Everyone wants to be the hero, but how many really are worth it?
This was a thought which came to my mind again, when I was watching the Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen with my kids the other day. In fact, it has been bothering me with MMO’s and people craving to be the hero in a game in which (hundreds of) thousands of players have the same aspiration. The idea is on the surface when you watch movies like Alexander, Troy or the Transformers which I mentioned earlier: there are only so few real heroes in those stories compared to the vast amounts of the cannon fodder actually doing the bloody hard work.
There are also so few novels and short stories depicting the life of the foot soldiers or normal people in extraordinary times. I think Bruce Sterling has one short story comparing ancient Persian foot soldiers with the Gulf War Iraq soldiers, neither of which had real name nor position. No ones in wars in which only the main leaders were named. Also Gene Wolfe showed a glimpse of the life of a ‘normal’ soldier in his excellent novel “Soldier of the Mist”, in which the main protagonist is initially a soldier in an army in Ancient Greece.
In games everyone wants to be the hero or the anti-hero. How can that be possible? The parallel between the ‘real fiction’ and the MMO ‘multi-media, multi-entertainment’ seems to be impossible. In a normal PvE (or even PvP) MMO the player is -or at least seems to be- the hero, growing from the peasant zero to the world saving hero over the quests and seemingly impossible encounters which s/he will overcome. The twists and turns along the way try to create the illusion of the ‘path of a hero’ put in front of the player.
The illusion is finally broken when the player character ‘becomes of age’ and enters the end game in level cap. There are already thousands of other characters at the same level, trying to be the hero who will kill the final monstrosity the designers have devised as the ultimate opposing force.
When everyone is a hero, who is special anymore?
This is especially true in a super hero game, in which everyone is special in their own way, and no-one even tries to hide their superhero status. All the normal people are just ants under the superpowers of the player characters. Just like the endless streams of normal animals, monsters and humanoids in MMOs in fantasy setting.
How about space, the final frontier? Unless the universe is mapped full of different cultures and unique encounters with multitude of different species, the exploration in the spirit of the crew of Enterprise becomes a photocopied series to all players: everyone has finally the same experience in an imaginary multi-player game setting.
The games currently put extremely much effort in the fighting and overcoming the opposition by brute force. The little people, who in the end make the life possible for the few heroes, are completely forgotten. As long as the swordsmith forging the ultimate weapon, the technician building the super-powered engine or the tailor sewing the perfect suit for the hero are just dismissed, the games are only poor depictions of corresponding settings.
There are still people who like to play the craftsman, but the game mechanics are made that route very much unappealing. The gear crafted by the tradeskills are usually sub par to that acquired from fighting. I wonder how many unique or legendary weapons and pieces of armour there are around a single shard, server or cluster in the MMOs we play? IMO unique or legendary gear should be exactly that: unique, recognizable and one of a kind. Something special to look for.
Not something that drops from this boss every other day, nor something everyone can eventually get if they are persistent enough.
On the same breath, the one devoting their time to crafting should be able to create something special, so good that they would be recognized within the game, too.
Everyone wants to be the hero, but is the fighting way the only one to follow?
Isn’t it time to recognize that not everyone can be The Hero, and that most of the player characters should really be in the support cast anyhow?