In theatre and film, there is a concept known as the Fourth Wall. Simply put, the Fourth Wall is an imaginary border that separates the setting of the play/film from the world of the audience. When the Fourth Wall principle is respected, actors never acknowledge the existence of the audience and for good reason.
The entire point of going to a see a film or a play is to indulge in a few hours of escapism and this is achieved by completely immersing the spectator in the setting /world of the author. If an actor were to address the audience to directly, their suspension of disbelief — so critical to immersion — would instantly evaporate.
Yet sometimes, the Fourth Wall is obliterated on purpose often for cheap laughs. In National Lampoon’s Animal House, there’s a scene where actor John Belushi stands on a ladder outside looking into the female sorority bedroom and unexpectedly turns around and smirks at the camera; this is a good example of breaking the Fourth Wall for an intended effect.
In MMORPGs, respect for the Fourth Wall safeguards the immersion of the player while they inhabit the virtual world. This is why ads for Amazon and Starbucks would be highly inappropriate and out of place in a high fantasy virtual world.
The Importance of Immersion
Players are drawn to virtual worlds for many reasons. However, there is perhaps nothing more important in virtual worlds than immersion. Virtual worlds and traditional forms of art are predicated on their ability to completely transport and immerse the player/viewer into the world of the creator/artist.
Immersion is like oxygen, it’s invisible but without it, you can’t breathe and when it’s given short shrift you notice it. Immersion makes your world believable and makes the player’s journey of escapism possible.
Immersion should be sacred to MMO designers but often it is carelessly violated.
Blizzard’s World of Warcraft was full of pop culture references which detracted from the immersion. While I’m certain the WoW devs thought they were being clever and cute, I believe they were being irresponsible and careless. The needless inclusion of real-world references ultimately worked against the noble cause of totally immersing their player in Azeroth, Blizzard’s fictional fantasy world of WoW.
The War on Immersion
Today there is an undeclared war on immersion being waged in MMOs and video games. This is because of the self-righteous behavior of the proponents of identity politics who’ve infiltrated the video game industry and abused their positions to insert progressive issues and chosen victim group representation into video games — all in the name of pseudo-virtues of diversity and inclusion.
Regrettably, they care more about spreading their ideology than they do about safeguarding immersion for their players.
One example of this occurred last week when EverQuest Executive Producer Holly Longdale released separate but similar producer’s letters for both EverQuest and EverQuest 2. While both letters included timely information about the state of EverQuest, included in each letter was an odd paragraph and image that has absolutely nothing to do with EverQuest.
Here is the snippet from the letters:
Let’s Celebrate Pride!
This year, you can get our Pride-themed bunny familiars from the in-game store for free starting June 21 until July 31, 2019. As a studio, we support every gamer who contributes to our community. Show the love!
There is no Pride Month in Norrath. It is completely alien to the lore of EverQuest. It is inexplicable as to why this was included in the Producer’s Letter.
What is Pride Month?
In recent years, Pride Month has been held every June and is a celebration of the LGBTQ community (more letters being added in each day!) in progressive America especially in states like New York, California, Oregon and Washington.
Every June, the LGBTQ community and their allies conduct gay pride parades. Gay conservative columnist Chadwick Moore reveals the origin of the pride movement and artfully slaughters some sacred cows in his recent article: This Pride, let’s celebrate shame.
Here’s an excerpt:
As you watch naked, leathery old men with nipple rings waddle down the street, testicles knocking at their knees, or third-rate drag monsters expose their buttholes to crowds of children, just remember that this is not the behavior of an honorable — or even rebellious — people. Everyone knows it, but no one is allowed to say it. It’s hardly even Pride in the Biblical sense. In Christianity, Pride is the first sin, and the most deadly. Pride got Satan expelled from Heaven and Adam and Eve cast out of Paradise. Today’s gay Pride is just corny and mildly uncomfortable.
Imagine being an average EQ player and reading Holly’s message about “Pride”. It has absolutely nothing to do with the concerns of rank and file EQ players. After reading scores of replies to these letter on the official EQ and EQ2 forums I believe there was only one person that even acknowledged “pride” in the comments.
