He's on the cover of the latest Mortal Kombat game. He's widely regarded as the one of the most iconic fighting game characters. Everyone knows the "GET OVER HERE" catchphrase. Despite being somewhat of a villain, Scorpion is well-loved by Mortal Kombat players.
And why not? Look at him. He's an undead ninja with hellfire powers. He can do this, for crying out loud:
Scorpion is cool. Fact! And yet, since the release of Mortal Kombat X I've seen one common complaint among some Mortal Kombat fans: too many people are playing as Scorpion online. Observe.
From the official Mortal Kombat forum:
This round-up does not include the innumerable number of people online that I saw claiming they were choosing Scorpion as their main, for what it's worth.
I couldn't help but wonder: was Mortal Kombat X actually overrun with Scorpions online? Or were people exaggerating? This is hardly scientific, but I hopped into 10 online player matches recently, and at least half of them were Scorpion, yes. But obviously, that's not enough data.
When I looked at the leaderboards for the PS4 yesterday, I didn't necessarily see Scorpion everywhere. The only list that included Scorpion in the top ten was the ranked player list, and as you can see here, rdales doesn't have more matches than most players represented on the leaderboard:
What about average players that aren't tearing up leaderboards, though? Thankfully, Mortal Kombat X does give player stats. Annoyingly, they're displayed only on the Online page in random snippets. You can't control what the game shows you; it just throws trivia at you. I've stared at this screen for hours, hoping that it would tell me how often Scorpion has been used so far. Along the way, I learned how often other characters are selected, which is still useful!
While this isn't every fighter in the game, it's enough to give us a sense of how popular the average character tends to be. On the low end, we've got characters like Shinnok and Jason. On the higher end, we've got Raiden and Takada. How do these numbers compare to Scorpion, though? Glad you asked:
More than double than most of the characters I just highlighted. For real.
Now lets say for arguments sake that this still leaves a lot of other characters, which very well may be popular. But in my experience, most characters trail far behind Scorpion. The only character that comes close is Subzero, and he's still trailing behind Scorpion by a few million.
This probably isn't surprising, right? Scorpion has always been a popular character. Of course that didn't change in the latest game. It's just interesting to see the numbers stack up like this. It's also interesting to consider within the wider range of multiplayer games out there. Most games have a character like this -- someone that everyone likes to flock to. Smash Bros. had Diddy and Little Mac. Street Fighter 4 has Ken and Ryu. Mario Kart 8 has a ton of Links.
So why does something like this happen; why isn't there a more even spread of popular characters? First off, that never happens. People always have their favourites in everything -- have you taken a look at how the Faction War is playing out in Mortal Kombat? Nobody wants to be Special Forces. Everyone is picking Lin Kuei, and as a result, they're steamrolling all the other factions.
When it comes to characters in video games specifically, my guess is that highly-picked characters occur thanks to a mix of good design and ease of use. The easier a character is to pick up, the more people will play that character, and the more that the fanbase will start to dislike that character. That's just how things go...but this also means that negative sentiments around popular characters are sometimes rooted in elitism. Can you blame anyone, though? It's hard not to get annoyed at anything you've overexposed to. Even the catchiest song will turn into the devil once you listen to it enough times.
To be clear, I don't want to police the choices of anyone reading this. If you're interested in Scorpion, play Scorpion! You do you. But this information about Scorpion interests me for two reasons. One, I love the personalities that characters in multiplayer take on based entirely on the people who play them. There's always a character that everyone loves. There's always a character that everyone hates. And there are characters in-between, all of which offer us a window into the soul of the person playing the game. You might be able to tell a thing or two from a person that likes to play, say, the Zeus in Dota 2, or Teemo in League of Legends. And everyone knows that the people who like to be snipers in shooters are kind of the worst. What might we say about a Scorpion players, the most common Mortal Kombat fans of them all? I'm curious to know.
The other reason why this information matters to me is because I've been agonising over what character to main in Mortal Kombat. Now that I know that everyone and their mum is playing as Scorpion, I'm probably gonna try picking someone else. No offence, Scorpion players. I just gotta pretend I'm some unique butterfly or some shit.