Cryptic Studio’s Star Trek Online capitalizes on a long-held cultural watershed for Western media in the Star Trek series and since going free-to-play has continued on a trajectory that has added a tremendous amount of content. Since players are thrust into a ready-made universe known to entire generations of Americans, it’s the perfect place to find people who are not just MMO players but also fans of Star Trek.
In an article at SiliconANGLE, Kyt Dotson writes about the above interview with Cynicman in STO and about the implications of how players build their identity and expression in MMO games,
In the virtual world, Cynicman talks about building and costuming characters. Amidst those he shows off display the breadth and width of the capabilities of the STO character creator. While not as customizable as other, past MMOs (such as City of Heroes) the STO character creator allows for a surprising versatility of appearance and outfit enabling creative players to express themselves in surprising ways.
This is especially of interest to Trekkers—who have a subculture of costplayers who arrive at conventions not just in uniforms from the TV series but sometimes wearing full-on alien makeup to appear as Klingons or other in-series races.
In the case of Cynicman, he reveals that often he takes to the character creator to enhance his social experience and expression by sticking to a theme. With characters such as Ruthven and Carmilla he can produce individuals who prevail a Gothic romance aesthetic such as vampires from modern media from Brahm Stoker’s Dracula or the film Nosferatu.
While most on-the-market free-to-play MMOs follow a fantasy theme, science fiction has a very strong partnership with that media genre. Star Trek has led generations of the West—and the world in general—on a merry chase, and STO is the only MMO dedicated to its specific niche.
Often players find themselves faced with things that have been seen in the shows, written in the comics and novels, as well as being able to board and fly iconic ships such as the Galaxy-class from The Next Generation. This provides an interesting look into how MMOs and mainstream media’s enterprise can mix together. Although PWE publishes and funds Cryptic’s development, CBS is the owner of the Star Trek license and makes many of the calls about what can and cannot appear in game.
As we’ve seen with games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic (and the now-defunct Star Wars Galaxies) as well as Defiance, being connected to a mainstream media property is not always a guarantee for success. In fact, in many of these listed cases it’s been something of a failure—although arguable SWG died because of poor attention to the playerbase and Defiance just cannot seem to hit its mark.