A few nights ago I was playing Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, better known as ARR, with my best friend. And one way or another, I accidentally made a few emote friends.
So, what is “emote friends”? Simple. Emote friends = friends made through random uses of emoticons. My friend and I were bursting out laughing (emote “/laugh”) after completing a certain quest and suddenly the guy next to us joined in, “/laugh”-ing at us very loudly. Not wanting to lose, I gave him another dose of my own “/laugh”-ing. My friend joined in, then two more players joined in. One of us tried emote “/dance” and I also did the same. I used emote “/clap” and someone else used yet another emote. And another, and another.
After a while I said, “Okay, okay. Let’s all be friends,” and added them to my Friend List.
Nowadays emotes are an essential tool of social interaction in the Internet, and even more so in MMO games. In forums, we depend on the various keys in the keyboard to express our thoughts, starting from the basic smiley-face “:-)” to the more advanced glaring-face “>>:-(”. In social networking sites, we can also enjoy the visual renders of the most basic emotes — type “:D” in Facebook, for example, and the site will automatically change it into the Big Grin icon.
But in MMOs — at least in the more graphically advanced ones — we also have animations. Type “/grin” and zoom in to your character’s face, and you’ll find his smile widens confidently. Type “/wave” and he will wave his hand at whoever you happen to select. And — my favourite — type “/dance” and your character will do a little jig to the unheard music, while other players would glare at him as if he’s crazy.
These examples only apply in ARR, because each game has their own sets of emotes. Dragon Nest, for example, has two emotes for “/dance”, each of which differs depending on what character you are playing. Dance with a Kali character, and if you’re male and perverts (these two words are synonymous) make sure to prepare some tissue and close the curtains first. (emote “/wink”)
But the use of emotes in any MMOs is still limited. In ARR, for example, you need to stand still to use most of the emotes. You can’t run a dungeon and “/laugh”-ed when your friend is cracking a joke. You can try of course, and the dialogue box will say you’ve already used that emote. But there’ll be no animation, no change on the facial expression, no laughing-out-loud voice from your character. That’s a big turn off.
And there’s a problem with the length of writing needed to use an emote. It’s much faster, not to mention easier, if we just type “LOL” instead of “/laugh”. When you run a dungeon, you don’t want to waste time typing “/laugh” when you can use the three letters “LOL”. Even “/LOL” is longer than “LOL” by one letter, and when you’re battling a big bad boss, you don’t always want to waste time writing that extra letter. “LOL” might not have any animation, but it’s much more convenient. I really think other game developers will benefit from imitating Dragon Nest’s auto-render, so that when you type “LOL” in the dialogue box, the system will automatically change it into its animated counterpart — your character will laugh, in a clear voice and with a change in the facial expression. This way, the game will be more interesting and, more importantly, more realistic.
On the side note, maybe it’s also a good idea to set up a system that can detect the dialogue box for any basic emote. If for example you type, “That is so true LOL”, the dialogue box will just say, “Character 1: That is so true” and your character will be laughing at the same time. Of course, there has to be some restrictions to this, otherwise we won’t be able to type “lollipop” and “Lolita” ever again.
The one thing I like about ARR — in terms of emotes, anyway — is that you can combine emote “/sit” with a few other emotes. So, if you type “/sit” and then “/wave”, your character will wave his hand while remain seated. The same goes with “/sit” plus “/laugh”, and “/sit” plus “/thumbsup”, although in the last one your character will nod instead of giving a thumb’s up. I wish there will be more emotes available to combine with emote “/sit”, but ARR developers have got the right idea — they make emote-ing more interesting.
Someone once told me, “Everyone smiles in the same language”. The same thing applies for emotes. Wherever you are, whatever your culture is like, “:D” always means a big smile and “:|” always means a whatever-face. The emote friends I mentioned above, for example, are all speaking Japanese and I can’t speak the language except for “Konichiwa” and “Aishiteru”. But we can still interact through emotes and that makes us emote friends.
I imagine someday all messaging apps like WhatsApp will have a 3D avatar who does our emotes for us. You type “LOL” and he’ll laugh, you type “:P” and he’ll make a silly face. It’ll make chatting much more expressive. Seeing the current pace of technological innovations, I say this won’t happen very far in the future — the only question is which tech developers will get this idea first and be able to utilise it efficiently. As for me, I’ll go back to ARR and do another round of “/laugh”. Who knows? Maybe some other strangers would join in and end up in my Friend List. (emote “/wink”)