As the axiom goes, where there is fantasy, there are Elves. Blame J.R.R. Tolkien for popularizing a race of what used to be cookie and Santa helpers. Almost overnight Elves became in vogue in geek culture, and efforts to root them out with flamethrowers have been in vain. Any fantasy MMO that is announced is required, by some arcane law that can only be broken with the blood of a virgin god, to include Elves as a racial choice -- or, if the developers are feeling particularly sadistic, more than one choice. Wood, night, blood, dark, light, mystical -- take your pick. There are plenty of Elves for everyone!
Well, I'm not having it. Elves don't get a free pass on my watch, and I'm not afraid to stand up to the powerful Pro-Elf lobby and nail my 10 theses as to why Elves suck on the doors of this blog. Consider your pointy ears on notice, you woodland freaks -- the jig is up!
Nobody, and I mean nobody, loves to hang around with people who put on airs as a holier-than-thou saints. Yet that's all Elves are: spotless and idealized notions of perfection. Elves rarely if ever are portrayed as doing anything wrong, making mistakes, or even stubbing their toes and emitting mild profanity. Even "dark" Elves usually end up coming across as more noble than Gandhi.
Listen, I have nothing against striving for perfection, but acting as if you're perfect when you're obviously not tends to fuel others' hatred of you. This is the internet age, Elfie -- we're going to root up that embarrassing Facebook profile picture that you photoshopped to hide your arm flab and show the world that you're no more than one of us.
Ugh. Where do I begin? If there's a common theme other than "nature" that is shared between all fantasy MMO Elves, it's that there's no pastime they love more than to lecture all non-Elves in a haughty, condescending fashion. Whether it's for being too emotional, being too disrespectful of the environment, or having abnormally rounded ears, these Elf lectures make me feel as though I'm constantly in the presence of an overbearing nanny or stern teacher. No, Mr. Elf, I'm quite fine killing one-hitpoint critters for fun. No need to sit me down for a six-point talk about how woodland creatures are our friends and you've named them all.
Why do Elves keep getting included in every MMO? Because everyone and his friend plays them. It's really that simple. Elves cover the land with darkness as thousands upon thousands of players assume the role of supernatural perfection, and it makes me sick to my stomach. Really, do we need to kowtow to the cool kids in the class who have all the best clothes and shoes? I think not.
Yes, this is a petty, emotional stance, but I'm one of those types that shies away from something if it becomes too much of the in-thing to do or be. Choosing an Elf as your race is as original as saying that you drink milk at breakfast. It's time to pour Red Bull over our cereal!
You know who's fun to hang out with? That guy who can do everything you can (but better), can top every one of your stories (with better ones), and never invests a single character point into humility (because he needs to min/max his excellence). That's Elves for you. They live longer, run faster, shoot farther, see sharper, and dance better than you. Gee, who wouldn't want to be their friend?
Elves are not sexy. Repeat after me: Elves are not sexy. Yes, they may use better hair product than many of your dates -- and in a fantasy setting, nevertheless -- but their reputation as an attractive race is founded in the stinky pits of body image shame. See through the lies to the truth: Elves are blemish-free, anorexic gymnasts, whereas the rest of us are klutzy bags of meat who occasionally move from our computer chairs to the fridge. They've evolved in geek culture to be the supermodels of the fantasy world, desired by most while destroying the self-esteem of all.
Plus, they keep thinking that dancing on mailboxes is some sort of universal mating call. The postal delivery workers really do not appreciate it.
Believe it or not, I don't have a problem with Elves being tree-hugging hippies. I mean, they are, and that conjures up images of unnecessary armpit hair and long sonnets written to a daffodil, but I'm a live-and-let-live kind of guy. What I take issue with is that, for all of Elves' supposed love of nature, it's clearly obvious to anyone with half a brain that they're raging hypocrites in this area.
Don't believe me? Ask yourself this: Do you honestly believe that Elves are so in tune with Mother Earth that they don't chop down trees or kill animals for meat or shoot down birds to pluck feathers to make more arrows? Do you really, really think that every single thing that they use in their culture is made from something that already died? And how does killing anyone other than them, particularly intelligent beings, fit in with this nature-loving approach? Orcs and trolls are just as much a part of nature.
Any time I've seen Elven structures, it's apparent just how much harvesting and brutalizing of nature goes on behind the scenes, and that not only puts Elves on the same level as us but shows them to be liars as well.
Along with vampires, Elves are often envied for their lengthy -- almost immortal -- lifespans, and yet when you look at their society, you get the impression they're taking the extra years for granted. Near-immortal races should breed to the point that they'd be the dominant lifeform on the planet, but no, Elves are just hanging out in small enclaves weaving together baskets and whispering to the moon. Do they contribute to the progress of sentient races everywhere? Use their extensive knowledge to cure diseases? Set up smart investment portfolios that pay off handsomely in 200 years?
No, mostly they just make ruins and watch all of the shorter-lived races accomplish great deeds. Slackers.
Elves are not known to be happy-go-lucky. At least, not fantasy MMO Elves. While other races are seen laughing, jesting, and celebrating grandly, at best Elves project monotonous calm, and at worst they spend a good portion of their time down in the dumps. I guess it comes from not accomplishing anything while these lesser races they're always lecturing are inventing three-stage booster rockets to go explore the moon, but geez, you'd think they'd get excited about something sooner or later.
Yes, Legolas was a masterful archer on par with Robin Hood and Green Arrow, but I think it's a tad unfair to boil down all of his character traits into one tiny skill subset. Yet that's the gaming perception of Elves: the fantasy equivalent of snipers who are expert marksmen with the bow. I guess they have all the time in the world to practice, so why not, but it's highly annoying that the "Elves = bows" formula is never challenged in MMOs. Can't there be one or two Elves who are nearsighted and prefer to farm or something?
The fact that Elves have great mastery of magic is another constant motif, one that is usually followed by "but then they lost it as the All-Powerful Orb of Ll'yndria was stolen by a marauding band of water sprites and used to demolish the continent of Ur."
I've lost count of how many times I've seen Elf magic screw the world over in MMOs. There's no restraint or regulation put in place to protect us from them, just the ardent hope that the Elf family next door isn't building a mystical nuclear weapon in a workshop. Y'know, for kicks.
Justin "Syp" Olivetti enjoys counting up to ten, a feat that he considers the apex of his career. If you'd like to learn how to count as well, check out The Perfect Ten. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.