L’enfer, c’est les autres

There has been some critical concerns about the anticipated gameplay of SWTOR – namely that it you, the gamer, will end up playing large parts of the game solo. This is a concern that echoes design decisions made in other products as far back as reducing the grouping size in SWG from 20 to 8 or Azerothian mobs being stripped of their elite status and becoming easily soloable. “The MM in MMORPG means ‘Massively Multiplayer’! Why play a ‘massively multiplayer’ game if you’re going to play it solo?” was the argument put up against these changes. Luckily for me and my absolute inability to post here more than a couple of times per year, Zubon has recently touched on this very subject in his post, Unforced Grouping. But I think there’s a more subconscious reasoning going on than the low investment requirements of soloing or the high potential for a bad grouped experience. I think we’re afraid.

Two things I learnt from the whole Blizzard/RealID brouhaha:

1. Something something privacy something schadenfreude something something srs bsns man!
2. There is no hope for the human race.

I’m not going to discuss the merits of Blizzard’s ex-proposal because it’s a) complicated b) I don’t particularly care and c) I’d probably come down in favour of Blizzard’s plan A as anything that causes that amount of upset is highly likely to be A Good Thing. Anyway, I don’t want to offend anybody reading this as, statistically speaking, there’s a 128.3% probabilitized chancical factor that any single one of you could be an unhinged lunatic who will track me down and kill me to death.

So let’s just all agree that the RealID scheme was bad. An excellent and incisive comment on a metafilter thread about RealID covers a lot of the salient reasons why this is so. The tl;dr version is this:

  • Girls will get harrassed.
  • Minorities will get harrassed.
  • WoW players will get harrassed.
  • Non-WoW players will get harrassed.
  • Parents of players will get harrassed.
  • Parents of non-players will get harrassed.
  • (By inference) Non-parents of players and non-players alike will get harrassed.
  • Trolls will still inhabit the dingy depths of the Blizzard forums, harrassing people.
  • And, probably, being harrassed.

Over at Eating Bees, Community Management goddess, Sanya Weathers also reckons that Blizzard would eventually have gotten sued for wrongful death. Yes, she said death and no, she’s not overreacting. Meanwhile, Alec Meer, games journalist and writer over at Rock, Paper, Shotguntweeted a little tweet about the topic:

“I’m trying to not be sensationalist about the Real ID stuff, but if even one nutter uses it as a stalking/murdering tool it’s indefensible.”

Now it’s all very well me being glib and sound like I’m taking the piss out of these guys but I’m not. Because they’re not wrong. Except Alec. Who is wrong and is being sensationalist and I know this because while we’re up in arms about RealID, we’re taking our eye off the metaphor and not demanding that other systems or games be removed because of exactly the problems that were foreseen if RealID had gone through. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s try some variations on Alec’s tweet:

“I’m trying to not be sensationalist about that Facebook stuff, but if even one nutter uses it as a stalking/murdering tool it’s indefensible.”
(“Did Facebook jealousy lead to murder?“)

“I’m trying to not be sensationalist about that Counterstrike stuff, but if even one nutter uses it as a stalking/murdering tool it’s indefensible.”
(“Video game fanatic hunts down and stabs rival player who killed character online“)

“I’m trying to not be sensationalist about that Internet War Games stuff, but if even one nutter uses it as a stalking/murdering tool it’s indefensible.”
(“German war games fan ‘killed British student due to obsession with girlfriend‘”)

Here’s one last one:

“I’m trying to not be sensationalist about the internet stuff, but if even one nutter uses it as a stalking/murdering tool it’s indefensible.”
(You can find your own links for that one. Share them, if you like. Think of it as a sort of “show and tell” exercise. Or not.)

As the cat said, they are in ur gamez, plnning ur demize.

I could follow this through to a mind-blowing philosophical conclusion but I’m not going to because a) it’s self-evidentially a priori south-facing or whatever it was my philosophy lecturer kept interrupting my afternoon snooze about b) I haven’t got a conclusion and c) Mother told me not to talk to pretty girls or digress off topic.

So it would seem that the real reason we want to solo in MMOs is because, deep down, we suspect that every other single player in our MMO du choix is, in all likelihood, a sociopath and will plot dire and lethal revenge against us if they in any way suspect that we think their gear is not up to scratch. Perhaps sensibly, it’s a reason that we’re not really admitting to ourselves. We’re certainly not admitting to anyone else – Mrs Beeton never explained the proper etiquette about telling someone that you don’t want to group with them because you suspect they’re a cucumber sandwich (with trimmed crusts) short of a picnic.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.

¹Carling don’t make websites about PC gaming, but if they did, it would be Rock, Paper, Shotgun

16 thoughts on “L’enfer, c’est les autres

  1. Tim

    I tried to add pseudo html tags saying ‘pedantic correction’ to the previous comment, but obviously that didn’t succeed.

    I’m actually really not such an evil commenter, I swear ;)

    1. Dragon Post author

      Yes, you’re right. Please don’t tell my wife – she’ll batter me over the head with her French degree and then make me go to one of the evening classes she teaches.

  2. Dblade

    Remember that line from Clerks? Guy wants to go to a funeral, his friend remarks “I thought you despise people.” “Yeah, but I enjoy gatherings. Ironic, isn’t it?”

    MMO players mindset in a nutshell.

  3. Julian

    As a soloer I love having other avatars around. I really do.

    Just not while I’m questing/grinding/missioning/whathaveyou. When I’m in downtime, I’m really a very sociable peep. But when I’m out and about “doing stuff”, that’s my no bullshit time. And since it’s generally established that people = bullshit, well there it is.

