Posted in Gaming, MMORPGs

Which MMOs Make You Feel Badass?

badaPardon my French, but I used that word in my title on purpose. This post was inspired by a book I’m reading for work entitled Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra. So the word is totally relevant in this case.

Now, the entire idea behind this book is really interesting. Catch this.

The book’s author notes that for a brand or product to succeed against competitors, it’s not just quality, customer service, design, or how cool a product is – though those things help. It’s more about the feeling the user feels when they use the product – do they become better and better at something, and take pride in what the product helps them create? Do they feel awesome at doing whatever task the product is supposed to help them to accomplish? If so, they are more likely to talk positively about the product, and that product is more likely to succeed based on the user’s organic, word of mouth promotion.

To quote one of the editorial reviews on the Amazon page:

Believe it or not, many people don’t care how awesome your product is. Instead, they care about how awesome they are when they use your product.

Daniel H. Pink

MMOs That Make you Feel Awesome

I started thinking about this in terms of MMOs and games, and I realize the same can be said of what we choose to play. I don’t know about you, but I tend to gravitate towards games that either make me feel awesome about my character/skills or allow me to build a character that I feel is awesome in some way. In short, we’re more likely to be loyal to a game that makes us feel good about our digital selves or our accomplishments – whatever we see our accomplishments as being.

This can be different for each person. It could be that you feel awesome at PVP. Maybe you’re a pretty darn skilled healer or tank for your guild. Maybe you’re proud of the house and farm you built in your sandbox game. Maybe you’ve collected enough mounts and pets to put a zoo to shame.

All these goals provide an intrinsic feeling of awesome. And the games that don’t do that for us on a personal, individual basis are less likely to get our money and time.

The Awesome Progression

Another thing to take into consideration is that player growth may be gradual, especially if a player is brand new to a certain game. So how well does the game move a player from being a “noob” to being what the player perceives as a competent player?

What about MMOs that are perceived as nothing but “grind?” What about when a game you’ve played for a while suddenly introduces a new feature (that then becomes grindy, too punishing, and unrewarding)? The book warns about what happens when you make users feel like they’re stuck in a “Suck Zone.”

Credit: Scanned from
Credit: Scanned from “Badass: Making Users Awesome” Book

I’ve been here before. When I start to ask myself why I’m wasting my time hitting my head against a wall over and over. Gaming is supposed to be fun, right?

Usually, this is a fast track for me finding a different game that feels more rewarding.

Then, there’s the MMO expansion syndrome. The devs have all these great ideas for new features and fun things to bring players back to their game. They raise the level cap, and suddenly, all that hard-earned gear becomes something of the past. The trash mobs on the overworld map are dropping better gear than what you raided hours to get.

Or there’s some new feature or strange upgrade system or the game locks you out until you attune to something, and it’s just frustrating. You used to be at the top of your game. Suddenly, you find yourself back in the suck zone, and that… well… sucks.

Credit: Scanned from “Badass: Making Users Awesome” Book

Proper progression, the book suggests, is one where the game is able to balance changes without taking away the progress and learning the player has made. That should look something like this:

Credit: Scanned from
Credit: Scanned from “Badass: Making Users Awesome” Book

While that’s a good thing to shoot for in a game, MMOs have it difficult because they appeal to gamers of many different playstyles. It may be easy to pacify that RPer or person who just wants to decorate their in-game house (throw fluff at them). But what about those players who always demand a challenge? Who want that uber raid to overcome? And when does the uber raid go from a balanced challenge that makes a player feel good about what they’ve achieved to being something so over-the-top difficult that only 1% of the playerbase could ever hope to beat it?

Well, all those thoughts aside…

My questions to you are: 

Which games have made you feel awesome? Did you stick around them longer? Recommend them to gaming friends? Blog about them? Become part of that community?

Which games failed to make you feel awesome, or lost the awesome over time? Did you eventually leave, or did you keep trying to return to see if you could recapture that awesome?


I'm a technical writer by day, gaming gal by night. I have a wide array of gaming interests, though I most often blog about MMOs, RPGs, and Nintendo fanstuffs. Like what you just read? Check out my Webcomic and Fantasy Fiction projects!

9 thoughts on “Which MMOs Make You Feel Badass?

  1. Tanking for the first time in WoW made me feel that way. At the time everything was new, I had never played an MMO before so even the concept of a dungeon was fresh but a few months later when I started tanking and got pretty good with some of the more complex resource management systems for Cata era Blood DKs I really felt awesome as a tank and it’s all I wanted to do. I think I stopped caring about that role because the class was dumbed down/changed so much it didn’t feel as exciting anymore. I played a monk later in MoP and for a while that brought the feeling back because it also had mechanics that required good timing and management to perform well.

    I think my post on my own blog today would fit the second category. I love TSW, but The Cost of Magic pushed the limits of how long I’ll stay in the “I suck at this” zone. Were I not such a completionist (which makes me feel awesome to have all the things!) I would have quit.


