Why is Elf-Fantasy the most popular?

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  • IselinIselin Vancouver, BCMember LegendaryPosts: 10,192
    Eldurian said:
    Well he's comparing it to pre-Tolkien lore but I would argue even pre-Tolkien elves were said to be beautiful. I'd say they are most comparable to contemporary dryads.
    In some countries and some lore and some time periods. In England for example elves and fairies got conflated (and it was used that way by Shakespeare) somewhere along the line making them more like J.K. Rowling's elves than Tolkien's (which, BTW, are the only ones with pointy ears.) In German mythology the same thing happened except they conflated elves and dwarves.

    But yes, Martin's Children are much closer to ancient Greek Dryads than European elves especially with their connection to the trees.


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  • g0m0rrahg0m0rrah indianapolis, INMember UncommonPosts: 325
    When watching Thor 2 I heard someone say, here we go again, another Tolkien rip off. I'm like Yea, Norse mythology ripped off Tolkien, right buddy... 
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  • lahnmirlahnmir UtrechtMember RarePosts: 925
    Iselin said:
    lahnmir said:
    We doing favourite races now? Hell yeah, Ratonga baby, screw the rest!



    /Cheers,
    Lahnmir
    Hey I know that guy. He's a famous chef isn't he?
    That could very well be. I must admit I needed a quick pic to show the unaware the coolness of the Ratonga and didn't feel like installing EQ2 again just to take a screenshot.

    /Cheers,
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  • Jean-Luc_PicardJean-Luc_Picard La BarreMember EpicPosts: 6,606
    edited September 11
    So people going for the pretty, immortal and wise elves. How surprising. And boring. Tolkien style elves are utterly boring. WoW male elves are funny (to laugh at) though for being this weird mix of a Tolkien elf and Hulk Hogan.

    I prefer Terry Pratchett's elves. Not that I would want to be one though.
    There's a quite good assessment of the fantasy races in "The Noob" comic...



    Credit: Gianna from The Noob Comic: http://thenoobcomic.com/

    Post edited by Jean-Luc_Picard on
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  • EldurianEldurian Member EpicPosts: 1,848
    So people going for the pretty, immortal and wise elves. How surprising. And boring. Tolkien style elves are utterly boring. WoW male elves are funny (to laugh at) though for being this weird mix of a Tolkien elf and Hulk Hogan.

    I prefer Terry Pratchett's elves. Not that I would want to be one though.
    There's a quite good assessment of the fantasy races in "The Noob" comic...



    Credit: Gianna from The Noob Comic: http://thenoobcomic.com/

    They forgot a race that's either a straight humanoid animal or a race of all female gendered lolis with some kind of animal ears and tail.
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  • lancerxxlancerxx Phoenix, AZMember UncommonPosts: 36
    edited September 11
    Would elric of melnibone from the elric saga books be considered an elf? I could see him having some influence, on the Witcher games
    Post edited by lancerxx on
  • cameltosiscameltosis ipswichMember EpicPosts: 1,670
    It is just a legacy of western European history, particularly influenced by the British. 

    Most western European cultures have fantastical creatures in their mythology, probably from our pagan roots. We have elves, dwarves, goblins, trolls, ogres, giants and dragons in our collective history, we've been making stories and songs about them for millennia. This is then combined with our martial history - swords, shields and bows - as we look back in fondness and awe at the conquerers who marched across Europe, invaded neighbouring countries, lay siege to castles etc. 

    Whether it be things like the vikings killing crazy creatures, St George slaying the dragon, or King Arthur chillin' with Merlin, we have a very long history with these sorts of creatures. 


    So, it doesn't surprise me that "elf fantasy" is still the most popular genre for RPGs. It speaks to us on a cultural level. We are surrounded by it growing up in Europe, whether it be your mum taking you to look for faeries at the bottom of the garden, or visiting a castle with your dad, or reading up on pagan history, or reading about the crusades. 



