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The Anvil of Crom: Celebrating the selfless gamer

Jef Reahard

Oh sh... it's time for another installment of Massively's Anvil of Crom! If I sound a bit harried, it's because there's simply not enough time in the day for all the gaming goodness going on lately. Whether we're talking about the MMO space where I'm currently dabbling in AoC, DC Universe Online, EverQuest II, and Global Agenda, or the single-player smorgasbords of Arkham City, Uncharted 3, and Skyrim, sometimes it sucks to be an adult with responsibilities!

Those "sometimes" are usually during the pre-Christmas release window when game publishers all get together and decide to make our entertainment lives miserable by releasing 35 badass titles at once. Hello geniuses, how's about we stagger the badassery throughout the year; you'll still be rolling in money and your customers won't be rushing through one title to get to the next.

Anyway, I'm continually on the lookout for interesting tidbits from Funcom's Hyboria, and over the past couple of weeks I've been struck by a noticeable uptick in what I'm going to call the quality community. Since AoC's 2008 launch, the game's community has been alternately awful and tolerable, and whether that's because of the game's mature rating (and the immature people it attracts) or some other factor, it's been a rare occasion when I've had cause to highlight the nice folk.

Age of Conan - Cimmeria
And yes, there are some nice folk in the world of Hyboria. Contrary to what some anti-F2P types would have you believe, the Unchained conversion hasn't resulted in hordes of uncouth savages invading the shores of our fair fantasy world (to be frank, quite a few undesirables were here long before F2P was a blip on Funcom's radar screen).

In fact, I daresay that the freemium conversion has brought a bit more civility to Hyboria, at least if my anecdotal experience is anything to go by. Here's just one example.

Age of Conan - Barbarian girl in Conarch VillageThe other day I decided to make yet another alt. I've been suffering through a bit of an endgame funk lately, and my play sessions had devolved into logging on to time-train my AAs, chat in global, and stare at my piles of gold and gear while cackling like a mad immortal man.

After yet another Tortage speed run, I found myself traipsing around Conarch Village in my early 20s, pretending I hadn't done all this before. Enter a friendly avatar -- we'll call her Barbie on account of her class and because I'm prone to changing names to protect the innocent.

Barbie sent me a few inquisitive tells, helped me with a quest line or three, and eventually offered my ragtag avatar enough gold to buy a mount and a riding skill book. I turned down this last bit after coming clean with the fact that I wasn't exactly an AoC newb, and after a couple of hours of pleasant companionship, we went our separate ways.

Cynically, the fact that I'm making a feature article out of random acts of kindness could be read as an indictment of how far we've fallen as a culture (particularly when it comes to consequence-free behavior, pseudo-anonymity, and the internet). Social commentary aside, though, this is a great time to be an AoC player both because of all the new content and because of some of the people you can experience said content with.

Barbie was a reminder of how even games with unsavory community reputations like Age of Conan feature players that are flat out nice folk, and to be honest, I think this is something I'd forgotten. The fact that there were no strings attached to the offers of help, coin, and companionship was a refreshing departure from the me-me-me attitudes that MMOs often foster. Barbie didn't expect me to join her guild or repay any gold; she simply made the gaming experience better for someone else for a little while.

When I think on it, it's far too easy to fall into the trap of living for yourself in most MMOs these days. After all, the games themselves are constantly beating you over the head with the fact that you're "The One," and many people play as if their offline lives depend on their being as ruthlessly efficient as possible when it comes to clearing content. Other avatars exist for your amusement (or to further your acquisition-driven existence), and rarely do the people behind them join forces for anything more than a disposable dungeon raid, amirite?

Rest assured that I'm not passing judgment here since I've been guilty of that mindset myself in a number of different games. Imagine my surprise, though, when I encountered a timely reminder and a reality check in Age of Conan, of all places.

Anyhow, perhaps it might help to keep that in mind the next time you're spinning your wheels and wondering why the hell you've logged in to a particular MMO. You may not be having any fun, but maybe you're not supposed to until you put someone else first. That's my current theory, anyway, and until next time, I leave you with my favorite concept art.

The greatest concept art ever
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Jef Reahard is an Age of Conan beta and launch day veteran as well as the creator of Massively's bi-weekly Anvil of Crom. Feel free to suggest a column topic, propose a guide, or perform a verbal fatality via

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