Thought of the Day: Is it better to be unique, or to look like someone else cool

Being different is cool.  People who dared to try something different have changed our world, after all. They’re also the avant garde who shape our trends.  And in games they probably were first to discover the best (and worst) tactics. I think in MMOs, there’s also some allure in finding a way to stand out and assert your personality in a gameworld where so many people take the cookie cutter route.

But at the same time, there’s a powerful drive to be like everyone else in MMOs. It’s what pressures people to get more hardcore, to want to hang with the elitist cool crowd. It’s why we check out other characters who have really cool gear, wondering where they got it from and where we could get it from as well.

In more chilled out games, you can be fairly unique and still go take part in public raids and PvP with the rest of the player base. In highly tuned ones, if you want to do that then you’ll have to find a way to be unique that doesn’t affect gameplay.

Costuming has been a fun and popular way to let people personalise their toons. And yet … still I find myself drawn to that especially cool helm that I saw someone else wearing and wondering, “How can my character look just like that?”

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30 thoughts on “Thought of the Day: Is it better to be unique, or to look like someone else cool

  1. I’m really the strange kid in the block it seems. Couldn’t care less of what someone else is wearing or what kind of fluffy bunny they are riding. Having one ‘just like that’ would just mean that I would like to be ‘just like that’ instead of what I am or have become in real life or in a game alike.

    Nah. That kind of comparing to others actually diminishes the value of your own character in a way that you are driving your character to being like someone else.

    But yes, I’m the odd kid in the block. Always have been, always will be. I’m three manning normals instead of putting those hours on raiding, and I’m pretty darn proud of it. In fact, I enjoy it more this way, because it’s my way.

    C out

    • Your preferences suit so perfectly to how Guild Wars is played best, with a small static group and henchmen or randoms to fill up. The missions and all that really cater to your style.

      The MMO you are playing is so so absolutely contrary to your preferred playstyle that I can’t stop wondering about that. :)

  2. @Copra

    But, you do, or so it seems from the post, want other people to recognize your unique originality. In order to achieve that your appearance must send the message you wish to convey to others in a visual language that they can understand. That puts some constraints on the scope of your originality.

    • Not really. I don’t need the recognition, I do not seek recognition. I’m very much content by what I get and really do not require any outside back patting to feel good about what we do in the game. It’s enough for us to have fun, really.

      For me the originality I seek comes from the fact that I do as I please and feel good about it. No need for ‘outside influences’. In my blog I try to report our (mis)adventures more from our point of view, and if that sounds like seeking for recognition, respect and glory to you, then I’m very sorry to say that it isn’t at all that.

      There are always those who run after recognition, latest fashion and spot on the podium. I’m fully content without all that.

  3. I admire other people’s costumes in Rift (and *ahem* maybe occasionally buy that cool helm for when I’m eventually high enough to wear it…) I’d like to think that whilst I’m not being unique I am marching to my own drum. Or at least, I’m doing what I’m happy with. I think I’d rather be happy than unique :)

    I might be severely lagging behind the time Rift-wise, being alt-addicted as ever (i.e. not gotten anything to max level yet), but Rift still doesn’t allow you to view other players spec’s does it? Does this make it easier to at least experiment, build wise, without the holy grail of the ‘defined max dps spec’ or whatever? I’m sure that eventually it’ll be suss-able due to raiding logs etc, but it’s currently one of the things that I like (along with no meters!) My view is that whilst it probably makes it harder to analyse raid performance, which I realise is an issue, it allows people to be more ‘unique’ than the default cookie cutter builds do. Player flexibility and happiness > raiding performance? Or not…?

  4. Generally speaking, there’s no uniqueness under the sun; everything is a copy, a rehash, a re-composition. even things that are called avantgarde today are often old trends come back, we just don’t notice, because it’s been too long ago. society and culture go in “waves”.
    I guess when it comes to people and characters, bluntly copying can be to a person’s advantage – if you can’t make something of yourself, at least copy someone else well. it can be a starting point, like a painter learning to paint by copying other artists.