    1. I haven’t been around TSW in a while, but I’ve heard something about the changes that were made there, and unhappy folks. Don’t have the whole story on it, though.

      It’s sad because I enjoy TSW, and they really don’t need to be making changes that bring their players down right now! 😮


  2. Your last paragraph strongly suggests the problem with this very one-sided, simplistic view of human motivations. Feeling Badass is fine as far as it goes but often I don’t WANT to feel like that. Often I like to feel confused, puzzled, mystified or even overwhelmed.

    One of the many reasons I like to play MMOs is that it allows me to indulge, safely and harmlessly, in the fantasy of being a very lost and very small in a very large and dangerous world. Feeling Badass would be the exact opposite sensation to the one I’m seeking.

    Unfortunately, game design seems to be full of people who seek to feed power fantasies rather than lack of power fantasies.


    1. That’s an interesting answer. I think maybe “badass” is a bit of a misleading word – I was only using it because that was the title of the book I’m referring to.

      Maybe “becoming accomplished at something” is a better term. It doesn’t even have to do with power – though I admit for most people it does. Accomplishment and feeling awesome is defined differently for everyone.

      Accomplishment could be simply learning what it means to survive as a very lost and very small person in a large and dangerous fantasy world. Accomplishment could mean successfully unlocking more of the world’s secrets as you play.

      You can get a feeling of awesome for discovering something amazing in a game or learning how to navigate something that seems like a challenge. That’s not necessarily “badass,” but it gives you the feeling of awe that you want to go back and blog about to other people. That’s more what I’m getting at than pure power itself.


      1. I think you’re right that it’s a misleading word–it’s being used by the author for the shock value to get the reader thinking, rather than meant to be taken at face value.

        Speaking of which, I do think there’s an additional dimension to the topic here which didn’t exist in the realm of application software that it sounds like the book was aimed at–that of user preference for what your software allows them to do. With application software, you kind of assume your user wants to do what your software does. After all, you generally don’t boot up Microsoft Word in order to write software, nor do you use Skype to write your essay for school.

        With a game, however, it’s often not clear to the player ahead of time if they want what your game offers… and in the complex, ever-shifting world of MMO’s, I think this is even more true. As I think you yourself have discovered, sometimes what an MMO offers at first isn’t what it’s giving you after a year of patches. So there’s another dimension here that’s intimately intertwined with the issue of feeling awesome.

        Because really, feeling awesome is only one dimension of what you’re looking for in a game. In a game, you want to be awesome at something you *want to do*. I don’t want to run around shooting people in an FPS, so no matter how awesome a Halo game might make me feel, I’ll never play one much. I *do* like feeling like a master strategist, so Sid Meier’s Civilization will always have a special place in my heart.

        I’m not sure if this is the same point you were getting at, Bhagpuss, or just a related one. XD


        1. That’s also a really great point. The book also noted that when you really love a certain product, you’re willing to overlook or ignore the problems with the product.

          For example, I really dislike forced grouping in my games. Really, really dislike. In fact, I dislike it so much, I usually quit a game because that’s not something I want to be force to be awesome at.

          But then, I play FFXIV. And because the story inspires me and makes me feel like I’m awesome and my character is awesome… well… I can overlook the fact that the game has forced grouping. I still don’t like the forced grouping. But the awesomeness of the story – something I want to do – outweighs something I don’t want to do just enough that I stick around.

          Funny, isn’t it! 🙂


  3. Now that I’ve already written an essay… I’ll answer your original question. XD

    I don’t really have a large sample size of MMO’s, as I’ve said before. FFXIV… almost has *too* gentle of a learning curve, as if they’re trying to shield you from the fact that you’re horrible at the game until you’ve had ample time to fix that. It was an interesting design choice, and I felt like they might have lost some people in the pre-Titan storyline simply because of that. But I can’t deny that the opening to Labyrinth of the Ancients hits me square in the ‘awesome’ sense. XD

    Now, if I can expand the question a bit…
    Darkest Dungeon is actually surprisingly good at making you feel awesome because you *earn* your victories. You know, every time you succeed, that it’s because you prepared properly and used your resources and abilities well. The fact that you still have runs that go bad even after getting experienced just makes the successful ones sweeter.
    I felt pretty awesome the other night when I managed to beat Zone 3 of Crypt of the Necrodancer on the dance pad. Especially since I have repeatedly died stupidly afterward, so I must have been awesome for that one run. XD
    Building a great civilization in Sid Meier’s Civilization never fails to make me feel like I’ve learned a difficult skill. 😀

    I could go on… but I do note that the games that most succeed in this seem to be the ones where failure is a very real and present option.


  4. I prefer the curve of Ultima Online where you start off relatively weak and end up more than competent. I don’t want to be the hero wearing neon armor all the time.


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