It’s a somewhat lesser-known MMORPG that I’ve been sporadically playing on for about three years or so, and what I’ve found is that it reflects a similar sort of dual-purpose as Second Life does. Sometimes, the game seems to parallel reality, allowing you to live out a “second life” that feels surprisingly realistic considering the fact that you’re a miniature noseless animation. Other times, it allows you to explore your imagination and do things you wouldn’t be able to do in real life.
After you download the client and register for an account, the first thing you see when you log in is a screen with three empty character slots on it. You have the option of creating your own character if you haven’t used up all your slots, or play on an already existing one if you already have characters. This should sound familiar to anyone who’s ever played an MMO.
Similar to other MMOs, what you do with this personal space is entirely your call. Most of my friends on this game have what you could call “mini-me”s, while others based their characters on books, movies or even celebrities… and yet others picked a cool-sounding name to go with a cool-looking appearance and just went with it. A lot of roleplaying takes place in this game, but oddly enough, it usually has little to do with what the characters themselves are based on, and more to do with pirates. My friend Deathismygft dresses and kind of looks like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but talks like a pirate. It’s pretty amusing if you think about it.
Even though the puzzling is pretty rigorous and competitive, I definitely think that Puzzle Pirates is a social game. The server that I play on has less than a thousand active people, and many of us have been around for awhile. Strangely enough, the game has a certain small-town feel to it, which I guess isn’t really that far off. We’re kind of a miniature society, really. We’ve got social expectations, cliques, infamous rivalries, celebrities, fake money, status symbols, and a social hierarchy that’s probably more distinct than what you’d expect in an online community. It kind of makes me think that regardless of what our intentions are in coming into an MMORPG (to have fun, to relax, to make friends, etc), we, as human beings, when thrown together into a community, can’t help but recreate society as we know it in spirit.