Saturday, April 26, 2014

Wildstar: Can a Game Not Take Itself Seriously Enough

My Chua wandering around the opening Dominion area

Wildstar had a beta weekend that ended last Monday, 4/21.  I only decided to give it a try one day before it started and only played a few hours.  I was pretty sure I wouldn't be buying the game and I haven't changed my mind.  I didn't even play enough to share my impressions but I did make me think about whether it is possible for a game to not take itself seriously enough.

From the comic-style graphics to the official descriptions, I knew this was a game that didn't take itself too seriously and I took that as a positive.  However, when I started playing on the Dominion side (think Empire from Star Wars), I was almost immediately uncomfortable.

At the beginning of the game, they scan your brain to see if you have any rebellious thoughts.  Those that have rebellious thoughts (all NPCs) are separated out.  Very soon after that you have a set of quests where you perform experiments on these NPCs.

You are asked to pull a lever that starts the experiment on one set of these NPCs and something goes wrong, and they all die.  This happens four times with four different experiments and each time the person who gives you the quest has the attitude that it doesn't really matter because they were rebellious anyway.

I know I have killed 1000s of NPC in MMOs I have played.  I know they are trying to set up an over the top authoritarian side which does provide opportunities for humor.  I know that killing is the most common gameplay mechanism that is used in MMOs.  I know it was supposed to be funny.  It reminded me somewhat of some of the Gnome or Engineering quests or items that are very clever but always have a chance of failure, but I believe this crosses a line where humor isn't appropriate.

This is a game for adults and adults should be able to discern that this is meant to be funny.  However, I don't believe encouraging gratuitous violence is ever appropriate.  There were some World of Warcraft quests that had the same attitude (there is one where you are required to electrocute a captor that comes to mind).  However, this wasn't the first quest in the game and I don't think it was appropriate in World of Warcraft either.  After writing this post, I may try to play further into the game to see how the attitude changes beyond the starter area.

I know I could play on the Exile side (it reminds me a little of "Battlestar Galactica") where the initial set of quests has you save a woman's life.  And I know this is a game and not meant to be taken seriously.  I don't expect a game to mirror my sense of what is right and wrong.  However, I don't want to play games or watch shows that violate what I believe are generally our common sense of inappropriate behavior.  I haven't played the Grand Theft Auto games for this reason and I may not be playing Wildstar for the same reason.


  1. I have to admit that I thought that section... and the others like it are extremely tasteless. The Evil for the sake of it ideals just go way to far and I found myself wanting some sort of skip mechanic just so I either could complete them without torturing people or skip them entirely but no.

  2. They could portray the evil side without making the player participate it directly in it. I didn't play Empire in SWTOR but it seems the 'light' and 'dark' choices at least gave you that option. Also, the bigger concern for is how it portrays the attitude of the game. I guess life is cheap in games where you can quickly come back to life, but I still don't want it portrayed that way.