    But I’m also thinking of MMOs here and the competition they have more than any other games; here I don’t think copying/cloning someone else (WoW) is the best of ideas. if you have nothing that sets you apart, there’s no reason for players to switch over.

  5. I usually find out if I am unique in something completely by accident :P

    The signs of recognition are that after you’ve said something, someone looks at you like a dog that’s just been shown a card trick.

  6. @Syl

    A bit over cynical, perhaps. It’s hardly accurate to describe Beethoven’s late piano sonatas as a hehash of old material, to use just one example… Certainly originality is evolutionary so that new ideas are built on a foundation of old ones, but I don’t see that as being a detraction.

    The problem with recent MMOs: Conan, WAR, Rift … is that their attempts at originality have been tempered by a conservative element, the grey corporate core of suits, that don’t care about originality, but think that somehow the money making essence of WoW can be bottled up and regurgitated. For instance WAR was originally a much more original PvP oriented design with no levels, but late in the development (possibly due to being taken over by EA) they were forced to tack on all the WoW alike features and completely compromise the design.

    • I’d agree, I don’t think using role models or wanting to copy something that you like is a bad thing either. And really, if you want to work, play or live with others, you may need to think about how to fit in.

      Maybe people being more concerned with uniqueness is part of a bigger culture shift, although I do think there were always people who were keen to stand out, even if it was for having the oddest spec in the game.

    • “…the grey corporate core of suits, that don’t care about originality”

      There is that, but that’s simply the reason behind it. the question for me is, where’s the line that makes such attempts fail because the games are simply too similar or how much innovation / uniqueness can they still afford or do they need while basing on the old. if the game fails on subscribers because it’s too much like WoW, it’s hardly to the grey suits benefit.
      so, it’s about a very tricky balance right now, for any MMO that comes post-WoW.

      • What struck me about Rift is that they’ve come up with a couple of new features and then just uncritically copied WoW for everything else, in a manner that suggests going down a tick list. Even the place names and area art work are incredibly derivative. I think as a first prerequisite for creating any decent work of fiction, book/game/film or whatever you have to start from some original vision that depicts a convincing, immersive world and not just add some generic world stuff on top of a couple of new ideas.

  7. For instance, if you watch the TOR videos you will see Jedi dressed in the iconic robe, but other than that each of them is pretty distinct in how they wear armour plates or not. It’s a universe that thrives on similar but distinct looks. The problem with this is that in an MMO environment it is not possible to have that as the art models are what they are. The closest you can come is to recolour some items, although it would be awesome if you had a system whereby when you are crafting items you could choose from a wide variety of looks (ok, you’re still not achieveing true uniqueness but would gain more variety) and then assemble the parts of each particular piece to make it look more unique. The problem arises from having stats on your gear, it goes from a pure cosmetic to getting the piece that provides the greatest stats. SWG broke from this as armour of different types just boosted the basic Health/ACtion/Mind numbers and then you could add in parts that would improve stats. However, SWG was not really a stats based game to start with. If you had a limit to the number of stat points you could apply irrelevant of what you were crafting you could really make the crafters provide optimal gear and also stuff that would be cool to wear.

    • I think it’s just WoW that has been so backward in separating the look from the stats. It’s long been done in LOTRO & Guild Wars. I hear Rift plan to have cosmetic slots too. I agree with you that more different looks would be good – MMOs up to now have underestimated the Sims type appeal of clothing and other exclusive items. An MMO with a greater orientation towards cosmetic rewards would also be able to shallow off the gear treadmill somewhat.

      • …then again, cosmetic slots provide only so few options by design, that there will be even less distinctly unique outlooks…

        just for thought on clothes. if you watch the GoT characters in TV show, what can you really say about the uniqueness or fashion among them? their uniqueness comes more from the characters themselves, not so much from their attire (save the soldiers, whose armor is their character to a point).

