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Dec 03, 2004



Ideally, the game would provide fictional in-game holidays that could fill somewhat of the same function. However, since the tradition started by games such as Ultima Online is to provide Christmassy goodies and world-based holidays are not used (by and large, I'm sure some game does it), it tends to be a "necessary evil" by now (in other words, expected - "how come we don't have that? X game does!"). It isn't that immersion breaking as many other examples I could name easily.


I have incredibly fond memories of Asheron's Call's "Sudden Season" event, their first retail live monthly update in December '99. The world was covered with snow; new emotes allowed for snow angels and curious monsters appeared made of three round snow balls, with beady black eyes and a carrot nose. The update, however, was as much a nod towards the holiday season as a kick off of the year long story arc that began with the Geldites in Frore attempting to cast a deep winter across all of Dereth. Figuring out the cause of the "Sudden Season" led to the destruction of the first crystal in a series that turned out to be the prison of a dark entity (who escaped some many months later).

The key, of course, was that the seasonal effects were part of the gameplay and storyline, rather than a gimmick. Employing aspects of the holiday season as part of the lore rendered the culture more believable, rather than less. On the other hand, indiscriminately tossing in holiday cheer when there is no reason for it can also break the deal - key word, of course, being "indiscriminately."


SWG last year 'overlapped' Christmas with the Wookiee Life Day festival (yes, that of the rightfully slated Star Wars Christmas Special).

There were presents for all, and special gifts for Wookiees who managed to shout the loudest.

Generally, I felt it was a bit of a non-event, but you have to remember that a lot of the players wont be logging in - they'll be being 'forced' to actually interact with family that they've barely seen in the year.

Extra content for your smaller, hardcore base?


In DAOC we very rarely acknowledge RL holidays, because our task is to provide a space seperate from the real world.

Many people (myself included to a mild degree) don't actually like the holiday season. I get it shoved in my face enough when going shopping, I don't want the Church of Albion to suddenly start sprouting mistletoe and Christmas trees.

MMOs are also global enough now to the extent that encouraging a Christian holiday is objectionable to portions of the userbase.


Richard> Is Christmas a friend or foe of immersion?

Well, it is a friend if it is contained in a reasonable manner (space, time, setting). Why is it a friend? Because players relate to christmas and there is a wide set of associations (smells, feelings, cold/warmth etc) that comes along with presenting it in the world. In AW the christmas worlds seem quite popular.

Besides, who can resist a christmas leet...?


I *loath* the overspill of Christmas into MMO's I am playing. I like Christmas itself, but detest the tendency to use it for immersion-breaking Christmas specials. The overspill of holidays I don't even wish to observe is even worse (particularly US national ones) and I imagine that some non-Christians feel much the same way about the Christmas thing.

Spare me.



In Japan at least, with a negligible Christian population, there's a lot of Christmas imagery (in retail areas) every year - Santa Clauses, wreaths, trees, etc. Final Fantasy XI has some Christmas touches each year, but seems to nuance them with some touches that reference oshogatsu, or New Year, the major annual holiday. (During the Meiji era, the New Year was moved to line up with the Gregorian calendar instead of the lunar one, so the sort of accomodation with Western traditions isn't quite new.)

Other FFXI holidays vary in their reference to Japanese or Western counterparts: the summer festival (Natsumatsuri) is almost entirely Japanese in its flavor, while their Halloween equivalent borrowed more from the Western version. They also seem to do an Easter egg hunt.

Korea is about 50% Christian: I doubt they have a lot of qualms about putting Xmas references in MMORPGs.

But this is part of what "hegemony" means - the whole world recognizes your holidays.


Endie> I *loath* the overspill of Christmas into MMO's I am playing. I like Christmas itself, but detest the tendency to use it for immersion-breaking Christmas specials.

Well, immersion isn't about liking/disliking...

Just about anything can be done in an immersion-breaking manner, so the only good questions is: can you have Christmas ingame and get more rather than less immersion for your typical player? If you have christmas at home, and then log into your simulated 1920s MUD, then why would there not be christmas in the MUD? Isn't there an advantage to reducing the distance between the external and the virtual environment? Maybe, maybe not... I think "maybe".


Could there be a trade-off between "immersion" as the illusion of a fictive space, and "involvement" as sense that this virtual space is also meaningful? If participation in the virtual world becomes enmeshed with the practice of RL holidays, it may compromise the hermetic illusion of a distinct world, but as we seem to be approaching on the believability thread, that kind of mimetic versimilitude may not be as singular a motivation as we may be imagining it to be. The pleasure derived from thinking that the virtual world space is a legitimate one for "performing the holiday" may be that the player can invest his playing-time with cultural meaning.

Perhaps part of the guilt of MMORPG addidction is the alienation from real-world time, and the inclusion of real-time referencing imagery can reduce that guilt.


