I have no idea how big the cute animal picture industry is, but there have got to be millions of aspiring photographers daily who prod little baby critters with encouragement sticks in the hopes of eliciting a few "awws" out of strangers. Even when the serious business of MMOs came a-calling, cuteness infested fantasy lands near and far.
Whenever I see something absurdly cute in an MMO, I always smile because I know that somewhere, some uber-elite, way-too-serious player is developing facial tics from being in the same game world as it. So twitch away, as here are 10 of the cutest critters as seen in-game!
Remember back when leetspeak used to be a thing before we clubbed all involved to death with their own misused numbers? Leets do, and they're keeping the tradition alive in this game. The little squirrel-sized critters have a huge chip on their non-existent shoulders, and they're not afraid to taunt you with outdated jargon while nipping at your heels. Yet how can you be mad at them for it? Look at the eyes!
2. Guild Wars 2: Quaggan
Quaggans are what you get when you cross-breed dolphins, manatees, and baby talk, and they are either the breakout stars of Guild Wars 2 or the herald of the dark apocalypse. Despite occasionally transforming into piranha-things when on the attack, Quaggans sweep the Tyrian cute awards every year with their "oooOOOoo!" and "Foo!" babble. Maybe it's because we feel so protective of obviously helpless creatures that we've adopted these creatures and then made their young into backpacks. I don't have the answers here.
Epohhs are relatively new to the game, being primarily located on New Romulus. Yes, because when you think of the best possible guardians for insanely tender little creatures, the dour, war-like Romulans are the go-to babysitters. I imagine that for every one of these things that survives as a player pet, 10 are eaten with a coating of "secret sauce" at a Romulan fast food joint.
4. World of Warcraft: Baby Moonkin
There was a lot of internal discussion at Massively as to the most adorable creature in this game. It's kind of hard to argue with baby anythings, especially the Moonkin here. Big eyes, little itty-bitty wings, and a hooked beak that makes you think, "This could be my child!"
Full disclaimer: I used to play a Moonkin Druid quite regularly and am still paid by the Moonkin Anti-Defamation League whenever I promote their kind online.
There are a lot of sheep in MMOs, and most of them are cute, but I will tip my hat to these ewes if for no other reason that they look as though they're in the middle of an internal explosion. It's like a fluffy Death Star that's had a tiny bee fly inside and sting the reactor core. Poke it once, and you'll never get the stains out of your clothing.
6. Star Wars: The Old Republic: Wriggler
Derp! Derp! I'm a Jedi! Derp!
7. Glitch: Cubimals
The game may be gone, but somehow the vast legion of cubimals has survived. Maybe they're positioning themselves to be sold to new homes at Hot Topic, or perhaps a few of them could go to work shoring up crumbling brick walls. In any case, I'm all about creatures that are easily stackable, come in a wide variety, and are in a pleasing geometric shape.
I have many theories as to why RIFT officially adopted Corgis as the go-to cute dog of Telara. These theories range from mundane (the producer's wife insisted that the team include "her precious") to bizarre (Trion Worlds' president is actually an alien masquerading as a dog) to somebody losing a bet (Larry). Feel free to add your own.
9. Lord of the Rings Online: Shrew
Here it is, the creature that you feel absolutely horrid smacking around. I mean, the thing is two pounds soaking wet, and it's more suited to being a cartoon sidekick than a villain for Middle-earth's rising hero corps. You killed one? Bet you feel like a man, don't you? Gave you your first chest hair, I'm sure.
10. Wizard101: Ninja pig
Yes, it's "cute" that pigs -- the least stealthy of all farm animals -- have taken ninjistu as a profession, but these guys aren't on this list just for that. No, it's the belly: that poochy little belly that keeps poking out of their undersized shirts. You just want to poke that and see if you'll be treated to a "tee-HEE!" in return.
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.