    It is also why there are vast differences between western and eastern fantasy: vastly different cultures and histories. Eastern games are designed by people with cultural histories vastly different to our own, which is why the creatures we read about or fight in games are so different. It is what makes the crossover particularly difficult - western RPGs often struggle in the east and vice versa. 


    As to why elves appear in Asian fantasy when a lot of other western fantasy doesn't? Prevailing opinion seems to be that modern elves are in fact heavily influenced by Eastern culture - things like meditating, living at one with nature, weird spirituality, vegetarianism etc - so it makes sense that they would be able to identify with elves and wish to incorporate them back into their own fantasy settings. 


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  • Azaron_NightbladeAzaron_Nightblade KingsmouthMember EpicPosts: 4,268
    Eldurian said:
    So people going for the pretty, immortal and wise elves. How surprising. And boring. Tolkien style elves are utterly boring. WoW male elves are funny (to laugh at) though for being this weird mix of a Tolkien elf and Hulk Hogan.

    I prefer Terry Pratchett's elves. Not that I would want to be one though.
    There's a quite good assessment of the fantasy races in "The Noob" comic...



    Credit: Gianna from The Noob Comic: http://thenoobcomic.com/

    They forgot a race that's either a straight humanoid animal or a race of all female gendered lolis with some kind of animal ears and tail.
    Clearly they skipped the Korean MMOs. ;)

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  • CryomatrixCryomatrix Cambridge, MAMember UncommonPosts: 1,032
    I usually tend to go with humans over elves, but if I am going to go crafter or tank, I'd go with a dwarf. 

    But in reality, I'd prefer to play one of the least popular classes if I could. I don't play MMO's much anymore, more of an ARPG guy these days, but I'd love to get into a role where I'm one of the very few "of X" in the server but i'm a damn good one though. 

    When I played WoW, I went with Orc Hunter (2004), it was pretty fun. I played Darkfall for a month and was a dwarf crafter before I lost all the will to play the game for the unknown reason. Perhaps, because, any MMO i play, I feel like i've played before. 

    Anyway, I think it comes down to what we relate to. I relate to human the most, but I try not to play elves or half-elves due to how cliche they are. Anyway, my useless 2 cents to this discussion.

    Cryomatrix
  • TorvalTorval Member LegendaryPosts: 14,758
    Probably because Gnome fantasies are just too kinky for most people.

    Wait... we're talking about the same thing, right? :smirk:
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  • ShinamiShinami Sacramento, CAMember UncommonPosts: 774
    I kind of disagree. 

    What I normally see in MMORPGs are Humans trying to break out and explore and they tend to meet the elves. I hardly see people in a major story playing from an Elven point of view. 

    Remember, most games we pick our character and now everyone starts together. Truth is that the story is usually thought of from the point of view of a human being. In games like Lineage 2 and Guild Wars 2, the player started in their racial hometown and were able to take start quests to see the world from their racial point of view for a limited time. 

    Most of the time humans are the protagonists and they take it upon themselves to meet and unify the races to fight some large evil. Even when the player picks to be a member of a different race, they still go from the point of view of what a human would think and act. 

    At least Guild Wars 2 made it so that Humans were not so superior. The other races had their own territory along with their own history and power level. It wasn't a world were 50%+ were human beings and every other race was minor...at least in its current standing. 

    I see Elf Fantasies became more popular with people trying to cash in on Lord of the Rings... I mean they even put Legolas in The Hobbit movies... Don't think he was in the book. Look at "HISHE (How it should have ended)" for the Hobbit movies. Those are pretty funny. 


    Just an example: 

    I can pick out to be a Female Cyclops (with a racial story as the mortal enemy of humans) and when I start the game, I will be in the first town with an NPC saying "Oh them cyclops are ready to raid us, but we are protected within a field" and before you know it...

    I am some renegade cyclops destroying my own kind in the middle of a flower field. Not exactly what I signed on for.....




