Before I ask you to jump past the cut to read the rest of my article, I thought it would be cool to explain my interpretation of the "furry" culture. I want to do this so that you, fair reader, aren't icked out simply by the title of my article. I decided to divide the furries into three levels all of this based on my observations and Google-searching.
At level one are the fans of anthropomorphic critters. Essentially, these are the fans of playing the animal races in different games, reading about them in books, and who think that there is something cool about an animal walking and talking like a human. At the very least, this level has no problems playing the pigman in the latest MMO.
Level two are the people who are fans of animal and human crossings, but take it a step further by feeling slightly connected to the creatures. They might have some spiritual connection to them, or simply think they are the best thing yet. They might also enjoy dressing up as a furry critter.
At level three we have the fans who take it even further. Yes, these are the furries you hear so much about. These are the ones who are not only into anthropomorphic creatures, but are into them (if you get my meaning.) They often feel an attraction to bipedal cats or human-like goats. Their dress-up is often accompanied by sessions of roleplaying as animals or hybrids.
Now, which level am I? While I think you can guess, click past the cut and I'll explain.
First of all I would like to acknowledge that we Americans love our animals. Yes, some even go to the point of thinking that a chihuahua is literally a child, but at the least a great percentage of people in America think that our animals deserve respect and love. Even your average owner might buy a t-shirt for their Schnauzer or a special collar for their kitty. I am guilty of talking to my dogs all the time, even though I know they understand only a few key words like walk, supper, potty, walk, lay down, walk, and walk.
Can you blame us for feeling so attached to our furry friends? They seem to be completely oblivious to our flaws, they often provide much needed services like rescuing lost hikers or guiding the blind, and generally have been selectively bred to our liking. They simply fill a need in our lives.
"There's just something off about playing a human in a game when you have the choice to play something exotic like a Raki."
For me, mice or rodents have become the coolest thing. For years I have played a Ratonga necromancer in EverQuest II. He has gone through quite a few stages, but most of his time is spent collecting sometimes filthy items for his off-beat collection. Sure, he can whip up an army of bats if he needs to, but his real strength comes from his nimble fingers and ability to find really shiny things. One of my other stable SOE characters has been Rikoo Rakoo, a Raki Ranger in Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. While not a rodent, his half-man, half-fox looks could blend him in with a group of rats pretty easily. He is short like me, fast like me and generally relies on his wits, not his strength, to get him out of a mess. I love the fact that he is more normal to me than the humans are in the game. There's just something off about playing a human in a game when you have the choice to play something exotic like a Raki.
Then, in more recent times, I have been enjoying the hell out of my Zumi in Eden Eternal. They are a sexless race it seems, so they have the ability to match up to any one person's particular anthropomorphic fantasy. They are downright adorable, true, but for me their compactness and detailed textures are what attracts me to them. I can sit and take screenshots of my little mouse all day. I even spent around 10 dollars on a pair of glasses from the cash shop, just to give him that extra hipster edge.
Then, with the recent re-release of Earth Eternal, I have a newer mousey druid in lieu of my older robot character. Admittedley he looks a little too much like a girl for my tastes, but I think the druid dress he is wearing might have something to do with that. He uses a bow, which seems odd, and at any time can switch to a sword. Earth Eternal was very popular with actual furries, and the chat used to be filled with their discussions and buzz-words. I remember being invited several times to furry guilds. I would refuse every time, simply because I had no idea what level of furrydom I might be stepping into. I'm just not comfortable above level one.
I'd also like to take a moment to acknowledge the Redwall series of books by author Brian Jacques. I have barely stepped into the series, but I like what he does with his animal characters. They have real issues and real emotions, but their "animalness" is always present. I also like it whenever someone takes what would seem like a silly premise (talking animals) and treats it with respect. In fact, I think it might be easier for me to take something as preposterous as a talking animal seriously than it would an animated human. It has been shown that we often feel closer to stylized or "cartoony" characters, rather than realistic looking ones. I can see why. The closer a character looks to reality, the more obvious it is that they are not real. Watch this incredible video by Hungry Beast below for an even better explanation.
We can relate to an animal who talks about his issues, simply because we have our issues. At the same time they are alien and mysterious. Is it possible we feel safer hearing the ups and downs of life when it comes from an animal? I know that when I am feeling a little down and my wife is miles away at work, I take comfort having the dogs around. It's sort of like having humanity nearby, but I can imagine that they are thinking only the best things.
I take quite a chance in even using the word "furry" in the title of this article. But, let me be clear: I am not that kind of furry, if a furry at all. Truly I used the term as a point of reference and not much more. But, there is something to the fact that we see so many anthropomorphic animal races in many of our games. Even if we cannot play them, we often interact with their NPC form. As much as we would like to fantasize about alien worlds or ancient races of Elves, the creatures in our real lives (the ones we share this planet with) are alien and ancient as well.
So who could blame someone for wanting to play one in an MMO?
Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org!