This is not new to the MMO space. When I was a kid, I remember people arguing that Sonic the Hedgehog games were cooler than Mario games. As a child, I thought that this was a very important debate. As an adult, I roll my eyes at the concept because you're debating the relative coolness of two games made for nine-year-old children. What's cooler? Enjoying a game and not worrying about what other people are playing, you nitwit.
But this extends to games as well. Something super dark and spiky and morose is cooler than something that's bright and cheerful and happy. Open PvP is cooler than contained PvP. Sandboxes are cooler than themeparks. Themeparks are cooler than sandboxes. Competitive gaming is cooler than just enjoying yourself. Not roleplaying is cooler than roleplaying.
And to you, fine gentlemen and ladies, I say that you are completely wrong.
You want to tell me that not roleplaying is cooler than roleplaying? Hey, that's a great idea. When I run around in a fantasy game pretending to be a wizard, that's much less cool than when you run around doing the exact same thing but acting completely disinterested in the fantasy aspect. New flash: You're still wearing a robe and wizard hat. Being disinterested does not make you cool, a lesson that hipsters the world over could take to heart.
Do you like open PvP? That's awesome. I'm happy for you. Do you think that liking the chance to randomly shiv people in the back makes you somehow cooler than those of us who deal with random nastiness in the real world and would like it not to be extended to video games? Come on. The chance for arbitrary nastiness doesn't make your game cooler, just different.
We can go on down the line like this. There's always some reason your game of choice is awesome and cool and neat while someone else's choice of game is unutterably lame, all of which translates as you preferring one thing over another.
This isn't about preferring one thing for another. This is about somehow creating the idea that liking one fantasy game in which you play a magical elf is somehow more awesome than another game in which you play a magical elf. And that is tacitly ridiculous.
For starters, let's remember that the outside world -- i.e., the vast majority of human beings that you need to interact with -- will not care one way or the other whether you play Darkfall or World of Warcraft. You're playing some strange online game that your mother will think is a waste of time no matter what in the world it actually is. Saying one is cooler than the other is like having a strong opinion about which garbage can in your house has the nicest smell. To everyone outside of your house, they're just freaking cans.
There are way more points of similarity in these games than there are differences anyway. You might prefer to play in groups, but that does not somehow mean you're playing a cooler game than the person who is playing solo; you're both still coexisting in a virtual world concurrent with other players. You are enjoying the same basic experience both ways, just with different sliders.
And perhaps that's the most basic point. You aren't playing these games to be cool, and if you are, you really missed the boat. If you want to master an art that people will see as cool, go figure out how to juggle knives or drift race or perform open-heart surgery. Playing a game does not and has never made you cool except to a small group of people who also play that game and already think that it's neat.
I mentioned in a previous article that denigrating another game does not make your game look better, and the same goes for claiming that your game is cooler. I don't care how cool a game is; I care whether I have fun playing it or not. League of Legends isn't my sort of game, but that doesn't mean that it's any less cool than games I do play. Telling League of Legends players that their game isn't cool makes me look like an insecure twit with a need for that playground mentality.
The inverse is true as well. If you tell me, "I like League of Legends more than games you play," hey, we all like different things. If you tell me "LoL is so much cooler than all of your stuff," I wonder why it is you feel the need to push down someone else's head to stay above water.
Seriously, is it so much to ask that we all just act like mature adults and respect what other people like, even if it's different from what we like? If we as gamers want to not be seen as violent, over-competitive jerks, shouldn't we start by approaching other people with a certain base level of respect and decency? Shouldn't we all just be proud that we play games we enjoy instead of shaming someone not fitting into your narrow range of acceptably cool games?
The odds of that happening are about nil. But if you think your space wizard is cooler than my space wizard because your version has a pretend house, you're missing the point.
Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively writers every Tuesday as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews and not necessarily shared by Massively as a whole. Think we're spot on -- or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!