The gray is in. Don’t take it from me, take it from the carpet man. I had to buy a new carpet recently, and Carpet Man told me that the only carpet shade anyone wants these days is gray, putting one hand on his hip and the other on a pile of hair . It seemed weary, but came alive when I switched to beige.
Eventually I settled on corn, a warm yellow to keep things light and airy. To my relief and, I think, to the relief of the carpet man, it wasn’t grey. The shade that for some reason most people like to walk on. One that tires Carpet Man and reminds me of Lost Ark, an extremely popular MMO for some reason. No matter how chic it is right now, I don’t see it as a permanent part of my life.
I’ve spent a lot of time with Lost Ark, both in preview and in review. Aside from some pretty fun Diablo-style fights, I can’t get into the grindset needed to enjoy it. It’s one that embraces the archaic MMORPG model and its bazillion fetch quests. A guy asked me to move a rock a few yards for him, so I did. Once I had to say goodbye to a few people, so I right clicked on them in quick succession as they thanked me for all I had done. What had I done already?
That’s the thing about Lost Ark, everything blends into a gray goop. For me, at least, there is nothing remarkable about this MMO. Nothing that sets it apart from the competition. Heck, I’m not too hot on New World, but it at least tries something a little different, with all the PVP faction stuff and its vibration-based leveling. Even though you’re slicing through hordes of goblins, Lost Ark doesn’t ask much of you other than freewheeling your mouse and mashing buttons.
Of course, MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV and World Of Warcraft, and many, many others have fetch quests, or leveling experience that guides you between towns full of NPCs and yellow markers. Sometimes these quests are boring, menial or boring – I get it. But some of the more basic quests with the most basic encounters can best wrap you in their worlds. FF14 is particularly good at this, with storylines from some of the older, grittier levels proving quite emotional.
Take Ursandel, an elven guy sitting on a bench, looking miserable. His quest for you is simple: go see what’s going on with the mansion beyond. But it’s his story that draws you in. He tells you that he was a valet for the chatelaine, until she fell into madness following a tragic accident. She turned to black magic to restore her beauty and he passed away. He still feels guilty about it. Immediately, then, you are on board.
Let’s not forget Runescape, or at least, Old School Runescape. Another free MMO I first played when I was 11? It is home to countless questlines that encourage exploration and us. If I remember correctly, there’s this one called Pirate’s Treasure where you have to smuggle Redbeard’s rum from the neighboring island of Karamja. The catch is that Karamja has strict rules against transporting its rum across waters. It is a quest for recovery with intelligence. You must enter criminal mode as you push and probe the islanders to get this cursed bottle across the seven seas and into the hands of Redbeard.
By comparison, Lost Ark swims with characters that exist to give you things to do, but it’s just such a bunch of gray loops. Androids delivering their lines and going into standby. Less Westworld, more Carpetland. Gray carpets in the living rooms. More gray carpets in the carriages. Gray stools. You’re not here for an adventure, you’re here to turn off your brain and chew things up. This is what gamers want!
Look, I have nothing against gray. I’m a fan of gray shoes and a gray denim jacket. Gray t-shirts too – but not in the summer, as they are sweat magnets. A hairdresser pointed out to me that I have gray hair, so I’m crossing my fingers for going into a silver fox phase in the future. And yet, there’s only part of a gray game I can play before my brain feels like it’s turning to mulch or extinguished hash. In the right doses, gray games are great tools for disconnecting, but for living and breathing? No, not for me boss.
Every time I play Lost Ark now, I think back to Carpet Man and his weariness with people’s sudden obsession with gray carpet, despite the fact that there are so many better, brighter, bolder choices out there. If you’re in, you’re in. It is very good. By all means, play the gray. But look over there! Corn, terracotta, ochre. These may not be the in shade right now, but they’re not gray. And even though we were both wearing masks, I could tell Carpet Man had a small smile on his face when I picked the corn. “People will eventually get tired of gray,” her attitude said, as I ran my hand over the corn. Delicious sunny corn.