I found myself in dire need of a good RPG game, preferably a sci-fi adventure. Something along the lines of KotOR would be perfect. Well hey, says I, why not Mass Effect? Same people, same general idea.
Mass Effect was great. Definitely 9/10 material. It had a couple small issues, but what game doesn’t?
Anyway, point is, quests were marked with a Yellow Exclamation Mark.
In a sci-fi RPG with sniper rifles, powerful empires, and mighty starships, the people I need to speak with to finish up quests are marked with a great big !.
There’s really nobody to blame here but whoever first decided that putting in the YEM was the perfect idea to grab a player’s attention.
The YEM was originally an alert system that computers used to announce that something had (probably) gone wrong. Such as “Achtung! Das BIOS es fubar’d!” Today, it’s usually used in various Device Manager programs, or to otherwise display an error that has occured with a USB device.
The first time I, personally, encountered the YEM was in Warcraft III, playing that Rexxar mission where you do various quests out of the newly founded Orgrimmar. Quests were marked with a YEM floating above the head of the quest giver.
It was ingenious, really. It got your attention swiftly, and let you know exactly where you needed to go, and it did so without being overbearing. Anyone else remember that damned flying thing from Zelda that keeps saying “HEY! LISTEN!” There’s a reason so many gaming web comics mock that.
It only made sense to use the same method in WoW.
And, as we know, WoW has been wildly successful, so it’s really only logical that other companies will attempt to emulate precisely what WoW has done. Everyone wants a slice of the pie, not just the crust.
Consider this. By now, the majority of gamers worldwide have either played WoW or heard of it.
One review of the Lord of the Rings said “The English speaking world is divided into those who have read The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit and those who are going to read them.”
The same principle holds true for WoW. Fact is, there are millions of people out there who are familiar with WoW and how it works at a fundamental level. Meaning, of course, that there are millions of people who will react to a YEM as follows: “OMG quest!”
It only makes sense for other game developers to take advantage of this Pavlovian conditioning towards a brightly coloured punctuation mark.
At this point, whether or not this plague of YEM is good is largely irrelevant. The vast majority of western made MMOs now uses the exclamation mark system, usually yellow. The ones that don’t usually have players wandering aimlessly trying to figure out where to get quests.
It works too; ruthlessly so. Aimlessly wandering a previously unexplored world in Mass Effect, I spot a YEM on my mini-map, and then immediately charge right over to it as fast as my armed moon rover thing can go.
And strangest yet? I wasn’t even surprised, or even figured out what was going on until I was almost twenty hours into the game.
It was so ingrained into my brain that it didn’t even register that I was following the YEM… until it was far too late.
This weekend, I’m going to the bar, and I’m going to wear a hat that has a large foam YEM on it. I bet I can pick up nerd chicks with that hat, I’ll just need to time it so that I don’t go bar hopping on raid nights…