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What MMO World Would You Live In?

A personal space in Playstation Home

The topic on my mind this morning is a pretty simple one: from among all of the different MMORPGs you’ve played or been interested in, which one would you choose to live in if given the chance? I’ve asked myself this many times in the last few years, and I think it’s pretty telling about the kind of games that might be a good fit for you.

For me, the answer would be WoW’s Azeroth, hands down. It’s not realistic at all, but, in fact, the stylization makes it much more appealing to me as a virtual home. This fact has come as a little bit of a shock to me. I love realistic graphics and I really feel like they help me become more immersed in the game world. WoW’s art style hits a special spot for me, though, so it lends itself to immersion in a totally different way than, say, LotRO.

Before writing this post, I mentally tallied up the different games I’ve played over the years. There’s a lot, and I’ve had fun in almost all of them. And yet, still, when I ask myself what worlds (not necessarily game) resonated the best with me, it was always the stylized.

You see, I think stylized graphics win out in one key way: they’re non-threatening. From childhood, we’re taught that feeling safe is one of the single most important factors in life. Stylizard, or cartoony, graphics can present the fantastic, even the horrible, while remaining safe. Animals and monsters might seem scary, but they’re really not; they’re all part of this whimsical theme encapsulated by the game. It’s fantastic in a fun way, rather than a drab way.

A neighborhood in LotRO

Maybe it’s better if we look at it from the other side. Realistic graphics don’t temper the desperation most MMO settings present. Take Age of Conan. I would never want to live in that world because, frankly, it’s no place for heroes. It’s a place where people get their heads cut off in HD. The bleakness of the world, of the people, isn’t held back for the sake of the theme.

LotRO is another example. While I enjoy the game immensely and often stand in awe at the graphics, I wouldn’t want to live there because, really, it’d be pretty boring. Very pretty, some neat architecture, but boring nonetheless. Living in Middle-Earth would be like living in Scotland or a remote area of Europe, plus a few trolls.

Stylized games don’t compare with pre-exisiting standards we’ve developed from the wonders of the true world. They relish in their over-saturated, many colored, artwork. Since they don’t compare with anything other than games sharing their art style, it’s much easier to sink in and accept them independent of other comparison points.

So, I’d live in Azeroth. After a while, the world starts to become very familiar. To be honest, I oftentimes don’t even notice that it’s starting to look a bit dated. I like that sunsets are fantastic splendors of color and cloud. I like that mountains are rounded and that tree limbs are spindles of twisting and turning wood. I even like the ground textures, layered with detail, all the while flat.

What about you, what world would you choose to live in if given the choice?

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