MMOs: Looks vs Battles

It feels late, but I went on the Phantasy Star Online 2 website just now, and it looks pretty epic. What amused me was that the players were more concerned about splurging on costumes for their characters than what seemed to me to be the main point: fighting. Of course, fighting is still important, and PSO players still deliberated on the best class to get. From the website, I saw the 3 basic classes: Hunter (melee), Ranger (ranged) and Force (support/magic). There’re more to be unlocked later in the game, but they aren’t revealing them on the website! In addition, there’re 3 races to complement them: Human, Newman and Cast. I know what the burning question in your minds is: can I still make a moe woman if I choose Newman or Cast? The answer, luckily, is yes. Everyone can be moe if you want them to!

But my main point in this entry is not to talk about PSO2, but to talk about the increasing importance of looks in the game. My friend was fretting over which costume to purchase in Dragon Nest, because they all looked so cute. The growing trend (or has it been a trend all along?) is that players fight and grind (and by grinding I mean the excruciatingly boring act of fighting the same monster over and over again) to earn gold, and then use the gold to buy beautiful costumes. Sounds like a materialistic lifestyle in reality, but guess what, that’s the lifestyle of most women anyway. Work hard, earn money, buy nice things to wear.

So when they say games propagate a capitalist mindset, I think this is what they mean. In games, saving has no purpose. There’s no bank for you to earn interest. You only save up to buy that one expensive thing. There are no “emergencies” or rainy days. This mindset may permeate the youngsters of society to think that money is meant for spending. And spending on utterly superficial items, no less.

I have a strange feeling when it comes to men who spend too much money or time getting the perfect best costumes for their female characters. I am highly sensitive to gender power issues, and to me the idea of a man who is too preoccupied with how his woman looks cannot be a good thing. Imagine if you’re a woman, and your husband is continually telling you “wear this; it looks much better than whatever you’re wearing now. Don’t want? Come on, it’s not that costly, I’ll pay for it.” Many women may acquiesce, whether to keep their husband contented, or because the money does come to them quite freely, anyway. But I would feel like a doll, looking like how my husband wants me to look, and not having my own individuality.

Of course, I do think I am thinking too much. Whatever you do in games does not always translate into reality (in fact, the point of playing games is to do stuff you wouldn’t do in reality) but if you transpose this “appearance matters” mindset directly into reality, this is what you get. Does it seem pleasant to you? Just some food for thought.


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