  • GorweGorwe Ald'RuhnMember RarePosts: 4,233
    lancerxx said:
    Would elric of melnibone from the elric saga books be considered an elf? I could see him having some influence, on the Witcher games

    Well of course! Geralt is basically a Slavic Elric. Or Elric set in Slavic influenced world. ;)
  • EldurianEldurian Member EpicPosts: 1,848
    Eldurian said:
    So people going for the pretty, immortal and wise elves. How surprising. And boring. Tolkien style elves are utterly boring. WoW male elves are funny (to laugh at) though for being this weird mix of a Tolkien elf and Hulk Hogan.

    I prefer Terry Pratchett's elves. Not that I would want to be one though.
    There's a quite good assessment of the fantasy races in "The Noob" comic...



    Credit: Gianna from The Noob Comic: http://thenoobcomic.com/

    They forgot a race that's either a straight humanoid animal or a race of all female gendered lolis with some kind of animal ears and tail.
    Clearly they skipped the Korean MMOs. ;)
    Oh no, every MMO pretty much as long as it has a racial selection that isn't just variations on human like EVE or isn't based on older book series like LotRO.

    WoW you have your Tauran, Pandaran and Worgen. 
    Crowfall you have your Elken, Minotaur, and Geunican.
    SWTOR has it's Cathar.
    You have the Maharim in Darkfall.
    The Charr in GW2.
    Firran in ArcheAge.

    Animal type races are one of the most common cliches in MMOs.

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  • AsheramAsheram Member RarePosts: 2,640
    edited September 11
    Phry said:
    Not complaining just curious.  Other themes:  Space-Science-Fiction, Crime-Stealth, Mythology-Gods, Survival-Environment, Auto-Racing, Abstract-Construction, Historical-Fiction-(Medieval, Western, Urban, etc), Superhero-Comic, Zombie-Apocalypse, Cyber-Steampunk, Martial-Arts-Orient, Dinosaurs-Creatures, Home-Management, Puzzle-Solving, Chat-Room-Social-Dating, Action-Adventure-Exploration, Horror-Dystopia, Nature-Utopia, Anime-Drama, Mystery-Cloak-n-Dagger, Politics-Governing, Comedy-Satire, Music-Creative-Arts, Tragedy-Occult, etc.

    Out of all the rp genres mmorpgs can be what makes elf-fantasy (also called Sword-n-Sorcery or Heroic-Fantasy) the highest chosen?




    I understand your point and @Phry provided the best answer I suppose. But, elf-fantasy has got nothing to do with Sword and Sorcery or Heroic Fantasy. As in, it is not also called...

    Tolkien made elves and orcs popular. Many grabbed those races in their fantasy worlds. 
    I think for me, that Tolkien was the most influencing, i first encountered his books back in the 70's, i had just started secondary school and the school library had a few complete sets of the Lord of the Rings, i don't know how many times i read them, but that i think marked my 'entry' into the whole fantasy genre including everything from Robert E Howards books to John Normans rather more 'provocative' fantasy series, since i still read a huge amount of books, although my wife has long since banned me from buying physical books due to 'volume' my kindle library is probably fairly large. But it was Tolkien who ultimately shaped my conceptions of what Elves are, and fantasy worlds in general. :)
    Yep for me add to your list Draganlance novels, Gor, Death Dealer books (prisoner of the horned helmet) by James Silke.
    There was one book I read that I can not for the life of me remember the name, it had floating ships and realms with pirate like mean elves in it.


    Phry said:
    lahnmir said:
    Xasapis said:
    Immortality and eternal beauty and youth are popular ... I wonder why ... :blush: 
    Twilight man, Twilight.  o:) 

    /Cheers,
    Lahnmir
    And then there are vampires, although i am not sure immortality and undead are quite the same thing



    Post edited by Asheram on

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  • Flyte27Flyte27 Greenwich, CTMember RarePosts: 4,112
    I'm fairly sure it's how they look.  For me it was always easy to relate to the D&D style elves because they were thin, agile, relied on finesse, and liked to live in isolation.  This is similar to me in real life.  I've never been the big and strong type.

