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.
Posted on December 11, 2014, in Miscellaneous and tagged FFXIV, immersion, memes, rant, tera, text, zmr. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.
I have a feeling that you’ve never really paid any attention to the names of the quests in FFXIV then. They are nearly all like that, and it’s a fun little tip to the rest of the pop culture beyond the game. Maybe if you haven’t paid attention to the names of the quests, start doing so, and it should help you with your over reaction to the title of this quest. It’s how SE rolls, and that should be obvious by now.
I have a feeling you didn’t pay attention to the entire article, and just zeroed in on that one example before replying. The entire reason I wrote this whole thing is because of those horrible quest names, and painfully dated pop culture references. I don’t see them as “fun little tips to the rest of pop culture”, I see them as disrespectful lazy filler for a translation team that’s too afraid the game isn’t going to entertain on its own merit. Maybe if you took everything within the article and not just focus on one example before jumping in to defend it, you’d see this is most of the reason I hate how modern SE rolls, and that should be obvious by now.
Been a while since this was posted but I did want to chime in about FFXIV. I am a long time FF fan so I just wanted to say, well, FF has always had this type of humor to it. I mean, not memes, but tons of weird humor. The badass Cloud says “Let’s mosey” before facing the final boss for instance. Or “Guy speak Beaver” from FFII.
Is that really “humor” or the fault of wonky translation teams back when Square didn’t have solid EU/NA english localization? Let’s take FFIV and Tellah for example. A very famous character moment for Tellah is when he starts mercilessly attacking Edward, after finding his daughter Anna in a near death state, unaware Edward wasn’t a spy, but was married to Anna in private. It shows Tellah as a hothead, irrational character who will do anything to protect his daughter, in a pivotal and tragic moment, but what’s the only thing anyone remembers about Tellah or that scene?
“You spoony bard!”
Something that became a meme because the translation team used outdated insults to convey rage, which served only to confound and amuse english audiences, COMPLETELY KILLING THE TONE OF THAT SCENE. No one takes it seriously, and no one knows anything about that scene beside that one stupid line. Even if that was Square’s unique brand of “humor” and not a poor translation choice, it still brings up the exact problem I have with this whole thing.
I think its all about context, expectation and respect. And I hope I can try to explain what I mean by that :/
Within the right context I can expect Memes and references and they can work. Kinda. Like Memes in a game set in a modern setting. They kinda fit in, because it’s supposed to be our world, and our world has memes.
If it’s very clear that the game takes itself not seriously it can work as well. A silly joke in a silly game wont hurt it. But if the game wants us to take it seriously, but doesn’t respect us or its story it looses me.
References aren’t as easy to do as most of these people apparently think. People must understand them but not feel like they are being belittled for laughing, they cant be too obvious… If they work: Great!
But if they fall flat they can hurt your game so much in such an unnecessary way
:Watches the FF video: …Those feels man. I didn’t know a single iota of that games lore and yet that made me sad, hopeless, and wanting to connect with the characters in the cutscene as it actually got me caring about the world and its characters.
:Watches Mud2MMO: I would defiantly be the Explorer type when I go into an mmo. I also agree on the “context is king” part. I didn’t mind TSW and all its popular references as it made sense and felt more relatable in a modern day setting as I went exploring all the game had to offer. When I see a Bioshock reference in WoW I laugh a bit, forget about it and then later feel a bit dirty. If the joke was within context for WoW however I wouldn’t have minded as much and thought it was fairly clever.
Personally, I find memes in general to be lazy, annoying and pointless. Save them for the MemeBase, keep them out of my games. They ruin immersion because they’re pop-culture references AND because they’re fucking annoying.
As to references in general… You can have them in your game, but you need to be very, VERY careful when applying them. You want a reference that only people who know the source material will get, while people who don’t know won’t realise it’s a reference. The worst – WORST – kinds of references are the ones that suck, I know they suck, I know they’re referencing something… But I don’t know what it is. From my perspective, you just compromised your game for nothing.