    At least that’s my angle. I’m not personally afraid of the internet psychopaths I might run across in-game because (a) I tend not to stick with the crazy and I’ve developed a nice barometer for the crazy through the years. And (b) if the crazy is inevitably going to intersect with me, I usually don’t give them motives.

    But that’s not why I solo anyway.

  4. Bariwyn

    I hope this post was an attempt at satire or something. I don’t think the fear of people knowing your full name is the same as the fear of grouping.

    When I think of RealID, I think of Zaboo from The Guild. I really don’t want someone to hunt me down for any reason: murder, misunderstood affection, whatever.

    And yet, I enjoy grouping. I have a horde shammy that I am leveling by sitting in Org and just using the dungeon finder. No questing at all after lvl 15, just dungeons. It’s a blast and yet I still don’t want people to know my real name.

    People don’t group because many of the players today have no social skills. They either are selfish and drop group after they are finished, leaving you solo with elites to down or they feel the need to mind your business more than their own (you are doing this wrong, why are you using this ability, your gear is “fail”, blah, blah, blah). Many people just don’t want to have to deal with the bullsh*t when they can just move to another area to quest solo.

    It sounds to me like the SWTOR group looked at these games and how people are playing. They looked at the fact that people who start playing when a game is first released don’t have an issue grouping and tend to finish the early group content, but people who start later have a harder time finding groups for this. People are either run through by higher level friends or just skip it completely. So their answer was to just not put as much group content into the game. That sounds fine to me.

  5. Julian

    Bariwyn makes a very, very good point up there: Just WTF -is- the grouping experience really? In my experience, talking about pugs not guild groups, it’s been equal parts radio silence (which I ultimately welcome), inane asshattery and the berating of other group members because of what they are doing, what they did, what they’re planning to do, what they said, what they’re packing, etc. All liberally seasoned with txt speak.

    What’s the point? And by that I mean what’s the point of group content if 7-8 times out of 10 I have to endure it instead of enjoying it?

    It’s much easier to change a game than to change people, so I welcome pretty much any and all design moves that free players from being subject to other players.

    1. Bariwyn

      Another point I tried to make (although maybe not clearly) was that when a game is released, a large group starts playing and leveling together. Near original release there is almost always someone around near your level so it’s pretty easy to find someone to group with for a lower level dungeon or group quest. After a game has been out for a year or two, good luck finding anyone willing to run this stuff. Everyone is past that or doesn’t want to run it on alt #5. It’s at this point that Turbine/Blizzard/etc have to either add quests so people can level or make the group content easier. So the SWTOR people decided to remove a possible leveling barrier and also having to rework their quest system a year or two after release. They are saving themselves a lot of trouble.

  6. J Dangerous

    I think the blogosphere is insane. Why would knowing the identity of other players make people suddenly go on murderous rampages?

    People know the identity of everyone who fucks them over in their REAL lives and don’t go insane, and despite stereo-typing and sensationalizing media gamers are pretty much like everyone else.

    You people going all bomb-shelter crazy about Real ID are becoming the sensationalist media that most seem to hate. Even if there were some sort of incident, the odds of any of you being affected are laughable.

    The true reason most people are afraid of Real ID is that they are closet gamers, which is fine. But anyone trumpeting the “dangers” of Real ID is either a moron or a deceitful media whore.

  7. J Dangerous

    Like holy shit, you don’t hear about FACEBOOK being sued, a FAR more effective stalking tool. You find a hell of a lot more tweens on Facebook then on freaking World of Warcraft.

    Why would any stalker that isn’t utterly retarded use Real ID over the social networks that have exponentially more targets, and the far more likely targets?

    If a WoW player is so insane that they are driven to actually want to murder or otherwise hurt somebody, do you really think Real ID being in place or not is going to stop them?

    The blogosphere is either completely retarded or actually the most foolish pussy cowards in existence. YOU ARE SAFE, stop QQing.

    1. Bariwyn

      Says “J Dangerous”. Because I’m sure that’s your real name! LOL

      As for your “YOU ARE SAFE, stop QQing.”?
      You are “QQing” over their supposed “QQing”. You must have read all of 2 lines of the OP since your 2 rants had nothing to do with it.

  8. Vrykerion

    While personally I enjoy the concept of “unforced grouping” because to be completely honest, I have a number of socializing issues in real life, most I’ve had since childhood and I’ve overcome a great deal of them as time has progressed but I’m not exactly as open to social situations as the “average person” might be. Unforced grouping has help immensely in my ability to ask for help, give help and deal with working with other people.

    On the flip side, at no point did I ever feel my anonymity was necessary to that. The fact that there was a common ground of the love of a game and a shared objective of a boss or emblems or completing a quest was enough for me.

    Watching the Real ID thing unfold was fascinating to me, because while I was willing to acknowledge there were some legitimate concerns there for some, I watched it explode and exaggerate itself into a completely new fiend. As a Denver, CO resident who had a fondness for trenchcoats (I like having 9 big pockets and the warmth) during a certain incident in April of 1999, I will say this is not the first time I’ve seen such behavior in people.

    It’s interesting for me because I am a cynical optimist. I believe that people act in their own interests, but are generally good people that won’t hurt others to do so, with the occasional bad apple tossed in the mix. So you tell me someone on the internet knows my real name, I’ll just smile, nod, and say “It’s a pretty weird name, isn’t it?” (My name is August.)

    Ultimately, fear spreads and grows in a mob mentality, which for a few solid days is all the internet was in relation to Real ID, and it was far more frightening to me what people were thinking about it than the actual idea of my real name on a forum.

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