The Average Gamer


Have you ever shrieked with excitement over a bit of loot? Waited patiently over countless raids for your turn? Calculated the chances of it dropping AND you getting it before the hunter?

Benedictus Dominus Deus RNG

Benediction (image taken from

I have. More than I would ever really admit to, even in gaming company. Regressing to being a five year old probably won’t inspire a wholesome team spirit. That and I would quite like to give the impression of a laissez-faire attitude to losing the roll. But oh Benediction how I wanted you! I put up with losing five hours of my Saturday evening for months. Having to deal with teenage prima donna warlocks. Warriors who just couldn’t stop taunting off one another unexpectedly. A very screechy, very pushy guild leader. And let’s not mention the cat. Actually… let’s mention the fucking cat. Forty people on TeamSpeak, all of us trying to learn the fights in MC, raid leader with a cat on his lap. The cat “talks”, this is of course bullshit, it yowls. It doesn’t get put in another room, it simply interrupts the raid communications consistently through each and every Saturday evening raid slot. I just sucked it up, that’s how much I wanted the loot.

I should explain that Benediction was at one point the staff to end all staffs. Not only was it an excellent healing weapon choice, there was also a whole lot of the sparkles going on as far as the animation effect went. I’m a girl that likes to look good in a game. I CARE about it. I will drop useful stats, within reason, to have the outfit I think looks best. Five years later and I’m still peevish about the other priest getting that bloody staff ahead of me.

Why is the aesthetic in these games so important to us though? It’s obviously desirable enough to support a burgeoning micro-transaction system in various MMOs. Non-combat pets made it in to WoW courtesy of their online shop and I believe Eye-Patchgate is still raging through Eve Online. I wonder if these types of enhancement were available for offline games whether they’d be as popular. Personally I’m not so sure that they would be. Thinking about the types of DLC that are created in the months following a big game release you don’t often see purely vanity items. Dragon Age 2 had class kits you could buy but these were designed to level with your character and had stats included on them. I’ve seen pre-order deals offering various guns or perks. Deus Ex: Human Revolution bribed us with opening devices, explosives and extra missions. It didn’t offer us Jensen’s coat in any different colours.

Quot capita tot sensus

What’s the difference then between online and offline gaming? The first thing that comes to mind is that offline it’s just you. Online and you’re suddenly one of many. You’re faced with a screen limiting you to choosing a specific look. Depending on the game, you’re now the same as hundreds, thousands or millions of other people. The more changes you can make to the visuals of your avatar the more unique you become within that gaming world. You’re basically creating your identity.

I know I’m not the only one who’s spent hours on City of Heroes or Villains, Champions Online etc carefully weighing up the pros and cons of leather versus PVC. Wondering whether the massive butterfly wings are just a little over the top. Calling their character Flappette to justify the choice of aforementioned massive butterfly wings. Even within the games offering the widest range of cosmetic choices there’s still room for more. Just indulge that little retail therapy itch and that handsome cape can be yours.

Then there’s the perceived value of items within games. This needn’t necessarily be a monetary figure. Value could be time spent to gain the item. Skill required to down the boss that has it on their loot table. Perseverance in the face of having to kill a ridiculous amount of critters. Whatever matters to you is where the value for these items are decided. Designers have picked up on this with the advent of achievement systems within games. These goals, whether they have vanity items attached to them or not, appeal to us. We can indulge in them as little or as much as we want. Not so hot at raiding? It doesn’t matter! You can still achieve at supporting your Guild by making potions. Struggling to help Frodo do whatever it is a hobbit does? Forget Moria and go fishing. However you choose to achieve something within the game, there’s tangible evidence that you have.

Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur

I’m still not sure that there aren’t even more reasons it’s so easy to get over excited about drops. Could it be as simple as “I win”? Perhaps along the lines of: I want something, I worked for something, I got something. We don’t always see that result in real life, and in games it’s far more assured. A constant drip of positive feedback. Allowing us to not just achieve but to display those achievements to our gaming peers. There can be no question then about how l33t we are within the confines of your flavour of virtual reality.

None of us will be the same. Maybe we just follow similar likes and dislikes when it comes to what makes us happy within a fantasy world. For me it’s the winning, the sparklies and the disgustingly cute baby Moonkin.