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The Care Bear Stare

Call me a Care Bear… I dare you.  I gots a 10 person raid readying their tummies, with a Cousin Call waiting for you.

That’s right, Dark Heart!  You’re DONE.  Don’t mess with the Care Bears!  (And seriously… who else watched this movie 100 times?  It was pretty intense.)

Some of you remember Care Bears as friendly cartoon animals on a mission to undo evil on planet Earth.  In their kingdom was a giant “Care Meter” which, if its needle should fall, would prompt these fierce little creatures on “Care Missions” to restore balance and … you know… “CARE” to the world.

But, how does this relate to the video games?

Calling someone a “Care Bear” during gameplay is considered a derogatory term.   According to hearsay, back in 1997 there was a game called Ultima Online (UO) and there once was a guild named “Care Bears”.  The apparent purpose of this particular guild was to kill other players all the time.  Being that UO paved the way for many future MMOs to follow, they experimented with new features like in-game economies and social, anonymous interaction.  Suddenly people were free to behave however they wanted, as no one would know their true identity.  They could choose to care about other people, or they could be jerks.

For those of you unfamiliar with MMOs, imagine sitting on the couch playing Super Mario Bros. when suddenly hundreds of other Marios pop up on your screen!  Who are these other Marios??  They’re talking smack to you, stealing your coins, swiping your 1-Up’s and murdering you in cold blood.

In a game like UO, even though a free and open world sounds awesome, the purpose of playing a video game is to have fun.  If it’s too much like “real life” – and meaner than real life – then why would anyone want to PAY a $10/month subscription fee to have their avatar camped by a deadly mob named after loving cartoon bears?  The Care Bears became deadly killing machines, completely debasing the purpose of what the cartoon stood for: justice, kindness, integrity and love.

So, why waste hard-earned money to constantly die and not ever really get to experience the game?  Enough players complained, threatened to cancel subscriptions, etc. and the developers started enforcing rules upon a game that kinda didn’t really have any to start with.  Ironically named assassin guilds like the “Care Bears” got really upset… so the name was disrespectfully reassigned to anyone who stood in their way of dominating Ultima Online.  According to one perfectly expressed meaning on Urban Dictionary:

No full loot was “carebear”
Safe zones were “carebear”
Limits on who you can attack and where you can attack them were “carebear”
Limits on freedom in general were “carebear”
Instances were “carebear”

Carebears were people who wanted devs to develop/change games to make their gaming experience easy, safe and cozy. No risk, no challenge, no realism. Cozy like a carebear.

UO (intentional or not) was a massive experiment in player interaction.  Before this, gamers were mostly used to being lone rangers, playing a game to defeat it.  Simple.  Now you had to either work together or work against each other.  The real world and the game world began to blend.  And should we Care?

Whether we like it or not, the real world and the game world are very much intertwined.  In a recent Wall Street Journal article about video games, it was noted:

“There has been a lot of attention wasted in figuring out whether these things turn us into killing machines,” said computational analyst Joshua Lewis at the University of California in San Diego, who studied 2,000 computer game players. “Not enough attention has been paid to the unique and interesting features that videogames have outside of the violence.”

I want people to realize that video games aren’t a bad thing.  I want people to recognize that the media has an obsession with “violence” in general.  Watch your local news tonight and tell me how much violence you see.  They’re obsessed!  The truth about gaming is far from the myth.

The article continues to point out a shocking revelation:

“Broadly speaking, today’s average gamer is 34 years old and has been playing electronic games for 12 years, often up to 18 hours a week. By one analyst’s calculation, the 11 million or so registered users of the online role-playing fantasy World of Warcraft collectively have spent as much time playing the game since its introduction in 2004 as humanity spent evolving as a species—about 50 billion hours of game time, which adds up to about 5.9 million years.”

And furthermore, video games generate creativity:

“A three-year study of 491 middle school students found that the more children played computer games the higher their scores on a standardized test of creativity—regardless of race, gender, or the kind of game played. The researchers ranked students on a widely used measure called the Torrance Test of Creativity, which involves such tasks as drawing an “interesting and exciting” picture from a curved shape on a sheet of paper, giving the picture a title, and then writing a story about it. The results were ranked by seven researchers for originality, length, and complexity on a standardized three-point scale for each factor, along with detailed questionnaires.

In contrast, using cellphones, the Internet, or computers for other purposes had no effect on creativity.”

There is so much I want to write about this.  But I’ll leave it here for now.  This is a huge umbrella and I just wanted to start the conversation and hear your thoughts about MMOs.

Have you been treated with kindness?  Or have you been treated poorly?  Where does our Care Meter stand?  Do you feel video games have made you more creative?

At the end of the day, the Care Bears win.  Hardcore Elitist Gamers can get as mad as they want, but… at least with MMOs… the Care Bear Stare is a Legendary Weapon.  It stands for the power of human intelligence, justice and the relentless application of equality.  So what… the game got nerfed?   U mad, bro?   The Hardcore Elitists beat the game already anyway, so why prevent others from enjoying it?  I understand Elitists want to bask in the glory of their tougher wins and don’t feel they should share it with less experienced players… but it’s just a game!

Care Bears don’t want to destroy the Elitists’ game.  They just want to get their monies worth and have fun.  If they want to craft – let them craft.  If they want to explore – let them explore.  If they want to experience everything the game has to offer, why shouldn’t they be afforded that opportunity, albiet at an “easier” rate?

I find it interesting that most MMOs start off on “hard mode” and gradually get “nerfed”, but console games often let you choose “easy, regular or hard mode” right off the bat.  So, why does it bother the Hardcore Elitist crowd so much more in MMOs?

It was mentioned earlier that Care Bears are those that complain a lot.  But I’ll be honest, when I read online game forums, the biggest complainers are from the Hardcore Elitists, not the Care Bears… jus’ sayin’.  Maybe the tables have turned.

Featured image via: MySpace.com/bekkamaoi

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