Thursday, February 10, 2011

You get what you give

Social contacts require effort from both sides of the fence. As mentioned yesterday, we are prone to form our own microcommunities within the game with the people who think similar, who have same kind - if not same - goals in the game, thus sharing similar - if not same - values. As Wolfshead explained in his excellent, though lengthy post, the MMOs are still viewed as shared social experiences. Where as the earlier games, like EQ, were so hard that you had to co-operate and thus you formed friendships through the must, the game design now relies on the activity and willingness of the participants to form those connections. If there are no measures to check the values or aims of other people, there is no way to know if the possible contact is a match or not.

Now I can hear comments on this that there are no such things in real life either. I must disagree: we connect with the people within the same context. You do not go to a bar in which you feel yourself uncomfortable, nor do you attend to a hobby you don't like. You select with precision the context in which you want to meet people and form new contacts.

One might think that the context in MMOs is already there: everyone is a player of the game, everyone wants to play against the big bad boss, everyone wants to have the shiniest leet gear.

But it isn't so.

Even though in MMOs everyone aspires to be the hero, there are none. In its base, a MMO is a virtual simulation, and within the context of the game design, game mechanics and the game setting the simulation is pretty much open for interpretation by the user, player. Thus there are several different ways to use and enjoy this simulation. For certain, a roleplayer wouldn't enjoy the company of a raiding guild, or the hardcore AH goblin the company of a slow leveller without money. All of them would try their best to find the subgroup they fit the best.

As Larísa mentioned in her post, you get what you give and if you are socially active in the game, you get social group around you. From my experience in WoW and the servers I've been actively in (granted, not at level cap in any except my main), this doesn't hold true. It can't be like it was mentioned in Wolfshead's post, that the social game enables the end game raiding, and that the social game starts when you reach the cap.

Then again, yes it can. But my humble opinion in this is that in this case the game has failed. It's the same as the newcomer playing a dps because its fun and fast to level reaches the level cap only to learn that s/he should play as a tank. Or that the new character levels up fast, only questing, only to learn that he should learn how to play in groups (and learn to use more than the three-four skills he has used so far).

The game design has failed the player in that case. And the effort required from the players part at this point is more than required for having fun.

I can take Gnomore as an example: he's the social me. In every turn I encounter people in my adventures, I toss a buff on them, maybe greet them and every time I see people needing assistance, I help them. Like yesterday, when I did the cooking daily in Stormwind: there were four characters standing besides the cook in an Inn, waiting for the Confectionary Sugar to materialize. What they didn't notice was the fact that the bag of sugar appeared at the cellar in that particular Inn. So I went, picked it up and as I came up I said to them that go down, sugar is there. Result:
* One said "thnx"
* Three just rushed by
and that was it.

Of the several buffs I've tossed around, the only thanks came from a level 85 night elf priest, whom Gnomore met boarding the ship to Stormwind. Which was kind of amazing.

But the overall results, even when Gnomore tries to discuss with others is very much in vain.

It is useless to say in this context that you get what you give: the community itself is already shut inside their own little micro communities, tribes within tribes, shunning anyone outside their own. The game design lacks the meeting places and reasons for people to mix and match, to find new contacts and the opportunities to make your mind about other players.

Then again, for the majority of the players this is no brainer: why bother because I'm content with the guild I'm in. It is the perfect case of "Someone Else's Problem". At the same time players are telling their stories how they - as a guild, raid or group - have overcome this and that, done miraculous feats in the game and came out of anything as a group attract new players to the game, who are faced with the one simple guiding line.

You get what you give.

Now where is the support or route for these players to get where the established players who have been in the game for years are now? Where are the tools and possibilities to match the similar thinking, already established players in the game?

What are the options of the new player - or the one outside the social groups - to find one most suitable for her/him?

Now there is something to think about, outside your own box and comfort zone.