All of that, though, only applies to references for either “timeless” stuff or at least something that’s expected to last more than a few days. The last thing you want to do with your game is time-stamp it by cashing in on an obviously fleeting phenomenon. Take, for instance, the “half-shaved hair” style that’s been cropping up recently. Sanctum 2 used it for no real reason. When that style dies in a few nanoseconds, you’ll be left with a game where the main character has stupid hair. Why? Because the game was made in the cultural microsecond where that hair was anything other than positively absurd. Every time I play Sanctum 2, that’s what I’ll think about because that’s what it is! “Oh, right, that game was made when that hair existed.”
Immersion dies when you push your players into remembering real-life things not connected to the game in any way. A story arc in City of Heroes, for instance, had the entire – ENTIRE – cast to Oban: Star Racers in it for named characters. That was funny for about ten minutes. I spent the other 90% of the arc playing “guess the character” from my knowledge of the animated series. And yes, I guessed the eventual final villains – General K. Alito (for Kanaletto, villain of the series) and Su’Ul (for Suul, a sorcerer from the series). RIP, my immersion. You served me well.
Memes can go to hell. References should be used very sparingly.
Well you did touch on it in the article mentioning WoW is a Blizzard game but as someone who has played a fair amount of the the Warcraft rts’s (except the first one) and never got into WoW and ask ‘are they making Warcraft IV yet?’ every time a new expansion is announced I can say the pop culture reference stuff was part of the Warcraft’s setting’s DNA before WoW ever came along.
That’s kinda of why it didn’t bother me as much in WoW as it bothered others, but I’ll admit when it came across as more and more of a crutch, it got a little off-putting. In the RTS days you had to kind of dig for those references. You brought them upon yourself by clicking on the units over and over to see what each one would say, and it was amusing. No mission nor cutscene itself was directly impacted by pop-culture humor, and the games always took themselves fairly seriously (not counting Frozen Throne’s final cinematic music video, but whatever, it was an aside made for the credits.)
It was when we’d start playing through entire questlines in Cataclysm that were blatant references to the Indiana Jones movies INCLUDING the fridge scene, where many more were taken aback. I was not much of a fan of Indiana Jones (Temple was the only one I’d seen at the time, and I was a kid when I saw it.), and as I didn’t get get most of the references, the entire thing seemed wrong and out of place. It didn’t feel like it fit with the world. It wasn’t its own story, and it didn’t work as its own story. So when people tell me, “Oh if a player doesn’t get the references, it wont matter because it will still fit in with the story”, I can tell you that’s not always the case.
Compare Uldum’s questline to the events that happen in the earlier Vanilla version of the dungeon, Uldaman. That was also a direct reference to many things, mostly Indiana Jones, including the miniature city, with the staff-focused light beam, and a self-reference to Blizzard’s game “Lost Vikings”, but it WORKED. It was subtle, reserved, and tied in with it’s own story, and not trying to blatantly shoehorn in events to fit a pre-existing narrative.
Since it was a general part of Warcraft for such a long time, I think it took me longer to grow weary of it, but they just seemed to rely more and more on the memes, and less upon what they always had.
I guess it’s one of those black & white things with no grey area, depending on your knowledge & tolerance of the meme, the deliver, the situation, though it’s still a risk, because if it doesn’t all come together perfectly, it’s going to blow. But the point of most games is to engage in escapist & become part of another world. A reference to the real world is jarring & out of place, regardless if the game is high fantasy on another planet or on Earth far enough into the future that there’s be no one left alive to remember ephemeral references.
I think Onigiri hates my graphics card. It’s only 2 years old, but disabling firewall & antivirus & running as admin still won’t get it to work.
::Watches FF video:: Not a fan of family friendly cartoony-looking Pixar & Dreamworks stuff, but if we had CGI movies in theaters that looked like this & were aimed solely at older audiences, I would be throwing money at that shit….If I had money.
::Watches Mus2MO video:: I’ve had a similar experience, but it wasn’t really an out-of-place reference that threw me off.
You know that scene in the 2ed Hobbit movie with the gold statue melting? That evoked 2 memories quickly in my mind. The first was seeing real molten gold as a child, the second was a scene from Foodfight I saw in a Jontron review. So we have very unrealistic molten gold some exceptionally crap CGI in a movie with some exceptionally good CGI.
I missed it in theaters & saw it for the first time on DVD. I was so thrown off by the entire scene that I stopped the DVD & left the room. Seems like an over reaction, but I really just couldn’t bring myself to finish it until 3 days latter.
