Cosmetic items are for the cool kids!

Nuff said.

I’ve had it by now with people of the MMO “over-achiever generation”, trying to make cosmetic gear appear in a bad light or associating it with certain (lowlife) play styles or player motivations. You don’t have to care for it (although I suspect you do), but spare me the wannabe elitist rubbish, mkay?

Whether you get kicks out of flowcharts, flaunting personal body-count, talking Shakespearean English among yer brethren or drawing your own maps – cosmetic gear is for you, pal! In the past, I’ve enjoyed most play styles in equally serious amounts in MMOs (okay, not the Shakespearean so much) and I’ve found that no matter where a player gets personal enjoyment or epeen from, it should always come wrapped in shiny paper! Cosmetics are for each and everybody and here’s why:

Player customization is an integral part of the genre and has always been a popular wish of MMO players across the board. MMOs are about coherent virtual worlds, or used to be – about identification, immersion and simulation, among other. The way your character looks has a lot to do with where he’s coming from, where he’s going and who he is. We do not exactly have a lot of means to distinguish otherwise in this department; our faces are not aging with time, our bodies won’t scar or build muscle. Many MMOs won’t even allow you to select character height or body type. Clothes and armor are therefore just one way to describe yourself some more and make your character tell a story, in a game that is also a lot about community and interaction.

Funny enough, it is very achievement-oriented players who care to distinguish themselves in MMOs the most; people who wave their damage meters around, ride on achievement mounts or want their hardmode epics or PvP gear to look different from other items. And that’s fair enough, I actually agree with that last crowd – but these wishes are erm, cosmetic! Pretty vain too, in a very exclusive way, unlike those who might simply want cosmetic gear for better choice and variety’s sake, without restrictions. Both groups want customization and frequently overlap – ambitious players care as much about looks as “casual” folk. Or not.

Compared to today’s MMOs, original Ultima Online was a game of remarkable sim aspects; not only would players waylay each other mercilessly around the clock and loot each others corpses down to the last shirt, they would happily hoard their “war spoils” in fully furnished homes and towers (which you could plant on the world map permanently), putting their successes on display; heavy treasure chests among basic furniture, torches on the walls and wallpapers. The most vicious player-killer guild would have a multi-story castle designed from bottom to top, with rares and shinies and uniforms for every member of the team. Guild colors crafted with (possibly) exclusive dies. Looks mattered, looks made an impression, looks formed a community and gave it a character and reputation. I remember how my “notoriously PK” sibling spent hours dying armors or crafting rare sets. Nothing says “I pwned you, noob!” better than your victim remembering your appearance and fearing your entire guild from there.

Time for truth: which one of these two would you rather have looming above your corpse? Which would you prefer to get your ass kicked by? I know whom I’d choose!

On annoying terminology

I’m not sure when the transition from cosmetic items to “vanity” happened, along with other even more negative associations and terminology. As if somehow caring about looks was a trait that divides MMO players and wasn’t a fundamental part of role playing (in the general genre sense). As if it was a way for entirely frivolous, vain and not-so-srs characters to waste their time on superficial aspects, when they, y’know, could be doing much more important things! Oh yeah… my “game schedule” is so busy busy busy with guild leading, raiding and PvP, I cannot possibly fit some time in for appearance slots!!! *GASP*

LOL! Yes you can, you just don’t want to! That’s alright, you can still be one of the cool kids…kinda…..although it really wouldn’t hurt if you put some more effort into your appearance, after all this ain’t the zoo.

We all take pleasure from different things in MMOs and if you really must go there, they’re all equal “wastes of time”; they’re entertaining somebody somewhere somehow and little else. So let’s not, we’re way past that fallacy. Just like your need to optimize doesn’t say one thing about your skills or achievements as a player, caring for cosmetic items and collectibles doesn’t tell you what type of player you’re dealing with and they’re not on opposed ends of the spectrum either. That is a wrong assumption and shows me that you have no idea what genre you have gotten yourself into or where it originated from. It is frankly also another sign of gamification rearing its ugly head, where player customization has no meaning, just like lore and travel do not. Slowly but surely, we lose all aspects that create atmosphere and depth in this beloved genre. How about you get your over-achieved under-dressed ass off my lawn?

I know, some say this genre has been pretty stagnant in places, I certainly agree. Then again, we have come such a long, LONG way in other areas when players do not even remember the second half of what’s making these games a whole, the “-RPG”part. Or both the visual and narrative side, for that matter. It saddens me, truly. What a dark and scary world where numbers are all that’s left!