    When I think about Elves in retrospect they are really nothing like me other than that.  For instance, they live at one with nature and are a bit haughty.  I guess I am a little bit haughty, but overall I associate myself more with the bottom tear of society rather than the top tier.  I can enjoy lewd humor for instance.  I guess it depends on the depiction of the Elves.  In the Hobbit cartoon, the High Elves were depicted as drinking and making silly jokes.  The Wood Elves were similar and had a much different depiction in terms of how they looked.

    I think I most closely relate to humans in stories and how they are depicted.  I guess that makes sense as I am one.  

    I always like dwarves in stories, but I never want to play as one.  I think they are more like the comic relief in most cases sadly.  I was watching a show recently on Amazon called Journey Quest I believe.  In season 3 there was a female dwarf who was somewhat portrayed as both sexy and funny.  I guess in the end she still ended up as the comic relief while the skinny and pretty elf ends up as one of the main characters and a love interest.

    Speaking of which that is something that really bothers me in today's shows.  I always enjoyed playing the roguish, arrogant, and skinny male swashbuckler types.  In today's shows women take over pretty much all those roles, but IMO they aren't nearly as fun in them.  They should have women playing as warriors and other types instead.  Many men are naturally rogueish and do a better job in that regard.
  • JemcrystalJemcrystal Champaign, ILMember UncommonPosts: 1,734
    So summing up your answers it is a combination of excessive historical exposure and sex sells.  And you are right.  The leading competitor is science fiction which is not as old and grounded because obviously we have not been living in the technological age that long.  Perhaps 2000yrs from now twi'leks will have a fanatical resurgence.  Until then, long live the master race!




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  • EldurianEldurian Member EpicPosts: 1,848
    edited September 16
    That's kind of a false progression. 

    Tolkien elves inspired D&D elves who inspired WoW elves. That much is true. But Santa/Keebler elves are kind of their own separate offshoot.

    Norse Mythology Elves > Tolkien Elves > D&D Elves > WoW Elves

    That's the true progression. Other forms of elves are more like a cousin species. Like say a chimpanzee to humans. We aren't descended from them, they just split off from our ancestors at a certain point.

    Norse elves were said to be beautiful, and could even be what some Vikings became after death. Also, ironically, I don't think pointy ears were a thing (Could be wrong on that one.)

    So while elves are one of my least favorite fantasy races, their origins are actually a lot cooler than the androgynous twigs they have become. And as much as I hate WoW, it's actually a lot truer to the origins than most depictions. 

    Also, unlike the picture would suggest, Tolkien elves were tall. D&D elves are short. So that height progression is way off.
    Post edited by Eldurian on
  • GorweGorwe Ald'RuhnMember RarePosts: 4,233
    Why is everyone forgetting Warhammer Elves? One of best editions thereof.
  • Azaron_NightbladeAzaron_Nightblade KingsmouthMember EpicPosts: 4,268
    Gorwe said:
    Why is everyone forgetting Warhammer Elves? One of best editions thereof.
    Warhammer elves are very, very similar to DnD ones though...

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  • ScotScot UKMember RarePosts: 6,522
    edited September 17
    By "Elf Fantasy" I think you mean medieval(ish) fantasy setting. But yes OP you are right so lets look at why that is king.

    Players like to identify with their avatars. That means humanoids are in, dinosaurs etc are out. A minority of players don't mind playing "aliens", but and I will say this only once, MMOs are made for the largest common denominator. Bring that back to mind every time you wonder why something is not to your liking in a MMO.

    This is why Elves are so popular, they look very human, more human than Orcs. So why not Hobbits you say? They look like little people? Players don't want to play short, usually stout avatars. Yes a minority do, but see the last paragraph.