Is making sops toward alleviating the guilt of MMO addiction something we want to encourage? As someone who works on an MMO, if someone is addicted, to the point where it is detrimental to their well being, I want them to stop playing. Period, end of sentence. It's not my job to MAKE them stop, but on the other hand, it *certainly* isn't my job to make them feel better about it.

As far as the immersiveness of RL holidays, it totally depends on the milieu of the game. For something that is passingly related to Earth or the RL, such as, say, DAOC (medieval Europe) or the Matrix Online (Earth post-apocalypse) it certainly makes more sense to make reference to them then, say, SWG's Corellia or UO's Britannia. That being said, your users *are* members of the real world (no! really!) and if you create an in-game holiday in December and call it the Harvest Festival of Winter's Eve, they're going to call the resulting decorated plants Christmas trees, no matter how meticulously well-crafted your backstory.

There's also the fact that *no* MMO is immersive enough to create the suspension of disbelief necessary to ward off this sort of thing, but I suspect that's another discussion entirely.


Scott, I was addressing the nature of player experience, not necessarily the ethics of encouraging continued involvement on the part of the designer.

I think that a certain amount of guilt-overcoming is actually necessary, within reason (not to the point of addiction, certainly): especially as they got older, many people do not feel entitled to play at all, and will enjoy themselves more in a millieu that gives them permission to play.


What's interesting about this kind of thing is that those who are complaining are playing worlds that make little attempt to enforce any sort of consistent immersion. Is it any more immersion-breaking to have to put up with the constant l33t-speak rampant on the big graphical MUDs than it is to have to see some mistletoe?

Similarly interestingly, in Achaea, we celebrate Logosmas every 25 years (that's about a real year). It's just a barely-disguised version of Christmas, complete with trees, mistletoe, etc. Our users, who expect a WAY more roleplaying-centered environment than any of the big graphical games can hope to provide, don't complain. Or at least, I've never really heard one complain about it.

So I wonder if it's something to do with just setting expectations, or something to do with immersion vs. roleplaying (definitely not the same thing as we all know).



Let's not forget that these places are not just virtual worlds where they take up avatars, but for the people who play them, they are the socially gathering points - their equivalent of the corner bar. For your hard core users, the people in-game are their closest friends, and for those people, recognizing and sharing real-world holidays in-game makes them feel a little less geeky and a lot more like they've got real friendships going on.

Your more casual users just appreciate it because it's an event - a day where things are not like other days. Which come to think of it, is what a RL holiday is, too.

The holiday analogs that Raph and Matt posted are excellent solutions, IMHO, which give these people the social aspect they crave while still offering enough backstory whitewash to make your fiction writer sleep OK at night.


Matt> So I wonder if it's something to do with just setting expectations, or something to do with immersion vs. roleplaying (definitely not the same thing as we all know).

I personally don't find worlds that never change immersive in the long term. Fitting seasonal changes bring life to the environment. I believe changes in the environment makes the environment more pronounced by demanding attention and reinterpretation and thereby increasion the entropy. Which in turn is a gateway to immersion.

Immersion doesn't imply roleplaying, but (hardcore) roleplaying is a gateway to immersion. Good roleplayers make use of what you have. Change is an opportunity for new types of interaction, thus a roleplaying asset, and thereby something that can yield more immersion.


If you put to one side the religious/secular/cultural questions (which are very interesting) and frame this simply an immersion/non-immersion issue, I agree with Matt & Scott that you can't be too much of a purist about immersion when the players break immersion themselves. Personally, I kind of like the holiday stuff. And of course, there's a history of seasonal easter eggs outside the MMOG context.


Interesting discussion arising here.
Personally speaking as an MMO player, I like the holiday stuff to intrude, as it tends to break the monotony of the usual level / quest / dungeon crawl / raid cycle.

That said, could this also be an untapped area for next gen MMOs? At the moment we see simulation of day / night cycles is pretty commonplace, but one thing we dont see is the passage of seasons. With that passage of seasons we could see the inclusion of in game holidays (although both the holidays and seasons would largely depend on the game time / real time ratio).

If we take DAOC as an example (as its based on RL mythology) - in Albion we could see the Church celebrate Christmas, Easter and Lent (with quests that only activate during that time, seasonal foods and social clothing appearing in the vendors etc). The same would apply to Midgard and Hibernia with Viking / Celtic ceremonies used.

Adds to world immersion in my opinion, which is no bad thing.


i very much appreciated that seasons of dereth. they were built into the game and seemed perfectly natural and somthing to look forward to. fall was always lovely. i did always find it difficult to fight in the snow. i had a hard time keeping up with where everybody was. it was just that time of year darn it; but i knew it would melt in a few weeks. oh how i looked forward to spring.

we create our own content in second life so seasonal and holiday items & environments abound. the difference is that we're not immersed in a world. we're simply learning & practicing design techniques that we'll use to build and manage 3d websites in the near future.


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