From football hooligans to terrifying Pokémon
Pokemon Legends: Arceus changes Nintendo’s beloved franchise more than any pocket monster installment before it.
Developer Game Freak has fundamentally changed its 26-year-old formula and incorporated video game mechanics commonly seen in massively multiplayer online RPGs like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV. The most obvious are the aggressive wild Pokemon that roam the map, looking to pounce on unwitting trainers. These wild beasts have terrified and frustrated players on the other side the the Internet.
The way these wild Pokémon aggressively attack (or “aggro”) stray trainers has been significantly overhauled from Pokémon: Sword and Shield‘s Wild Areas, and some players aren’t happy about it. A Twitter user even says that they are now forced to constantly hide in tall grass to avoid having their entire team knocked out by crimson-eyed Alpha Pokémon.
ArceusThe aggro system has become a point of contention. Some players think it’s overly punitive and wild Pokemon can chase players too quickly, while reminding others of their fond memories of MMORPGs. The “aggro” debate has echoed in RPG communities for decades and has been the subject of countless memes and threads.
The term is now inseparable from the RPG genre and its many communities due to the large number of titles that have based their combat on an aggro system. Arceus is just the latest example of Nintendo borrowing what MMORPGs have been doing for years. Diehard fans of the genre are tossing around the word “aggro” as a common verb in Discord forums and voice chats. Additionally, Google Trends data from 2004 shows that a large majority of searches for “aggro” were related to games. Gamers own the modern use of the word, but its origins predate Pokémon or any other video game.
Game designer and co-creator of the first online multiplayer RPG, Professor Richard Bartle, tells Reverse this aggro was a quick and dirty solution to one of the many limitations of multi-user text-based dungeons (or MUDs) that were the foundation of modern RPGs. This “hack”, as he describes it in an essay titled The Evolution of the Trinityworked so well that its underlying design barely changed over the years, much to the chagrin of many game designers, including Bartle.
But the term “aggro” dates back even further than the text-based games that paved the way for modern games.
The origins of aggro
The abbreviation from “aggravation” or “aggression” to “aggro” dates back to the mid-1900s as a colloquial expression to describe a disturbance caused by aggressive or violent actions. People used the word in this context for decades, long before the widespread adoption of video games.
“Aggro was British slang for gang fights at the time, especially at football games,” Bartle explains. “‘There was a bit of aggro outside Stamford Bridge last night,’ that sort of thing.”
This use of the word is still relevant today, but Bartle’s creative and academic endeavors would serve as a catalyst in giving aggro its definition as a popular game. In 1978 he and fellow University of Essex student Roy Trubshaw created MUD1, widely regarded as the very first virtual world. The project was an attempt to allow multiple players to simultaneously enjoy single-player text-adventure games, such as Zork. During this process they came up with the notion of an aggro system, but that was the 1990 release of BatMUD and the launch in 1991 of DikuMUD who formalized it.
“Aggro was British slang at the time for fights between gangs, especially during football matches.
“We had the concept in MUD1but we called him provoking“, says Bartle. “If you entered a place where there was a mob, there was a chance, depending on the personality of the mob and your health, that it would be provoked to attack. Players from other MUDs have called it aggressiveness.”
The idea of aggro, or taunt, came about because MUDs were able to tell how many players and enemies were inside game rooms, but they couldn’t assign positions to players in these rooms. This meant that if a group of five players exploring a cave attacked a group of trolls, all of them could take damage from the trolls’ clubbing. Players have therefore equipped themselves with heavy armor to avoid being beaten to death in each combat scenario. This solved the immediate problem, but created another one.
Every MUD user was required to be an armored warrior. There was no leeway to be a thief in the back or a wizard in a robe. BatMud and DikuMUD fixed this by creating taunt commands or abilities that force enemies to attack a player. These new mechanics allowed enemies to measure the level of “threat or hate” each player generates in a fight to determine which character to attack. Threat management, as game designers call it, also gave rise to “The Trinity” of Tank, Healer, and DPS (Damage-Per-Second) character roles featured in most modern RPGs, and that almost immediately impacted the next leap in the genre.
Aggro in modern games
The 1991 release of Nights without winter was the first MMORPG to push the graphics beyond the era of multi-user dungeons and expand server capacity to hundreds of players. (It also featured a threat management system identical to BatMUD and DikuMUD.) It wouldn’t be the last.
The introduction of 3D graphics with the launch in 1996 of Meridian 59 led to the development of the concept of “aggro range” or “aggro radius”, which is how close a player can get to an enemy before they start attacking. This concept was reused in almost all subsequent MMORPGs, including Ultimate online (1997), EverQuest (1999), and World of Warcraft (2004). The Aggro lineup has spawned jokes and memes about inadvertently “shooting” or attracting the attention of a lethal number of in-game enemies.
“These days, players use the term ‘threat’ rather than ‘aggro’ for the concept of getting a mob to attack you rather than someone else,” Bartle explains. “Aggro is reserved for entering a mob’s aggro range and triggering it on the attack, usually by accident.”
It’s those unexpected moments, like the now legendary World of Warcraft Clip of Leeroy Jenkins where a single player wipes out a dozen of his pals after assaulting a swarm of baby dragons, which makes RPGs both infuriating and inexplicably hilarious. Now, thanks to Pokemon Legends: Arceuslongtime fans of the Nintendo franchise will be able to experience similarly chaotic, yet hysterical moments, like getting the unwanted attention from an Alpha Tangela and leap past his Hyper Beam in a futile effort to save your team.
invented is a Reverse series that explores the wonderfully odd interplay between language and video games.