Syncaine made an observation recently that had me reflecting on my gaming history and what I wanted out of it. In his post, he talks about how the MMORPG has changed fundamentally in terms of its method of providing people with enjoyment.
Some MMOs seem exist in a sort of experiential vacuum, wherein a solo player can do a lot by himself, and fun can be had without the need for a group to run through content. The opposite type of MMO has a more collectivist bent, where the enjoyment of the game’s actors is derived from group experiences, whether it be against monsters or against other people.
Both attempts at providing entertainment for people are valid, but the nature of the player each game brings in is decidedly different.
What Syncaine’s post left me with was a sense of disappointment, partly in myself but also in my circumstances, because I cannot seem to commit to an MMO anymore.
In my case, my second MMO ever was World of Warcraft, and I played that for seven months straight when I first got it and was relatively unemployed after college. I didn’t worry about timezones, and I joined a cool-sounding server name and found a guild that I liked, called In Strict Confidence.
My strongest memories of playing MMOs were as a result of being in raids or in groups, because I learned from the people I was interacting with. Being with people, even virtually, helped me to grow as a person and part of my personality now, from my demeanor online to my diplomatic, thoughtful nature, is a direct result of learning to be with people online.
I now get the same rush of friendship and camaraderie from my friends on Twitter and from my friends in real life. The games I play don’t necessarily need to provide that high of friendship and camaraderie for me anymore, but it helps to hook me in.
Going back to Syncaine’s post, I wrote in a comment to him about how he made me think, and how in my reflection I realized I sort of feel left out because I do not have a long-term commitment to a game. It seems (to my mind, at least) I still miss the rush of growing as a person by interacting with people in a virtual world doing something epic.
Syncaine replied to me with the following:
I suspect that part of the issue is that you are judging the games just on the content as you experience it solo, which is going to yield less-than-steller (sic) results (MMOs are not great for that, even solo-focused ones like SW:TOR, compared to a real sRPG).
When you play with a set group, much of the ‘content’ is experiencing the stuff together, so even bugs or grind can become a source of amusement because you have 10 people in vent bitching about it and laughing rather than just you smashing your head into it solo.
Look at something like a fleet Op in EVE. Would anyone find that even remotely fun as content in an sRPG? Waiting around for hours, shooting structures, and going home? Of course not. But get 250 people into Mumble, and it can be a riot, regardless if a fight happens or not. And when a fight does happen, it’s better than anything a single player game could ever hope to create in terms of epic, memorable moments.
That’s why people (should) be playing MMOs; for those rare but awesome moments. Sadly a lot of today’s MMOs are incapable of providing such a moment due to poor design and an overemphasis on the solo at the expense of the group.
I agree with him, really. At the same time, it also made me fearful.
What he’s written also means that I cannot provide the same commitment or be in the same social circles that would allow for the fun of an MMO in a group setting. I not only live in a different time zone from most people who would play something like Darkfall: Unholy Wars, but I’m also going to start a job that requires a worthwhile time investment to be good at.
I value the opportunity I’m getting at this new job, but it also makes me sad that I can’t be an important part of that bright world where people are fighting a good fight of epic proportions against dragons and liches and Cthulhu-like monstrosities.
Then I have to remind myself to calm down.
Because I have to remember that as much as the online worlds beckon to me, I’ve already connected with hundreds of people and made tons of friends who’ve helped to shape my personality and make me better than I was six years ago.
And I will keep making friends online and in the physical world, and my interactions with them will improve the person that I am, and ultimately, allow me to also impact their lives meaningfully and (I hope) for the better.