Our Top Five Cultures That are Underrepresented in MMO Games

By Jeff Francis
Top five underrepresented mmo cultures

While most mmo games tout their uniqueness by citing certain features, there is a common thread that binds most of them together - their culture. While the various mmo settings found in online games can vary, there is a certain conformity found in most games due to the shared culture that spawned fantasy and gaming in the West. Games ranging from Lord of the Rings Online to Neverwinter have a strong foundation based on Western culture and, specifically, medieval culture. This is perfectly natural as the writings of Tolkien and other notable authors inspired the tabletop rpgs that eventually laid the foundation for online games. Eastern culture has forced their way into the mix due to the strong culture found in Japan and China, imported into the West via movies and anime/magna. However, there are some incredible cultures found throughout the world and history that would serve as a great foundation for an mmo. It's time to move past medieval Europe and ponder our top five underrepresented mmo cultures.

Arabia
The first of our top five underrepresented mmo cultures is that of Arabia. Some elements of Middle Eastern culture have filtered into the world of fantasy, such as genies and flying carpets. That being said, it's amazing that a game has not been fully set in an Arabic setting that takes full advantage of such a vibrant culture. All one has to do is crack open One Thousand and One Nights (also known as Arabian Nights) to get a massive dose of inspiration. Just imagine an online game built around the exploits of heroes like Sinbad, Ali Baba, and Aladdin. The opportunities for adventure are many, from dangerous sea travels to conniving viziers to exploring a sultan's harem without coming to harm and losing a certain appendage. The mmo culture of an Arabic game will both be exotic and familiar to players in North America and Europe due to some cultural import. The tales and myths of the golden age of Arabic culture are filled to the brim with magic and adventure, which are two of the main ingredients in an online rpg.

Egypt
The second of our top five underrepresented cultures is Egyptian. Few countries have gripped the imagination of the West like Egypt. Countless expeditions have been sent to discover lost tombs, pyramids, and mummies. Speaking of mummies, that's what most gamers think of when the subject of Egyptian culture is brought up, but there is so much more. There are some mmo games that touch upon Egypt, such as The Secret World and SMITE, but it would be tremendous to see an online game devoted to the land of the pharaohs. Fortunately, we know quite a bit about this culture, especially their gods, and a high fantasy mmo that used the Egyptian culture fully would be enticing. There could be palace intrigue between a pharaoh and his subjects or strife between the various gods, not to mention the wars that took place between Egypt and other nations, such as the Hittites. What gamer wouldn't love to engage in mounted combat using their mighty chariot?

Africa
Another of our top five underrepresented mmo cultures are those found in Africa. The Dark Continent has served as a setting for lurid adventure stories for a hundred years, but such depictions usually just serve up stale stereotypes. I understand that there are many different cultures found in Africa, but there are a number of similarities when it comes to art, music, and mythology. One reason why I would love to see a full mmo based upon African culture is that we in the West are not exposed to it at all outside of warring tribes attacking a hunting expedition in movies. There are a lot of tribes that could serve as an inspiration for in-game factions, such as the powerful Zulu, who gave the British Empire all it could handle. One of the most intriguing facets of African culture is their love of storytelling. It used to be quite common for villagers to gather at the end of the day to listen and tell stories, and a feature of such storytelling was the back-and-forth between the storyteller and listeners as both were active participants. This leads me to wanting to see a bard class based upon African culture. One of the few games that use African culture as a foundation is Rangi, the strategy, puzzle-based mobile game.

Mesoamerica
Next on our list of the top five underrepresented mmo cultures are those found in Mesoamerica, such as the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas. These vibrant cultures rivaled those of other parts of the world but were eventually brought down by disease and Spanish conquests. While we don't know as much as we want about these cultures, we do know enough to provide an intriguing glimpse into a world that is quite a bit different from what we're used to. The cities of Mesoamerica are still inspiring, and the technical knowledge shown in architecture, such as their pyramids, and astronomy is amazing. While I do lump the above cultures together, there were differences. The Aztecs were known for their use of human sacrifice, supposedly once sacrificing over 80,000 prisoners over four days. The art, folklore, and myths of these cultures are incredibly unique and are worthy of being used to create an online game. I heartily recommend watching the movie Apocalypto by Mel Gibson to get a taste of what this setting could bring to an mmo, but I must caution you that it is pretty violent.

India
One of the oldest, continuing cultures is next on our list of the top five underrepresented mmo cultures - India. Once known as the jewel of the British Empire, India has a vibrant culture stretching back several thousand years. Unlike some of the other cultures on our list, we do know quite a bit about Indian culture as they wrote quite a bit of it down. It's staggering that such an important civilization has not been used to create a full-fledged mmorpg. There's just so much to work with: the Hindu religion, the caste system, wars, technology, dance, etc. India has their own martial arts and was the civilization that gave us chess. There is so much lore and history to pull upon to create an online game, that it's staggering. Opportunities for adventure are vast, such as suppressing the murderous Thugs to helping a bride (or groom) escape an arranged marriage. Personally, I think the cosmetic clothing options for an mmo based upon Indian culture would be incredible.

As you can see, there are plenty of cultures that could serve as a great setting for an online game. These top five underrepresented mmo cultures show that there is something different from medieval Europe or feudal Japan when creating an mmo. Our hope is that more cultures are eventually used as the de facto setting for mmo games instead of what we've long been accustomed to. What cultures do you think would be tremendous for an mmo setting? Let us know in the comments below.

Apr072017

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