Out Of The Shadows: Fantasy Goes Mainstream

Say it quietly, but MMORPG games aren’t really a niche activity anymore. As much as some of us have come to love the feeling of being a subculture, it’s no longer an accurate description of the MMORPG gaming community. Once upon a time, the stereotypical image of people who played RPG games would be that they were socially inadequate; people who don’t have many friends or connections, and struggle with social skills. The very existence of MMO games confirms that there are way too many people out there, like us, who enjoy the hobby, for it to be considered weird.

Star Trek Online was such a huge success on the PC that they ported it to current generation consoles, and continue to update and refine it to this day, eight years after it was initially released. Everybody who plays ‘Grand Theft Auto’ or ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ online probably doesn’t even realize they’re playing an MMO game. Some of the more aggressive types who play online ‘Call of Duty’ likely don’t even know what an MMO is. Crucially, though, the people who make the games do. They also know what the value of catering to an MMO gamer audience is; keep us happy, and we’ll happily hand over our money.

Bringing Fantasy To The Forefront

The games we’ve just mentioned (with the possible exception of Star Trek Online) aren’t really what would be considered to be typical MMORPG games; or at least, not the sort of MMORPG games that got most of us interested in the genre. Historically, the “roleplaying” aspect of the hobby has always been associated with fantasy, history, and games that combined the two. Medieval weaponry backed with dragons. Witches, warlocks, and all the forms of magic; these were the staples of the games that originally brought us to the table (quite literally, in the days before internet play gave us a lot more people to play along with).

Perhaps we should thank ‘Game of Thrones’ for taking the basic elements of a good fantasy game and making them palatable to the masses. The hugely successful TV program is currently heralded as one of the greatest and most popular shows of all time. And what’s it about? A medieval land divided by competing claims for a throne, where kings, queens and warriors do battle, vying for the ultimate prize, each of them on a personal quest. There are dragons. There are undead soldiers. All that’s missing is a giant pair of dice rolling along the land before the start of each conflict. Despite that, the same people who were rude to you at school because you played Warhammer and Dungeons & Dragons now think it’s the best thing that they’ve ever seen, and can’t stop talking about it, as if we didn’t already know dragons were cool. We could have told them that years ago, if they’d cared to listen!

Entering The Mainstream

Perhaps it took something like ‘Game of Thrones’ getting as big as it has for those who work in the entertainment trade to realize there was a massive audience out there for fantasy, and they need catering to. Like we said earlier, as much as the constant ‘buy in’ requests in MMO games irritate us, most of us would probably admit we spend more on them than we probably should. We’re a demographic with money to spend, looking for things to spend it on.

The first industry that will happily take money from an interest group who want to spend it is the gambling industry. They’re always looking for ways to attract new customers, and they’ll make every effort to accommodate an interest if they think there’s one there to serve. That’s why if you look at any decent slot games website these days, you’ll find that among the more traditional offerings featuring fruit symbols, leprechauns and all the other classics, there are themes which seem tailored to our tastes. Not only is there a ‘Game of Thrones’ online slot bearing the official license, there are many more which run along similar lines. ‘Warlords: Crystal of Power’ should appeal to anybody who’s played a conquest game before. ‘Avalon II: Quest for the Grail” sounds like a concept and a title that’s come straight from the card-based RPG world. ‘Beowulf’. ‘Vikings Fire’. ‘White Wizard’. Several titles, all inspired by the fantasy world. If they weren’t popular, they wouldn’t be there.

The other place you’ll quickly see a change in trend reflected is films and television; and lo and behold, ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ is scheduled for release in 2019. A quick glance at the synopsis tells us it’s about a band of kids who embark on “an epic quest to thwart a medieval menace.” We don’t know about you, but to us that sounds like ‘Game of Thrones’ for children. The ‘Lord of the Rings’ TV series is well on its way through the production pipeline, at an estimated cost of over $1bn. Netflix, in what might be a majorly significant move, has acquired the rights to ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ and has promised to produce an episodic TV series with the budget that the tale deserves and needs. The BBC is involved in making a TV series based in Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’. It won’t stop there, either. Expect a whole range of new books. Expect multiple films, and multiple TV series. Much like the superhero boom of the early 2000s, when every superhero you’d ever heard of got a movie, and so did another fifty who you hadn’t, the makers of entertainment are scouring the whole fantasy back catalog, trying to find the next piece of genius source text that will give them another ‘Game of Thrones’.

So What Does That Mean For Us?

It means we’re officially cool. Our niche interest area is now the world’s niche interest area. Everyone’s rushing to tell us that the things we’ve always known are great, really are great. We’re the experts in this world everybody’s stumbling into. We’re the points of reference. We were into fantasy before fantasy became cool. That might even make us the hipsters of fantasy! So now we have this elevated status, and this enhanced ability to make people create products for us, what do we want to do with it?

I think we all know the answer to that. Actually, when it comes down to it, all we want us for someone to make us some great new games to play!