I’ve been playing MMORPGs for a long time, since the days of EverQuest and (to a lesser extent) Ragnarok Online‘s heyday. I’m sure some of you have been playing the genre for just as long or even longer than I have, and I am also sure that most long-time MMO players are very familiar with the term ‘toon’ in reference to MMORPG characters.
Reading a Massively article on Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, I couldn’t help but notice the aggression in reader comments over the use of the word ‘toon’. This is something I’d experienced a few times playing TERA last year, but never had I seen it be a thing. How could this possibly be a thing?
A char is a toon is an avvie is a character
The fact that getting snarky over the use of ‘toon’ is something that people actually do is slightly upsetting, as someone who has been using the word for 13 years. Why should long-time MMO players change their terminology?
I remember a few instances where people would laugh at those using ‘char’ in reference to their MMO character. I know I used the word a few times before moving on to ‘toon’, and I stuck with it.
There is a stigma among the overall community that ‘toon’ originated from World of Warcraft, and as such people who use the word are what some less couth individuals refer to as ‘WoW babies’. This is a bit unwarranted, because EverQuest players were referring to their characters as toons before World of Warcraft was even released.
It’s hard to imagine […] not everyone who uses ‘toon’ is from WoW.
It’s hard to imagine considering World of Warcraft has had several million more players over its lifetime than EverQuest and EverQuest 2 combined, but not everyone who uses ‘toon’ is from WoW. They may have had an affair with it at some point, but to categorize everyone who calls their characters ‘toons’ as being specifically from World of Warcraft is silly and unnecessary.
Degradation of character
There are some who argue that referring to their characters as ‘toons’ degrades them, because they are being called cartoons instead of characters (or avatars, which is even worse in my opinion). I cannot fathom this being the intention behind the word, but then again it’s difficult to wrap my head around people getting angry at a harmless word I’ve been using on a nearly daily basis for 13 years.
At the end of the day, no matter what your revered MMORPG character is referred as, it is still not real. It is still a string of numbers stored locally (and/or server-side, depending on the game) that make up your character. Nothing you call them will change that, but treating people who use ‘toon’ like they have leprosy does affect those actual people and how they feel.
You can dislike the word as much as you want, but equate it to the regional differences between ‘soda’, ‘pop’, and ‘soda pop’. People chuckle a bit when they hear one they personally don’t use — so why is it people get so huffy about using another term for a video game character? It means the same thing in the end.
Back to the topic of that Massively article…
I understand that the Final Fantasy MMO fanbase is clashing with the casual MMO playerbase in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, and the disdain mulling about this topic specifically is just one sign that the game’s playerbase is going to split in two over the coming months.
Final Fantasy XI and FFXIV 1.0 players didn’t use ‘toon’, but the surge of players in the game who use the word aren’t necessarily ‘WoW babies’. You can’t group up ‘toon’ and ‘casuals’ just like that, and assume you are 100% correct.
The use of a single word says very little about player history or skill, and jumping to conclusions over it is not the way to go. Next time you want to give someone an earful (or eyeful) over their terminology for MMORPG characters, sit back and think about whether it’s really warranted or whether you’re just being a jerk.