope for World of Warcraft.