Screw this – MMOs are about choosing the blue pill!

P.S. This is not an “anti-achiever post”, even though you’re a tiring bunch at times. It’s in fact a pro-cosmetics post, for achievers as much as other player mindsets (not that they’re actually mutually exclusive, but you know). Dare to be frivolous! You can do it! <3


  1. I _loved_ your pictures 🙂 The nelfy one was perfect 😀

    And yes! Pro looking good here too 😀

    Nothing says sexy like a dorf gurl in the black mageweave set. 😀

  2. Hooray! I am an MMO achiever who min/maxes and optimizes and usually has at least one spreadsheet open whenever they log in. I also love cosmetic items. I want my character to be badass. I also want her to have the option of wearing a silly hat.

    That, in my opinion, is what MMOs are all about.

  3. As an RP’er, I approve of this wholeheartedly.

    Then again, I also collected at least 8 different types of vests for my Paladin in World of Warcraft, organized by season. Yeah, he had a rotating wardrobe, as silly as that may sound. So I may be slightly biased.

  4. @Issy
    ..BMW set with a vest, I assume? =D
    I always loved the runecloth set – so oldschool and priestly.

    Hear. hear! I couldn’t agree more, if you’re rocking, do it in style! looking like a clown is alright too, as long as you’re not actually forced to but are just silly like that.

    @Straw Fellow
    Haha, seasonal sets! now that’s a new one even for me (I have a blue color collection tho!).

  5. I never really wanted to be one of the cool kids, so maybe it’s no wonder that I don’t care much about cosmetic gear at all.

    Sure, I get the odd surge of need where particular items are concerned (say, a Black Proto-Drake) but they are usually connected to some sort of achievement/status symbol. It also doesn’t happen very often.

    Then I sometimes want an item to replace a particularly hideous one I’m currently wearing, but ever since hiding helmets and cloaks has become a commonplace feature, I rarely have these moments either.
    I don’t even notice how ugly characters in leveling quest rewards look. Frankly, I rarely zoom in enough to care about the gear my character is wearing at all.

    The latest in cosmetic interest on my part were skins in League of Legends. I only play very few heroes in that game and am quite dedicated to them. It would somehow feel right to show that dedication by investing in a unique (or, well, less common) look for them. Not that I have actually done that yet, my aversion against item shops in general and against paying for vanity (sorry – cosmetic) items in particular has successfully kept my money in my pocket so far 😉

    Oh I can sometimes be delighted by something like a non-combat pet but I usually forget about those after getting them out once or twice. At least they don’t usually need inventory space anymore these days; when it came to deciding between a useful item to pick up and a pet blocking a spot in my inventory, the achiever in me always won out.

  6. Hehe…well I’m not sure you understood my post title correctly, although I get what you’re saying. basically, it’s usually the ‘cool kids’ (aka achievers) who act as if cosmetic gear was below them. and hence the title – IMO the feature is for everybody (or nobody, but certainly doesn’t depend on player profile like that). I attempted for some double meaning. 🙂

    Maybe it’s because of the way I play MMOs myself; for example I would travel less with a map and navigate more ‘by eyes’ in WoW and I also had all friendly nameplates turned off (BGs aside). I knew my guildmates and also other people on the server because of the way their chars looked, not by reading a name. it’s an entirely different experience.
    whether you do this or not though, most players care for looks one way or another or then they collect something or keep it for some other value than just immediate usefulness.

  7. Oh so I AM a cool kid? Damn it, when did that happen.
    I’m all for people being able to enjoy all that cosmetic gear has to offer and I believe that there are many achievers who want it too. Me, I don’t really.

    And yeah, your MMO playstyle definitely has a lot to do with this. I not only use maps a lot but totally need them to find my way around anything. Furthermore, I can’t stand not seeing as much of what’s going on as possible, hence the max zoom (and more in the case of WoW.)

  8. I’ve long argued that cosmetic gear is a Good Idea in these MMO things. Players need to have ownership of their characters, and being able to change their look without affecting their performance is a huge boon to attachment. Housing falls under the same category; give players control over a space in the world and that sense of ownership keeps them emotionally invested.

  9. @Tesh

    The investment definitely gets bigger if there’s a house full of mementos stationed somewhere, along with a character you feel is “you” (or alter ego, whatever) rather than just another nightelf with a green ponytail. you could think developers would do everything to glue their players to the game like that.

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