EverQuest celebrates Halloween more than I do…

I’m not really a big “halloween” person. Our house is the one on the block with the shades pulled down and the lights out on halloween night. But I do appreciate good game design effort.

The folks at Sony have added some “halloween” cheer to the world of Norrath in EverQuest II. There is a haunted house in each of the two major in game cities, pumpkins in the streets, and a trick-or-treating contest of sorts. I like what they’ve done.

IMAGE- EQ2 guard and guard dog

The haunted house demonstrates some innovative story telling and is a fun little quest. And the idea of over-sized in game “masks” that you can win and wear based on various creatures and monsters is a fun little diversion. Irene and I had fun running around for an hour or two “trick or treating” and going through the haunted house.

IMAGE- EQ2 Saebher and Enuyi wearing halloween masks

I understand that World of Warcraft has done something similar for Halloween. Kudos to both of the big MMOG developers for putting some effort and thought into a holiday that normally doesn’t appeal much to me.

7 thoughts on “EverQuest celebrates Halloween more than I do…”

  1. Think about this – in MMORPG’s you have people take on an alternate appearance, to some extent an alternate personality, engage in adventure, in search of treasure / goodies. At halloween, kids dress up in costumes ( alternate appearance, ) take an alternate personality ( witch, pirate, etc. ) engage in adventure ( go out for a party, kids go out after dark to roam the streets, ) and search for treasure ( candy! )

    RPG’s, especially visual ones are Halloween all year round in a sense.

    Now to me, dressing up in costume in character in an RPG seems reuduntant… or at least very Victor/Victoria ish. ( she plays a man who plays a woman who plays a man. )

    But I’ve noticed even in my time in chat based RPG’s on D&D sites that there was a large segment that really liked the idea of character “dress up”. It seemed to have some correlation with age… the younger folks that grew up with online chat rooms and alter egos seemed more likely to be into the dress up thing. I sometimes think that for those that spend enough time online, or those that grow up with it, the novelty, and the distinction is blurred. So while I might be like an old style stage actor, and there is a clear distinction between being onstage and off. Others might be likened more to modern celebrities like Paris Hilton that are famous for being famous. The distinction is not so clearly marked.

    The online Halloween thing shows a certain blurring and intermingling of the Virtual world and the Physical world. For kids growing up now ( gee that makes me sound old! ) there will be no real distinction between online halloween and offline, between online friends and offline living next door. Like all things, this has it’s good points and it’s bad… I find it interesting as a visible sign of what James Burke calls “The Day the Universe Changed” or what used to be called a paradigm shift before the term became debased by misuse. Like the understanding that the earth circles the sun, that geological time is measured in millions, billions of years not thousands, when men walked on the moon… people see themselves and the universe in a different light. And perception is reality… by seeing things differently, reality is changed. Virtual becomes Real.

    Ironic and fascinating

  2. Yeah, the idea of a virtual character wearing a halloween costume is a little odd.

    But to an extent “dressing up” your on line avatar is a big part of the game. It starts with the creation of the character, and continues through all the gear choices you make later. Some people go so far as to have “adventuring” outfits, “town” outfits, and “crafting” outfits. They might also have special outfits for virtual parties.

    I see the whole halloween special event thing in a far less analytical light than you shed in your comment. Partly because, although computer roleplaying games scratch a similar “itch” for me as pen and paper games, I don’t treat them as at all the same thing. I don’t expect or particularly desire the game to be a true “role playing” experience at all in the same way that I expect a pen and paper game to be.

    Basically, to me the halloween thing is just an example of the game designers doing something “special”: an event, which in this case happens to relate to a real world event. Previous “events” in EQ2, like the whole “there is a disease spreading, you must seek the cure!” thing, were a bit too irritating/in my face for my taste. This halloween thing was rather light-hearted and relatively easy to ignore or participate in, at my discretion.

    Another way to look at it is to to consider my wife’s reaction to the two events. When the plague was running around in Norrath, Irene said “this is irritating!” every time we got sick and started doing the ‘retching’ animation. But with this halloween event, Irene saw folks wearing the masks and got interested, and when we started doing the little trick-or-treat quest, she said “this is fun!”. Its the difference between giving your dog a reward for performing a desired behavior, versus hitting it with a stick until it does what you want. Game designers sometimes take the latter approach….

    But getting back to your point…you say that dressing up in costume in an RPG seems redundant or that its something a “new” generation of players does…but think about our pen and paper games. Did we not spend some significant amounts of time discussing how we were dressing our characters for certain events? I seem to recall costume parties and the like a couple of times as well. My character sometimes changed his outward appearance quite radically: think of Rockcrusher in a dungeon, versus Rockcrusher at his home in his smoking jacket. I think that when I roleplayed a character (as opposed to what I do in a MMOG), I incorporated the fact that in “real” life people have different aspects/dimensions/costumes to themselves into the way I roleplayed. Putting on a different “costume” (or style of “imaginary” clothing) for different circumstances seemed as natural in game as in real life.

  3. In reference to Rockcrusher: Yes he dressed differently for different occaisions, and yes on at least one occaision there was a masquerade ball in my game. But as you say, that is part of the natural events for that character’s “normal” life, and the ball served a purpose other than having people’s character’s dress up.

