Monday, September 17, 2012

Huntards & co.

I'm sorry to say that i have and probably will keep calling various players huntards. It's one of my few digressions from my otherwise fanatically anti-leetspeak, anti-slang of any kind and by extension anti-jargon (in general) stance.

Aside from being a fairly crude pun, this linguistic fabrication merits little explanation in itself. It arose in online fantasy games, probably in World of Warcraft or at the earliest Everquest, from the observation that many players who choose the hunter class tend to be the dumbest of the dumb-by-definition population of such games. They're the ones who can't grasp the concepts of fairplay, teamwork, tactics, or basically anything other than "me shoots stuff an' gets phat lewt."

Oddly enough, nobody seems willing to look at the larger trend. Huntards are only one facet of players' mentality as predicted by their choices of class, faction, weaponry and in general anything pertaining to playing style or personal aesthetics.

Let's start with class-based games. Say you offer players a choice of roles to fill in future teams. Ya gotcher nerds in dresses wavin' batons around to reshape the fabric of reality, do-gooders mending all ills around them, masochists in tin cans jumping in first to get slapped around... and then you've got a bunch of sadists who want to make no sacrifices in personal glory for the good of the team, who want to be the ones puttin' da hurt on enemies indiscriminately while their team works to protect, heal and support them. To be the star of the show, the one making the kill, a sadist pampered and babysat by all others around you while you carry out the simplest possible task by standing there hitting things, in what world would this mentality not also represent the most idiotically vicious segment of a population?
The worst of humanity is animal nature. It is thoughtlessness, life un-analyzed and without ideals. The instinctive desire to be socially superior to all those around oneself, to give orders, be able to hurt others with impunity, flout rules even while imposing them, this is instinct. In computer game terms, anything that lets players make themselves look good or hurt others by taking advantage of an imbalance will attract the worst morons around, those who cannot even imagine questioning their instincts.

The most obvious example is indeed that which encompasses "huntards" in class based RPGs: damage-dealing. In WoW-clone games, hunters are the classic DPS class. They sit back out of harm's way and have no duty but to hit something until it dies.
The extent to which other classes draw idiots largely depends on their approximation of the "just hurt stuff" ideal. Dungeons and Dragons set the tone by introducing the "sorcerer" class. Instead of nerdy masters of the arcane arts carefully preparing for battle, sorcerers were created to be able to spam damage spells. They blurred the distinction between spellcasting and simply "throwing stuff at the enemy" like nonmagical classes. Rogues underwent a similar simplification in online RPGs by removing their role as trap-finders, thieves and infiltrators and focusing simply on poking whatever they run across with sharp things.
Other classes, the usual tanks, crowd control and healers, were also given damage-dealing methods which started to attract the rabble. Companies attempted to excuse this by citing player complaints about the slow pace of solo gameplay compared to damage classes which could grind through the endless timesink of levelling, gear-farming and reputation-farming much faster. They were, of course, unwilling to remove the grinding or the endless soloing in games they were marketing as multiplayer.

An odd example of mechanics which gain appeal simply by becoming overpowered in some situations is invisibility, or stealth. If one were to look at single-player or PvE games, it's a safe bet that stealth is largely underused. When offered the choice between sneaking past an enemy and killing it, most players will take the instinctively satisfying option of beating its brains out then pissing in its skull. That's what we do as homicidal apes. In PvE, stealth has to be pushed on players. In PvP, it's almost impossible to balance invisibility so that not every single player needs it. This is because it's inherently overpowered against thinking opponents. Ironically, WoW-clone customers choose to be rogues because they want to avoid sneaking. They want to be invisible until the moment when they decide to strike. It's a way of avoiding the embarrassing necessity of out-planning, out-positioning, out-maneuvering and generally out-thinking one's enemies. It allows the idiots to just choose easy fights.
Rogue, spy or infiltrator classes, in PvP games, attract not only sadists but cowardly sadists, the ones afraid to even get hit. This could easily be fixed by simply not giving such classes high damage, but companies are currently unwilling to move away from the archetypes which seemed to sell so well for World of Warcraft.

One constant and fairly obvious measure of a player's mentality is his choice in weaponry, guns and swords as phallic overcompensation. Given a choice, most gamers routinely pick the weapon which does the single greatest amount of damage, ignoring other benefits. They don't think in terms of covering fire, stopping power, weapon reach, blocking ability, etc. Sniper rifles tend to be the most consistent example in FPS games. Not only do they satisfy the cowardice requirement, giving their user an excuse to hide behind his teammates, but they are usually given much higher damage than other weapons. The argument that they require greater finesse on their user's part falls flat in the same way that the rogues' invisibility is a means of avoiding sneaking around. It's a way of hitting unsuspecting enemies, not by outmaneuvering them but by simply being safely out of their reach. It depends on nothing but aim, twitch reflexes. In PvP games, regardless of whether your team needs them or not, you can expect to have half a dozen snipers sitting back expecting you to keep the enemy busy for them while they safely sit back and take potshots.

Lastly, let's not ignore machismo in its purest form. If, aside from phallic symbols, we were to seek one representative masculine trait, it would be "burly." In fantasy RPGs, it's the munchkins who want to be barbarians, knights in shining armour or claymore-wielding highlanders who can be expected to be muscleheads diving into any fight regardless of roleplaying or tactics.
In other games, stats tend to take on the role of "burliness" with players comparing dick size in terms of their kill count, maximum hit points, highest single-damage hit, etc. They parade these stats around just as though they were parading around in muscle shirts in real life. The cretins who play for titles, for 'achievements' or for ranks are just another facet of the stupidity of the dick-measuring, blindly, idiotically sadistic majority.

And they usually play hunters.

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