You know what I love about massively multiplayer online role-playing games? Losing myself in the fiction of a fantasy world. You know what completely ruins that feeling? The MMORPG equivalent of licensed Happy Meal toys.
I’ve been playing MMORPG games for about 18 years. I’ve always found them to be a pleasant alternative to whatever the real world is trying to dump on me at any given moment. Despite some early issues balancing real and fantasy life, the ability to slip away for a few hours and lose myself in another world is one of my favourite ways to spend the hours between everything that matters.
When I do go MMORPG, I go full MMORPG. I’m not a big role-player anymore, having given that up years ago after realising I couldn’t do it without some sort of adult situation popping up, but I enjoy role-play friendly games. I try to pick names that aren’t horribly out of place in whatever setting I’m in. I turn off chat channels so I’m not constantly spammed by Chuck Norris jokes and discussions about how whatever game I am playing is better than World of Warcraft. I may not be talking or interacting with other players as an orc or elf or nanobot-powered cybermage, but in my head I am those things, at least while I am playing.
Suspending disbelief takes a lot of work in today’s massively multiplayer RPGs. It’s even harder when the demon girl battling monsters beside you is wearing Hello Kitty earphones.
And then Tera completely went to hell.
Last week En Masse entertainment teamed up with Sanrio to add Hello Kitty-themed items to Tera‘s store. Players can purchase currency with real money in order to annoy the living fuck out of me in game.
I enjoyed Tera when it first came out, and I’ve tried hopping back in during big game updates and new character class additions. The first time I tried to go back following the game’s transition from subscription-based to free-to-play I was overwhelmed by the amount of cosmetic items on sale.
I’m not averse to contemporary fashion in my fantasy MMO games. Considering how complex most crafting systems get it’s not a stretch to imagine designers tinkering with traditional garb to the point where it begins to resemble more modern day fare. Sunglasses? The world has a sun, and it’s pretty bright, why not?
What I am averse to is a fantasy world where magical races embroiled in a life-or-death struggle charge into battle wearing shit you can buy from that pink store at the mall. I love the pink store. It’s where I get many of my pink things after eating a pretzel dog and feeling awkward at Build-A-Bear (I want that one, mummy! That’s a grown man, dear).
If your MMORPG does not have an Auntie Anne’s or a Build-A-Bear Workshop located in a mall where players can grind security guard faction, there is no place for Hello Kitty.
Of course Tera is a free-to-play game, and free-to-play games have to get money from somewhere. People are used to this sort of thing in free-to-play games. It’s not like a subscription-based MMO would do this sort of thing.
God dammit, Final Fantasy XIV.
My MMO of choice has been getting crossover content for years, but for the most part that content has made some sense. Crossing over with other Final Fantasy titles or other Square Enix role-playing games is one thing. Bringing in characters from a contemporary children’s cartoon is something else altogether — bullshit.
I know that Final Fantasy XIV producer Naoki Yoshida and Akihiro Hino, president and CEO of Yokai Watch creator Level 5 are pals. That doesn’t mean a crossover between the two different games is a good idea. I love me some Yokai Watch, but when I’m running about Eorzea firing guns at dragons I don’t really need to see folks running about with these things following them about.
They look out of place, and draw me out of the fantasy world immediately. The art style does not match, which is funny considering the Final Fantasy XIV creatures appearing in the upcoming Yokai Watch 3 have been tweaked to match that game’s aesthetic.
Please stop doing these things to my fantasy worlds. Or at least give me an easy option to hide all of this crap and keep the setting somewhat pure. Make the ridable Whisper mount render as a basic chocobo to players who’d rather not deal with such nonsense. Such an option could pave the way for even larger, more lucrative marketing collaborations. Players who don’t give a damn can run around in their Hello Kitty outfits battling soft drink mascots with Oreo-based weapons, and the rest of us can lift happily ever after in the unsullied fantasy realms that drew us to the games in the first place.