    What seems to me odd is the seeming desire of many people to have their character’s “play dress up” for no apparent reason other than to dress up. Again, back to your rockcrusher example you were roleplaying a character that had a varied wardrobe – you weren’t roleplaying a character that was roleplaying. You mention that you treat MMOG’s a little differently, and from what I’ve seen in other venues the “social” aspect is much more important that the roleplay or even game aspects in many cases. But even so, there is an interesting merging of “online” and “offline” socialization.

    Of course the fact that these things seem odd to me doesn’t mean I think they are ‘bad’. I just try and fine out why something seems odd and incongruous to me rather than the ( seeming majority ) of other people. And I try and find an answer other than, “you’re weird, Chris.” 🙂

    And I find the way computers ( and most technology for that matter ) shapes the way we think and see the world a fascinating study.

  4. The dressing up in the pen and paper game was part of the natural events for the character’s normal life…hmmm, well, I don’t recall anyone requiring Rockcrusher to dress differently in town. That was something I wanted to do, to express a different aspect of the character’s personality. Likewise the way players dressed their character in your game was an expression of how they “imagined” their character.

    I think there is something similar at work with players in MMOGs wanting to “dress” their characters. Its an expression of a different aspect of the player’s imagined persona for that character. My nephew Shane wears a big, full-face helmet when we are fighting, but he consciously takes it off when we go to town. He likewise changes his character’s clothes to something other than heavy armour if he spends much time in his house. I think that’s driven by the same factors that caused me to have Rockcrusher wear different clothes in town.

    The people I’ve noticed in MMOGs who “dress” their characters are generally doing so in response to an imagined world or imagined character personality. They wear different clothes in town because “it would be impolite” to wear armour while shopping. They put on different clothes for an in-game wedding for similar reasons. That seems to have a similar basis to the reasons people have for “dressing” their pen and paper game characters. Admittedly, its not as well developed: none of the NPCs in Norrath laugh or make derogatory comments if you wear the “wrong” clothes for the occasion. In a MMOG the entire reason for changing clothes exists inside the player’s head, since generally the game isn’t as smart as a real DM. Thus perhaps the reason seems more “arbitrary”. But I’d say that, in most cases, its as legitimate from a role playing perspective, and not really a “unique” development.

    I think it might be interesting if the NPCs in a MMOG *did* respond to the type of clothing you wore. If you walked into a fine furniture shop in North Qeynos in full plate, the proprietor could make some comment about the armour store being in South Qeynos, and perhaps treat you as less of a legitimate customer until you changed into something more appropriate for the “better” part of town. For now, though, those types of reasons for changing your avatar’s clothes exist entirely in the player’s head.

  5. I think we both wish that MMOG were more responsive and interactive environmentally – your comment about having NPC’s respond to a character’s style of dress being a perfect example. In fact that is probably a large contributing factor to why I’m not really into those kind of games… I find it a lot more frustrating than you do that the “little things” aren’t there.

    But getting back to the “dress up”, this musing was started by the fact of people having their characters dress up and wear masks on Halloween. Halloween is a physical world event, not a virtual one, thus not truly covered by –” In a MMOG the entire reason for changing clothes exists inside the player’s head, since generally the game isn’t as smart as a real DM. Thus perhaps the reason seems more “arbitrary”. But I’d say that, in most cases, its as legitimate from a role playing perspective, and not really a “unique” development.”–

    It would be a bit like having a all the characters in the online world hold 9/11 memorial service – a clear mixing of virtual and ‘real’.

    I admit this isn’t really new, I had my “Christmas Game” after all ( though that was with seperate characters made for the purpose. ) And like the Christmas game, it is clearly a case of the socializing aspect of gaming taking precedance over the fantasy, and game aspects. But that’s part of what I am trying to say… more people are much more likely to look at online “social events” as “real” and no different in quality than physically going to a halloween event of some sort.

  6. Interesting comments. I think that the “blur” between online and offline has changed a lot and is changing even more. I live near a highschool, and almost every “kid” there has a blackberry, cellphone, pda or some other type of device that lets them get online quickly, easily and often. Online and offline events, for a lot of people who use the internet on a regular basis, are (in my opinion) starting to mean just as much regardless of whether it is “virtual” or “real”.

    I have been to many real weddings and a few virtual ones. I will be the first person to say virtual weddings are very strange, but when you are really immersed into your online “world” the sentiments from an online wedding can feel very real.

    One of these “virtual” occasions that comes to mind was an online funeral that was held in a game called “Dark age of camelot”, because a well liked person who played that game had died of cancer. There were well over 200 people there to pay their respects. Many (like myself) were not even part of that “community” but we went to that server just for that funeral. Whether they are there in person, or “virtually” didn’t seem to matter, because behind the facade of “virtual” characer was a real person sitting at home who made a real effort to be in a virtual place to pay their real respects to a real person. Blurry no ?:)

  7. Good comment, Shane. I believe we are, as I think Chris was saying, in the middle of a major social change. The real revolution isn’t the computers or the Internet, but the impact those things have on how people think and socialize.

    Its interesting to ponder, now and then, what it all means. I think for some people, the online world *is* their only social outlet. For myself, it certain is my primary social outlet. Ultimately, does this make us better or worse than our forebears? Or just “different”?

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