Grey is in. Don't take it from me, take it from the Carpet Man. I had to buy new carpet recently, and Carpet Man told me that the only shade of carpet anyone wants nowadays is grey, resting one hand on his hip and the other on a pile of pile. He seemed weary, but livened up as I picked through some beige.
Eventually I decided on corn, a warm yellow to keep things light and breezy. To both my relief and, I think, the relief of the Carpet Man, it wasn't grey. The shade that, for whatever reason, most people like to walk on. One that tires Carpet Man and reminds me of Lost Ark, an MMO that's supremely popular for some reason. No matter how chic it may be right now, I can't see it being a permanent fixture in my life.
I've spent a lot of time with Lost Ark, both for preview and a review in progress. Aside from some pretty fun Diablo-like combat, I can't enter the grindset needed to enjoy it. It's one that embraces the archaic MMORPG template and its bazillion fetch quests. One guy asked me to move a rock a few metres for him, so I did. One time I had to say goodbye to a few folks, so I right clicked on them in quick succession as they thanked me for all that I'd done. What was it I'd done, again?
That's the thing about Lost Ark, it all blends into one grey goop. To me, at least, there isn't anything remarkable about this MMO. Nothing that makes it stand out from the competition. Heck, I'm not too hot on New World, but it at least tries something a bit different, what with all the PVP faction stuff and its vibes-based levelling. Even as you're cleaving through hordes of goblins, Lost Ark demands little from you aside from coasting your mouse and mashing buttons.
Sure, MMOs like Final Fantasy XIV and World Of Warcraft, and many, many others have fetch quests, or a levelling experience that shepherds you between towns filled with NPCs and yellow markers. Sometimes these quests are dull, or menial, or dull – I get it. But some of the most basic quests with the most basic encounters can better envelop you in their worlds. FF14 is particularly great at this, with storylines from some of the earliest, grindiest levels proving rather emotional.
Take Ursandel, an elven bloke sat on a bench looking miserable. His quest for you is simple: go and see what's up with the manor house beyond. But it's his story that draws you in. He tells you that he was a manservant for the lady of the manor, until she descended into madness following a tragic accident. She turned to dark magic to restore her beauty and he noped out of there pronto. He still feels guilty about it. Immediately, then, you're on board.
Let's not forget Runescape, or at least, Old School Runescape. Another free to play MMO that I first played when I was like, 11? It's home to countless questlines which encourage exploration and nous. If I recall correctly, there's this one called Pirate's Treasure where you've got to smuggle Redbeard some rum from the neighbouring isle of Karamja. The catch being that Karamja has strict rules against bringing its rum across waters. It's a fetch quest with smarts. You must enter criminal mode as you prod and probe the island's inhabitants to get this darned bottle across the seven seas and into Redbeard's hands.
By comparison, Lost Ark is swimming with characters who exist to give you things to do, but it is so much grey loop pile. Androids that deliver their lines and enter standby. Less Westworld, more Carpetland. Grey carpets in the saloons. Greyer mats in the horse drawn carriages. Grey saddles. You're not here for an adventure, you're here to switch off your brain and mince things. This is what the players want!
Look, I've got nothing against grey. I'm a fan of grey shoes and a grey denim jacket. Grey t-shirts too - just not in summer, as they're sweat patch magnets. A barber pointed out that I have some grey hairs, so fingers crossed I enter a silver fox phase in the future. And yet, there's only so much of a grey game I can play before my brain feels like it's turning to mulch, or gone-off mince. In the right doses grey games great tools to switch off to, but to live and breathe in? No, not for me chief.
Whenever I play Lost Ark now, I think back to Carpet Man and his weariness at people's sudden obsession with grey carpet, despite there being so many better, brighter, bolder choices out there. If you're into it, you're into it. That's fine. By all means play the grey. But look over there! Corn, terracotta, ochre. They may not be the in shade right now, but they're not grey. And even though we were both wearing masks, I could tell that Carpet Man had a little grin on his face when I chose corn. "People will get tired of grey, eventually", said his demeanour, as I ran my hand over corn. Delightful, sunny corn.