        Uniqueness in fantasy environment is highly overappreciated. In some cases, it can be even fatal

        C out

      • If you watch it carefully, you’ll see that they do try to use costume to help the viewer distinguish between the huge cast of characters. Where they don’t as with Jon Snow/ Robb, it was actually pretty confusing until they separated them.

  8. Being different can result in you being killed*, whether in MMOs or in the real world, unless the particular bit of the world you are in encourages differences.

    *I realise this equates people who commit hate crimes with hostile NPCs, but I thought it more snappy if I left it that way. Dying to having ‘unique’ gear is obviously somewhat your fault, while dying to outing yourself to the wrong person is obviously 100% NOT.

    • I don’t think dying to have unique gear would be a good thing either tbh. But there’s a discussion to be had about whether online games are a good place to practice being different in an environment where you won’t be in physical danger. I know there are a fair number of GLBT friendly guilds and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if lots of people find it a more welcoming environment. (Hopefully the rest of the world will catch up someday …)

      Although what that makes people who bitch at anyone who wants to play in an off-beat manner, I’m not sure.

  9. To be honest, you should be what makes you happy. If you want to be like the coolest, then be that. If you want to be a unique snowflake, then go with that. I think that players who play certain ways tend to be attracted to different game styles.

    Even the people who are “cookie cutter” will have something unique about them. They could be pet collectors, or achiement hoarders, or AH Barons.

  10. For me, it’s better to just play the game. I don’t care much about looks.

    For game design, though, I say it’s better to give players options, like cosmetic slots, dyes and the like. That way they can choose to be clones or snowflakes as their whims take them.

  11. I never investigate what other characters are wearing, besides what is obvious to the eye directly. Neither do I keep track of what is the good and cool stuff. I can certainly admire a nice _looking_ outfit, but that is probably the extent of it.

  12. Pingback: Killed in a Smiling Accident. » Blog Archive » There is no armour against fate, Death lays his icy hand on kings.

  13. There are a lot of things I simply can’t stand, and one of the reasons for some of them is that they’re so darn popular (Lady GaGa, American Idol, Family Guy, Pirates 2 &3). But I have (in my own personal opinion) a healthy mix of tastes that makes me unique. I don’t like to base what I like based on what I see others enjoying/displaying, but if I find something that strikes me as being attractive/inspiring/interesting/entertaining/enjoyable, there’s no good reason why I shouldn’t adopt it and make it my own or find some enjoyment in it too. Uniqueness just for the sake of being unique really isn’t unique at all. :)

    The one thing that really bugs me, with WoW in particular, is the crowd of people that see themselves as “special snowflakes” and don’t think anyone else should be allowed to be as “special” as they perceive themselves to be. This comes out constantly over the debate of whether or not Blizzard should remove the ability to obtain things like the Ulduar achievement drakes and the like. It’s absurd to value your own possessions or individuality based on whether or not others can do the same.

  14. “The one thing that really bugs me, with WoW in particular, is the crowd of people that see themselves as “special snowflakes” and don’t think anyone else should be allowed to be as “special” as they perceive themselves to be. ”

    But the idea behind the RPG part of MMORPG is just to make you a special snowflake and general hero. Its the fault of the developers rather than the players that they haven’t yet worked out how to do that well when you stick the MMO bit on the front.

  15. It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

    Once I had an opportunity to travel/work for nearly a year. I sold a lot of my stuff, put a bunch in storage. Then loaded up my truck and went to a different town every month.

    When I got back and went through the stuff in storage…it was all amazingly new to me. It was like Christmas, but it was just “my stuff”.

    Others will always appear “more unique” because you see yourself all the time. And the word “unique” or “special” has no meaning without being relative to others.

    It’s nonsensical to say “I’m unique, I don’t care what others do”. If you identify with being “unique”, you’re watching others to be sure you’re not like them, which is no different than watching others to be like them. “They” are still controlling you.

    The mere act of replying to a blog post like this is an attempt to set yourself apart, show how you’re a snowflake. But not a snowflake like THEM, a REAL snowflake, you know?

    B out

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