Two weeks ago, Exile, who had been maintaining the MMO Fashion website which was home to TOR-Fashion and TOR-Decorating, announced that she was returning to school and could no longer keep those sites active. I’m sad to see the sites go. Thanks to Exile’s hard work, both were regular resources of mine for many years. MMO Fashion played an important role in helping players answer the question of “Oooh! Where did that outfit/mount/weapon/pet/decoration come from and can I get it myself?” Exile documented thousands upon thousands of SWTOR‘s cosmetics from every corner of the game.
People joke about SWTOR’s true endgame being “Space Barbie,” but I think it is true for any game in which players can customize their avatar’s appearance. Casual or hardcore, raider, PVPer or solo story player, I’ve never met anyone in SWTOR or WOW or any other game who did not care what their character looks like.
For better or worse, it’s fallen on the fans to catalogue significant chunks of this information because SWTOR itself doesn’t make it easy or in some cases possible to find it. MMO’s require something that Youtube essayist Dan Olson calls “paratext”: detailed information about playing the game: theorycrafting, quest guides, history, lore analysis, and, of course, fashion advice. This information comes not from the game itself, but from players who are willing and able to do the research and have the means to share what they’ve learned with the game’s community. Could a new player jump into SWTOR and successfully play it without consulting an outside guide? Sure, but they’d miss out on so many fun, weird and overlooked adventuress and rewards. Moreover transitioning to the game’s more difficult PVE or PVP content would be all but impossible without a helping hand or two.
As useful as Exile’s site was, it’s important to remember that hobbies and interests change for all of us. Fan sites of any size have some upkeep associated with them, and if they become unsustainable, it makes perfect sense to let them go. When any content creator decides to move on from the game, it’s not on them to maintain their content, even if they could keep it going for free. SWTOR‘s fan community does include a vibrant list of creators for this type of content; indeed Illeva founded Swtorfashion.com with a similar goal to allow fans to share their favorite outfits.
In addition, Swtorista was able to take on the herculean task of rescuing Tor fashion and decorating’s content, and I’m glad to know it will not be lost. SWTOR has been around long enough and gone through so many changes that fan created paratext functions as a sort of institutional memory of the game’s evolution throughout the years. Some of this information has been lost to time. I recall getting tips from Torhead and DarthHater way back when, but whatever guides were hosted there are long gone. Even Dulfy, whose site was the primary source of SWTOR information for years is no more.
It certainly is to SWTOR’s benefit that fan site creators, podcasters and streamers exist to help players of all kinds find information about the game, whether it’s putting together the right outfit or maximizing their class’s performance. Moreover, I think preserving SWTOR’s history is important, and it’s fallen on the fans to do much of it. I have fond memories of the original Rakghoul and Chevin events, but did not think to preserve either in my screenshots or record the cut scenes. If not for Shintar, I’m not sure I would even know where to tell people to go to find out what those one time events were like!
SWTOR is not the biggest MMO, and even though I know few people who like the term “content creator,” it does have a dedicated community of fans who really do want to show you why they love the game and how you might get the most out of your experience. Don’t take ‘em for granted!
Finally, I’d like to admit the first draft of this post was originally intended to be a comment on Shintar’s post on this topic for her blog Going Commando which you should definitely check out! Going Commando is SWTOR‘s longest running and snappiest blog, and definitely inspired me to start this project myself.
Shortly after this post went live, Swtorista posted an article about her efforts to preserve the content of TOR-Fashion and TOR-Decorating.
In addition, it contains a link to a fundraiser to benefit Exile and thank her for hard work over the years. If you can spare a buck or two, consider sending it Exile’s way!