My Precious Pixels!

March 11, 2010

People often talk about their investment in MMOs in terms of time or money, but I believe what we also invest emotionally is something we can’t ignore. Yesterday’s post has has got me thinking — whether it’s a bridge officer, a vanity pet, a piece of armor, or the player character itself, I think it’s only natural for us to develop a fondness for our virtual items. I find that the more of these attachments I develop, the more I find myself enjoying a game, and the more likely I’ll keep playing it.

While there are things a developer can do to help us along in this department, in the end I believe it’s really up to the player to cultivate his or her own attachments to a game. I’ve picked apart my own personality, and have seen how it can affect my play style or influence the experiences I’ve had in games. For instance, I possess a powerful “collector” mentality that’s so obsessive it’s almost pathological. As a result of this, my character banks are constantly chock-full of useless crap I’ve hoarded over the years that have somehow become treasured items for one reason or another. I’m also a casual role-player. I enjoy coming up with back stories to explain my character’s motivations, and while I never try to make myself when I create my characters, I can still recognize every one of them as an extension of my personality. It’s how I’d imagine I would react if faced with those circumstances in a new world, which in turn makes it easier for me to form that attachment.

Anyway, it just amazes me how we as gamers are able to assign value to otherwise pixelated mumble jumble. It doesn’t mean our imaginations should do all the work though. Like I said, there are some things developers can do, like giving us options to customize our characters. I mean, I liked being able to give my Star Trek Online officer aggressive eyes to go with her impulsive and destructive nature, the same way I liked giving my Age of Conan healer her softer features and an overall more angelic face. Adding in-game achievements is a nice touch too — as long as they give players a sense of accomplishment, or a feeling that they did something worthy. Sometimes, it simply comes down to providing valuable content to keep our imaginations alive. A lot of the reasons for emotional attachment may come from within, but I think fulfillment and ultimately enjoyment is likelier when presented with more in-game opportunities.


  1. I have the similar emotional attachemnts to my characters, both from WoW and on STO. I love coming up with backstories for my toons, even if they affect my gameplay only minimally, if at all. PLus I’m finding it hard to think of getting rid of any Boffs, precisely becauuse they have “history.”

    • Wow, I need to proofread better before submitting. 😛

    • I had immense emotion attachments to my things in WoW as well. My druid main was my favorite, her bank is full of all the holiday items I had collected over the years that have no use but I thought would be “nice to have”, she still has one of the earlier tier helms back from vanilla WoW as a memento from the good old days, and she also has almost 100 vanity pets in her collection. It was a hard choice when I made my decision to take a break from WoW, but I wanted to see what other games were out there.

      STO was the last game I thought I’d develop attachments to, especially to my BOs, since really they are quite shallow in game if you think about it. I blame Adventure Historian, he was the one who started me with writing bios for my captain and crew 😛 He’s an avid STO player too, you should check his blog Warp Core Breach out if you haven’t already. His crew bios are great.

      • LOL, after going to Warp Core Breach, I realized that he was how I saw your blog in the first place. I knew the blog as “Treachery, Faith and the Great River” not having noticed the actual URL.

  2. I don’t always set out to create backstories, often they just happen on their own. Sometimes the characters create their own lore. For instance, I’m on the ground, waiting for a cooldown, and I glance over at my Bejoran chief security officer. He’s bouncing off the wall, firing his rifle, tumbling and dodging absolutely nothing, firing his rifle, bouncing off the other wall. Later on, I visit my bridge to give my command officers their attaboys (and to practice my Picard “Engage”). Narley is sitting at a tac console, just staring off into space, doing nothing, while everyone else around him is tapping away. He didn’t move the whole time I was there. I noticed a pattern in his behaviors. With his total lack of focus and concentration, I wonder how he made officer in the most prestigious organization in the galaxy (well, this side of the galaxy, no offense to my browed brothers and sisters. Props to your chefs). Then it hits me: his kind are always the first to die in the lore. Things have been rough around space lately, and maybe there’s a shortage. Maybe Starfleet has instituted an affirmative redshirt program, and he got extra points for a willingness to don the dread garment. I’m just speculating: I haven’t asked, and he hasn’t told.

    Other characters develop differently: One of my boffs is my partner, a Ferengi like me, and a babe. It’s platonic (for now, we’ll just have to wait and see what Cryptic has in store for the future), and I’m not sure what kind of partner yet. I do like the way she bumps off me when we try to occupy the same virtual space. But anyway, I didn’t set out to have another Ferengi on my ship, and a female at that (who can explain their fashion sensibilities? Having to wear pants just for the belt loops?), but apparently she’d heard through the grapevine how awesome I am, and wanted to join my crew. I had an opening, so Starfleet Command beamed her over. Luck of the draw (or does everyone get the same offers? The huss. I don’t know how the free boff system generates the rewards, but I have too many science candidates in the green room.) In RL my wife was on the couch behind me when I got my new officer. On a whim, I asked her if she wanted to come over and help me create a look for my new grenadier. I don’t remember making an actual decision, but by the end of the process it seemed natural that I had made a close personal friend for my captain. Then some thinking to explain how a Ferengi pair ended up in Starfleet together. Escaping lives of demonstrating the uses of lobe oil seemed plausible enough. Who wouldn’t rather kill for a living?

    The characters do live in one’s head to a great extent, but content certainly matters to me. My WoW characters still live in my head. They were cheerful gnomes who threw bombs and consorted with demons, children of the forests who commanded moon and leaf for harm and heal, hooved outworlders who carried the light on the edges of their swords. Blizzard helped create those memories, and I love them for it.

    From Blizzard one flavor, from Cryptic another. I played WoW for years, STO for weeks. There are a lot of possibilities in the Star Trek universe. I look forward to seeing how my stories play out.

    • Very cool histories…and heartwarming and at times funny to read. For me, the one BO I’ve developed the most thus far is of course my Vulcan science officer, my “Spock”…I like the idea of my captain having a relationship with him (platonic right now, as well) so he’s become half-human in my mind over the last few days. More interesting interactions that way, as I can’t see anything all that dramatic coming out of a relationship between two emotionless purebred Vulcan LOL.

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