I also understand being bothered by bad writing. Try reading the Toriko manga without criticizing the author for shit storytelling, plot dumping, rushed delivery, & checking off everything in the Mary Sue Litmus Test.
Goddamn, I really need to check my grammar before posting. >X(
I have noticed that the way some games make jokes do feel a little out of place. I think for me it’s mostly like they are trying too hard to go for the cheap laugh. As apposed to simply not disappointing me by being above taking a good opportunity to make an obvious joke. A good pun should make you palm face with a stupid grin. Or chuckle through a groan. Not make you sit back and just think “Was that really necessary?”
The settings and attitudes of some games facilitate funny little stuff being everywhere. The settings of others simply don’t. So, it would be nice to see them try to keep the jokes game relevant, wherein the game has no business breaking the fourth wall.
I think the game that did it the best for me was fantasy online. An MMORPG who’s seemingly sole purpose was to poke fun at MMORPG. Right from the start you did things like literally farm “Quest Item.” or got your “Ring of Manhood.” or “+1 Dagger”. Even the name of the game was a Joke about generically named games. I am actually not even sure if that one is still around, though. I searched for it again a while back and couldn’t find it.
In a related, but not entirely accurate note, “Goat Simulator MMO” does a fantastic job of taking the piss out of MMO tropes and culture.
The game is entirely singleplayer and offline, but if you play the game, a random chat box will appear in the corner you can speak into, while other “players” are constantly having arguments with each other, debating which class is overpowered, asking for advice, making trade offers, or occasionally whispering you to join their guild. The quests themselves do the same thing, like when you’re forced to retrieve the eyes of mer-people for a stew, and when turning them in, the NPC becomes utterly revolted at the fact you’d immediately think those were ingredients he wanted.
I can say that such references do not kill games for me, however.. they are not something I desire either, and I definitely see what you mean.
I wish to say that this whole article mostly intrigued me for including the end of FF14… I had no idea that things went down this way. I was sure that this was just dealt with by sending everyone out of the game, server’s get locked and then a jokish story explanation when the game returns. I had no idea that the game had an actual event like this, showing the end of the world, and a real movie for it. Truly stunning!!
Yes, I like FF14 in the new way, but the fact that the first version gave us something like this is really intriguing. Games hardly “go there”. It’s always about world crushing events that are stopped, so to see a game present an apocalypse that just happens and crushes everything is really heart-breaking. I even have to give Square Enix credit, they had to spend a lot of money on this animation, and it’s to just say goodbye to a failed project.
Thanks for sharing!
I’m not bothered by things like quest names or achievement titles. Heck, some of the achievements that pop up in swtor make me chuckle out loud (Like A Voss startled me into a chuckle that in turn startled my dog).
But I do find anything that I’m supposed to interact with as a character that’s referential incredibly jarring in a game where it makes no sense. Wink and nod character names and the like? No thank you. And I can certainly see, given how long you’ve been playing mmos, getting to the point where even the non-character directed stuff has you grinding your teeth.
I’d have to agree with Damien to an extent, but I’d like to take it one step further: Perhaps it’s just me, but the names of others don’t bother me at all. Well, okay, if it’s completely unreadable, then yeah, I will question the logic behind that name assuming that it’s a human player. Otherwise…..*shrugs* Like, if I saw “Bonerlord69” standing around, I’d smirk and move on.
I don’t know; I feel like if I wanted to inject some fun into my experience into the MMO that I’m playing, but then suddenly get harassed by people for not taking the game seriously enough, then that’d be quite discouraging. I don’t want to say “leave”, because by my nature, I’m primarily a soloist. (Don’t ask what I do with community tasks. *nudges*) But I can’t deny that it’s somewhat harder to do so by that point. Hell, it’s not even the elitists; even moderately-invested roleplayers could act like this, and it’s…quite disheartening.
I will admit that the Neverwinter review is still on my mind, particularly the line “Is there any solace for role-players?”, as if regular players were lumped with the goof-offs, and that was a BIG blow to my state of well-being, let me tell ya. Heck, the section in your Aion review from way back is still ringing in my head, though given that is about 20 episodes older, I’ll let it slide for now. I gotta ask: Was it just something that you had to deal with that just exploded into a huge rant during the Neverwinter review? To me, it seemed like your experience was the straw that broke the camel’s back and you just couldn’t take it anymore.