The EQ community plays EQ because they love fantasy MMORPGs and not because of the progressive politics of the people that work at Daybreak Games in San Diego, which is in California — a medieval state with the highest poverty rate in the USA. Most EQ players just want to have fun and be a part of a virtual world, not to partake in a virtual gay pride celebration.
The Absurdity of Pandering to Victim Groups
Why should Daybreak stop at Pride Month? Why not also create in-game pets for Black History Month, International Women’s Day, Holocaust Remembrance Day, 9/11 Day and others? Where does this stop?
How about being more inclusive? Shouldn’t Daybreak Games also celebrate straight pride, white pride, black pride, Asian pride and so on? Taken to a logical conclusion and being consistent with their mantra of diversity and inclusion, progressive-minded Daybreak Games would have to create new pets for every day of the year given all the causes that exist in the world.
Pandering to 4.5% of the population that constitutes the LGBTQ demographic is absurd and an example of the madness of progressive virtue signaling. It also opens up a dangerous Pandora’s Box of unintended obligations that creates a dangerous precedent for further deference to other minorities and victim groups.
The Shoe on the Other Foot
Imagine if Daybreak Games was sold to a group of devout Christian investors. Then imagine if during December the company instructed the executive producer to release the following Producers Letter to the EQ community:
Let’s Celebrate the Birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
This year, you can get our Nativity themed familiars from the in-game store for free starting December 1 until December 30, 2019. As a studio, we support Christians and we honor the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in Bethelem 2019 years ago. Show the baby Jesus your love!
How would the EQ community and the devs feel about this?
I daresay most would feel very uncomfortable and because religious and ideological proselytizing is inappropriate in a MMO. As a Christian, I wholeheartedly agree with the message but I would not consider it appropriate to be included within a Producer’s Letter for a fantasy MMORPG because real-life religion and politics erodes immersion and tears down the Fourth Wall.
At a time when budgets are tight and there are scarce resources, why was a Daybreak Games artist’s limited time allocated to create no cost familiars for Pride Month? I can think of thousands of art assets that could be improved in EQ and many longstanding bugs that could be fixed that deserve attention instead of creating art for the purposes of virtue signaling.
Since the very first MMO entered the scene, this amazing genre has been open and inclusive to everyone. No matter who you are, your age, your socio-economic status, your race, your gender, your politics, your religion, you can immerse yourself in fictional worlds of fantasy via something called role-playing. You can be a male, a female, short, tall, big or small. You can be a human, an elf, a dwarf, a troll or an ogre. You can be a wizard, a rogue, a warrior and more. It’s all up to you how to play your character.
Everyone starts out as level one with the same crappy rusty sword or mace. MMOs offer equality of opportunity but not equality of outcome. The future is what you make it and that’s why we love the genre!
And this is precisely why millions of players log on to MMOs each and every day to escape the drudgery of life, the yoke of politics and the virtue signaling noise that constitutes social media. Virtual worlds provide us with an oasis where our alter-egos can experience high adventure and the bonds of community while making our way in a harsh and unforgiving world of danger and magic.
As players, we greatly appreciate the MMO studios and the tireless dedication that the devs expend to create these wonderful worlds for us. That said, we work hard for our money and we do not like having political messages directed at us during our leisure time by companies who we pay to provide us with this escapist entertainment.
MMO studios are in the business of providing escapism to their customers. Period. For many years, MMO studios like SOE understood that and respected and honored that unspoken rule. Today, progressives employed in the video game industry addicted to social media virtue signaling feel compelled to disseminate the identity politics agenda into their video games.
It is not unreasonable to believe that companies that provide good and services to large numbers of the populace should respect their customers and be ideologically neutral. Taking sides in cultural wars only leads to needless alienation, isolation and marginalization of those on the other side.
If Daybreak Games as a studio wants to virtue signal about controversial events like Pride Month, then they should do it internally and not involve their customers. If individual employees of Daybreak Games want to celebrate Pride Month, attend gay pride parades and wear pink tutus, they should be free to do so on their own time. That’s how liberty in America works.
For the record, I do not relish having to write articles like this but somebody has to speak out and say something about the incremental incursion of progressive ideology into video games. Daybreak Games, please respect your customers and keep identity politics out of our video games.