    So other races tend to be quite human like and often exaggerate features that we want to have. Tallness, musculature, facial symmetry etc.

    Why medieval? The genre of fantasy is mostly like that and led MMOs to do the same. And what you immediately can get a handle on is what gaming companies want to produce. Science Fiction is harder because the setting is not as immediately familiar. Of course if you do Star Trek you don't have that problem so much, but you do know there are people who have not watched Star Trek right? We don't want to put them off so lets do another swords and sorcerer MMO with humans and elves.

    It kills creativity but then gaming and MMOs have had other higher priorities than that for many years now. Creativity is only allowed inside the envelope of what sells. The days of doing something creative and relying on that to create an audience for game are rarely found outside of indie. And indie is not exactly immune to the problem.
    Post edited by Scot on

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  • ScotScot UKMember RarePosts: 6,522
    edited September 17
    So summing up your answers it is a combination of excessive historical exposure and sex sells.  And you are right.  The leading competitor is science fiction which is not as old and grounded because obviously we have not been living in the technological age that long.  Perhaps 2000yrs from now twi'leks will have a fanatical resurgence.  Until then, long live the master race!





    Loved this, but just to say D&D Elves are smaller than Tolkien Elves, but other rpg's soon rectified that "mistake" and made them as tall or taller. :D
    Post edited by Scot on

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  • kumobladekumoblade Mechanicsburg, PAMember UncommonPosts: 86
    edited September 17
    There's a number of factors when you get right down to it.  From Psychology to sex-appeal and how they're portrayed. 

    Alright, History Lesson, time.

    The Elves (Aelfr), the Dokkalfar and Ljosalfar (Dark Elves and Light Elves respectively) are derived from Norse Mythology.  They were effectively Demi-Gods with Radiant Beauty and Everlasting Life.

    Around the same time, there was another Culture with a similar Mythology.  
    In Irish/ScottishGaelic Mythology, there too, was a race of Radiant, beautiful, Opal Colored Demi-God or Olympian-like Gods that were called the Tuatha De Dannan,  (Pronounced Tu-aH-ha dAY Dahnnun.  I'm looking at you, Mark Jacobs and Curt Shilling.  Not TuaTHA. ) Or the Aos Si which were, for simplicity, The Fey, Faeries, or sometimes commonly called 'The Fair Folk.'

    They did have their differences in their portrayals.  I believe there was more written lore on the Fair Folk, though.


    When J.R.R Tolkien created the  stereotypical 'Tolkein Elf'  he used his Cultural and historical know-how and badassery to blend parts of both the Aos Si and the Ljosalfar.  And it was a huge success for generations to come.

    He created a deep, rich lore about proud, beautiful, noble, beings of epic proportion on their way out to make room for the more adaptable species of Man.  A poetic and Tragic tale that has since been beaten into the ground a billion times.
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 

    From a gaming and roleplaying and even MMO standpoint, they have a number of things going for them.

    > They Have Desirable Traits:  They often are portrayed as beautiful and fair. Even the Dark Elf Variants.   Any Good DM/GM, however, can and WILL use this against them.  Some people will say only insecure sociopaths, people who are't happy with their own self worth, or the excessively vain are concerned about this.  I don't think that's the case at all.   I don't think there needs to be a reason to want to play an attractive character.  Unless your DM is an ass like me who can use it against you.  

    > They often live for a very long time or don't expire at all.  As humans who grown and age and learn of our own mortality through life, Immortality has always been that long desired and sought after holy grail.  Imagine being able to experience all the pleasures of life without ever having a Mid-Life crisis.  Again, this too, can be used against  players.  Eg. Dorian Gray complex. Life could become boring and callous.

    > They're human-like enough to be easy to role-play.

    > They have beneficial traits that  open up opportunities.   Elves are often portrayed as being graceful, nimble, swift and agile with a heightened awareness or wisdom and attunement to life and magical arts.   This allows them to fill just about any role.  