I do understand your pain, but I can’t help but feel like I’m experiencing these more recent reviews from a roleplayer’s perspective, not a regular MMO player’s view, or at least taking those views into account.
I’m not quite sure what you mean by recent reviews, as obvious I was only calling back to this in ZMR and not looking, or expecting any sense of RP there. FFXIV was the only one I did where I lamented this, and again, I explain my point there not as a roleplayer, but as someone who feels the story and translation shouldn’t treat the game like another Korean grinder, which FFXIV does not. Previous to that, I’ve had looked at F.E.A.R. Online, ArcheAge (where I didn’t even mention roleplay once, despite the fact it could/should have been something I brought up), Onigiri, and Marvel Heroes. The only relatively recent episode where the word roleplay was even uttered was in Mabinogi, and that was just to mention what channel you could find them on.
Regarding Neverwinter, which was a review I did well over a year ago and 20 episodes older than the FFXIV one, at no point was I trying to imply that there were ONLY two factions of players, nor was I trying to state that by not being one of those, you are “clearly part of the other”. If I spent my reviews trying to comb over for potential instances of having to utter “#NotAllGamers” I’d be spending far less time getting them out. It’s the political, black and white, no room for the grey crap I see all over the internet nowadays. There’s no need to take personal offense from inferences without directly asking me, and no, you are far from the only person who addressed this point about the NW review. If anything, those factions are (were?) the most commonly vocal in the Neverwinter community, and most likely to be witnessed by neutral outsiders.
I may have messed up my wording as I used the term “casual kiddies” and “casual goofballs” that many have taken to mean “casual players are obnoxious kids” but the term “Casual Kiddies” works as a whole. Casual players, like myself, don’t delve into every aspect of a game and enjoy things simply as a game. “Casual Kiddies/Goofballs” are those obnoxious players that jump into a game, play the content, make a mess of things and leave the next time a new flavor of the month rolls in. It’s similar to the sudden misconception that “SJW” means anyone involved in Social Justice, and not the militant extremist side of Tumblr that refuses to discuss anything without resorting to personal accusations and multi-definable buzzwords.
I’ve avoided using the term “Casual Kiddies” in future episodes due to the confusion that caused.
Why the community bothered me so much in NW that I just went off, is because it was probably the one time where I really, REALLY wanted to like a game, and was so thoroughly disgusted by its community and what they’d done, that I had to say something.
It’s pains me to see all these tools and resources that developers implement for better immersion go to absolute waste, (hence the Aion rant as well) as I’ve been in plenty of Roleplay communities where we had little to no solace for our RP wants, needs and desires.
In WoW we were constantly given promises by Blizz to increase our RP potential, like a wider range of emotes, personal housing, and then had them all abandoned in favor of the next raid patch or PvP to PvE tweak.
I watched a server that was a second home to me (Steamwheedle Cartel) wither and die to a husk of its former self, containing the same kinda of obnoxious jerks you’d find on any regular server killing any and all reason for the RP tag to exist.
It went from a place where we had server wide RP events, and casual in-character conversations in the streets of Stormwind, and our own god damned podcast, to a server wide shadow organization of a few dozen members, where stories were only passed around in party chat or a secret chat channel.
I can’t take too much of a neutral stance on this because if a game will let me immerse myself in it, I will.
If the game allows me to immerse myself, but the players are not allowing it, that’s a problem.
If even the game won’t even allow it, and all context suggests that it should, I’m going to say something.
I’ve also had plenty of roleplayers lament the fact that I don’t more often go into the ideals of roleplay potential in games, so when I come across it, I do, and trust me, I don’t do it nearly as often you seem to have suggested.
The key difference of being a “regular” player and being a problem player is if you personally take your time to make another player’s life miserable because they don’t play the way you do. Also keeping in mind that one should respect the other players’ wishes, and if that’s a no-go for you, just move on, rather that attempt to force that ideal upon someone else, or gain a chip on your shoulder because people don’t want to do what you want to do.
That does work both ways, and it’s not just involving roleplay.
I’ve seen RPers be shit to non-RPers (Although I will defend that right to the death if a server is specifically set aside for Roleplay, especially considering the devs won’t do a damned thing to police it, and expect the players to.)
