Cat people in MMOs

I am not a cat person. If you have to place me in a category, whatever is opposite of “cat person” is where you should assign my fate. Cats have never fascinated me or drawn drooling “awwws” from my lips or inspired me to write poems about them and claim that one is my spirit guide. And that’s fine, the world has room for diversity and I’m generally live-and-let-live with cats, even if I don’t understand their popularity.

And they are popular, especially in MMOs, where playable cat-people are far more likely to be an option than, say, a playable dog-person (oddly, World of Warcraft is one of the very rare games that has the latter without the former, Druid forms aside). And despite what you might think, not all cat-people are alike. Some are the basic “slap a cat head on a human body, add a tail, and call it a day” model (such as Star Trek Online’s Caitians and SWTOR’s Cathar). Other than giving your person a feline slant, you really aren’t going out on a limb with those kinds of picks.

FFXIVs Miqo’te are a textbook example of trying to make an animal-themed race that is as non-offensive to our eyes as possible. They’re… cute. They’re designed to be as cute and barely cat-like as possible, with slightly different hairlines, teeny tiny pointed canines, and widdle pointy ears. They’re the option for players who are tired of humans but also still want to be a human with only minor cosmetic differences.

Guild Wars 2, for better and for worse, went whole cat hog with its Charr. Technically it’s supposed to be more of a beast character, an amalgrim of various animals, but if we’re honest, that mix is about 90% cat and 10% “assorted.” The designers definitely tried for something different than a svelte human with fur, giving the Charr a larger frame with a distinctive hunch, backward knee joints, and long claws and snouts. When you play a Charr — probably to admire how well this race’s helmets fit — you have no illusions that you’re a hulking brute of a cat. You’re a tiger monster amid a sea of soft bellies.

I also have been contemplating Elder Scrolls Online’s Khajiit. Visually, there’s an astounding range of looks that capture many types of cats instead of just one basic template. I don’t often see “lion” cat-people in MMOs, but I do here — and not just lions, but tigers, pumas, and other predatory felines.

Maybe for some, cat-people are an expression of how much they love the look of their own pets, and maybe for others, these races harken to this fantasy of being a stealthy, quick, and ferocious apex predator. At least we’re not seeing the same-old, same-old boilerplate variants between games as we do, say, Elves.

5 thoughts on “Cat people in MMOs

  1. Nogamara April 18, 2019 / 10:02 am

    I am also not a cat person, but I really like my Miqo’te – as you wrote, I don’t like playing Humans, but sometimes I also don’t want to stray too far. Although I think my second choice would’ve been Lalafell, and not Roegadyn or Elezen.

    Not a huge fan of Charr, but I can’t point my finger on it – I’m certainly glad they tried something different than the “slap a cat head on it”.
    My only TESO char is a Khajiit, but again mostly because of “not Human or Elf, please”. And I do have a Cathar, but in SWTOR I have at least one of every race, and it’s not an important character..

  2. Rowan April 18, 2019 / 10:42 am

    Charr (and Worgen, for that matter) do not have backward knees. They walk on their toes (just like real cats and dogs). What you are referring to are their ankles.

  3. SDWeasel April 18, 2019 / 11:54 am

    My main is a Miqo’te. There isn’t really a well thought out decision behind it, it was more of a process of elimination. Humans are whatever, Roegadyn are just bigger and uglier humans, Lalafell are just no, and I took one look at Elezen and saw an arrogant elf, to which I said something impolite. This only left Miqo’te because I didn’t have the expansion at the time and Au Ra was off the table.

    Having said that, I’m looking at the upcoming Hrothgar, which is ironically a beastier beast race, and considering switching to that just so I’m not a “cat boi” anymore. I would have considered Viera if it had a male counterpart, but that would have depended on how similar they were to Miqo’te in size and shape.

  4. bhagpuss April 18, 2019 / 2:01 pm

    I very definitely am a cat person but even I find cat races in MMOs a little cliched. The Miqo`te are probably the race that most reminds me of what may be the original of the species, Cordwainer Smith’s C’Mell. I like them for that but I prefer The Charr, who seem to have more of the wild about them while also having a civilization reminiscent of Larry Niven’s Kzinti. I don’t (yet) know the Khakit but they look interesting.

    I played a Vah Shir in EverQuest, a race which seems to draw from something more in the Asian tradition. Like the Kerra in EQ2, to whom they are closely related, they are closer to bipedal cats than humans with a cat head and tail. In both games you can make your character look like it comes from specific big cat heritages – puma, lion, tiger, leopard… I also played a cat race in NeoSteam, which I do recall being more cat-heady.

    The one non-feline thing every catlike race in MMOs I can think of has in common is size. I can’t off the top of my head come up with a single, small catlike race. Plenty of small ratlikes and foxlikes but apparently cats all have to be Big Cats. I’d love to play a race that was an actual, sentient cat.

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