    > As fighting types: Instead of relying on brute strength and raging temper tantrums to win their battles such as barbarians or battleragers,  They outskill their opponents with greater agility and a keen mind, and supplementing their martial prowess with inherent magical ability.  The martial types are usually shown as having an almost Samurai level of discipline to them.  Except they can train with a sword for 100 years instead of just 10.  Which, provides more Roleplay Food. 

    > As magical types, with their increased or inherent magical capabilities, they often excel at these roles or have an advantage (Which gives them versatility or Potency)


    So there really isn't a role they can't fulfill in some manner or another.  Anything they can't brute their way through, they can generally think their way through.


    This creates a lot of appeal, honestly.  A character who can study  an art for hundreds of years, reaching the pinnacle of a discipline that a human generally can't reach before expiring naturally. A character that can experience several generations and lifetimes of other beings. A character that pretty much has their limiter broken by some means, provided there's enough time.


    I play all sorts of races in RPGs, but have always liked elves the most, honestly.  Probably because I liked them when I was a little kid reading Lord of the Rings and getting in to D&D going "Oh Man! I can make an Elf who is a sword master who studied for 100 years and is like a super ninja samurai and he swings 2 swords at once because he's that awesome."  I had his whole backstory planned out and a roadmap laid out for him.

    That character never made it past level 4.

    I think for me, now a days, is that I like a character that can maintain control and control the fight.  And I have found Elves best at that because they can specialize or be very versatile.  I've also always favored grace, finesse, cunning and tactics over brute force. 

    Alright, maybe some it is still being a fanboy haha.
    Post edited by kumoblade on
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  • DvoraDvora Member UncommonPosts: 127
    I think Tolkien did make elves what they are today... Don't really know the history 100% but it seems to me that more often than not elves used to be smaller humanoids closer to leprechauns and pixies than humans in size.  Keebler elfs for example?Tolkien and then D&D made them more what they are today in MMOs.  

    That said, elf or high fantasy is just better than anything else out there imo, even despite being what some might call overplayed lately.  I for one hate when it is polluted with modern technology/steampunk crap.  Especially Steampunk crap.  That should be an entirely different genre imo.
  • DvoraDvora Member UncommonPosts: 127
    Well, Game of Thrones is most likely the most popular fantasy franchise right now, and it does not involves a single elf...
    It's just heroic fantasy that is popular. People happen to enjoy epic stories about heroes, swords, sorcery, princesses and dragons. Has always been.
    Eh game of thrones has the children of the forest, which is basically elves.  Some could argue that they are more dryads/naiads etc I guess, but I'd say elves or halfway between.
  • Tuor7Tuor7 Bellevue, WAMember UncommonPosts: 762
    Dvora said:
    I think Tolkien did make elves what they are today... Don't really know the history 100% but it seems to me that more often than not elves used to be smaller humanoids closer to leprechauns and pixies than humans in size.  Keebler elfs for example?Tolkien and then D&D made them more what they are today in MMOs.  

    That said, elf or high fantasy is just better than anything else out there imo, even despite being what some might call overplayed lately.  I for one hate when it is polluted with modern technology/steampunk crap.  Especially Steampunk crap.  That should be an entirely different genre imo.
    In ancient times, Elves were portrayed as being as tall (or sometimes taller) than Men. Some creatures in Faerie have always been portrayed as being smaller than humans, but not Elves. Elves (and the Fey in general) shrank as people's imaginations shrank, but this was most pronounced in how the French treated them.  Eventually, "Faeries" were found in buttercups and fought with wasp stingers as swords...

    Tolkien restored Elves to what they had been previously.

    As an aside: I challenge anyone to find anything, anywhere in any work of Tolkien published during Tolkien's lifetime, where he describes Elves (or Hobbits) as having pointed ears.  You certainly won't find anything in the Hobbit or LotR.
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