I’ve seen RPers be shit to other RPers because they’re not RPing the way they want them to. It’s happened to me on a few occasions.
I’ve seen meta-gamers be shit to standard players for not picking the right gear, stats or even leveling path.
I’ve been mocked for playing alongside a group of friends in the starting area of an MMO because they thought the only reason to team up was to do harder content.
I’ve seen raiders refuse to explain the encounters to new players in pick-up-groups, and immediately get mad they didn’t study a video or forum guide beforehand.
I’ve been muted and kicked out of several groups just because I’d have a macro that spawned a 1% chance I’d say something in /say chat when casting a Frostbolt.
Gamer culture, hell, humanity in general, can be self-righteous human trash, and I am in no way shape or form the kind of person who’s going to listen to the ever lazy cries of “just ignore it”. I have a platform, and I’m going to use it to say something about it.
The key is noticing the difference between a one-off occurrence, and the general ideals of the community you’ve personally experienced, and what a general population feels about something.
All and all I mention the things that bother me because it’s my show, but I honestly don’t think I present those thoughts in a manner that outright states the other side, or the opposing thoughts, are “wrong”. If I have, please provide me of examples were it clearly seems I’ve done this and I’ll do my best to correct such wordings in the future.
(For example, I tend to use the word “you” when addressing the reader and making examples. If the statement doesn’t apply to you, do not feel attacked by it. I just despise the impersonal and almost arrogant use of the word “one” as a replacement.)
…unless it’s having to preface or suffix every opinionated statement I have with “Not all players…” That shit is redundant as hell.
I’ll admit that I was, for a lack of better term, “traumatized” by the Neverwinter review, and it may have skewed my perspective as a result. Especially the rant and the “Is there any solace for role-players?” lines. I think I may have lost sleep over this, but I’m going to have to check.
I think it’s not so much words as it’s tone in this instance. For an admittedly minor instance (emphasis on “minor”), waaaay back in the SWTOR episode, the conclusion didn’t strike me as very positively reflecting of the game itself, despite mentioning numerous key praises in the review. Heck, even in the conclusion, you mentioned how there may be aspects of SWTOR that may attract certain players over WoW, but then talked about how that may not be quite as effective in a way that was…disheartening. But then again, age plus constant mention of it recently on Twitter may indicate a change…? I dunno.
If you can’t take a neutral stance in wording (which is totally understandable, especially if you come across another F.E.A.R. Online or something), at least try to convey a neutral tone? Not an optimistic one, but one that acknowledges both or all sides as…relatively valid. For example, the conclusion of the Age of Wushu review mentioned that the viewer is going to either love it or hate it. However, you did chime in with your own thoughts and admitted that it MIGHT be a tough sell.
Welp, that’s my further thoughts on the matter. (Also, no “SUPA KAWAIII!1!” joke in the Onigiri review? For shame! psst; twasajoke)
Personally speaking, the memes and refences in WoW and FFXIV don’t bother me, because they are all in things that wouldn’t exist in game. If a person assigned a hero a quest, they’d say, using the WoW way of quest info lay out, the text that comes after where it says “Description.” Anything above or below that is only there for the use of me, the IRL player. Hell achivements in general aren’t something that exist in game, they’re for the benefit of me, the player. Likewise, the titles of the Fates in FFXIV are even less sensable in-game, because if I’m a miqo’te ninja riding along and I happen across a giant crab on the beach, I’m not going to title it, I’m going to go over there and kick that crab’s ass.
That said, I can understand why other people would think differently. Also in the case of FFXIV, I wonder what things were like in the Japanese version, because I would not be super surprised if they did that kind of thing there as well.
I see what you are saying, but that still serves to remind me that a Lalafell Bard was singing “Trololol”, and a cutscene showed a guy answer a Linkshell call from “Mad Snake”, showing at least two instances of memes directed at the character and not just the player.
As Tyger addresses in his video, we as players, don’t need to be spoken to. We are already the character, and it serves to rely on our reactions, rather than having any faith in their ability to get us immersed into their world.
As for your second inquiry, the NPC “Curious Gorge” is still named that in the Japanese version. It’s the English version that decided to go whole hog on the name by calling his quest “Curious Gorge goes to Wineport”.
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