I’m not anti-social, just anti-grouping.

This is a topic that has caused considerable discussion in the past. Not all of it awesome discussion. So let’s just get it out of the way: I like playing with by myself. I like soloing. If you give me the choice, 8 times out of 10 I’d rather be out there doing my own thing than being in a group.

But I’m not anti-social. At all. All my characters (of some importance) in every MMO (that I played more or less seriously) have been guilded. I have many good game friends, and these friendships persist even when either party moves on to another game.

Is there a disconnect here? No. Why? After the break.

I don’t like grouping purely for gameplay reasons. That’s all. I don’t ‘hate’ groups, or raids. I don’t ‘hate’ guilds. It’s all about the gameplay for me.

Reasons why I prefer to solo it up, in no particular order:

– Most times I can sit down at the computer to play, this isn’t by any means an uninterrupted chunk of time. My normal afk’s per hour ratio is probably through the roof, although I haven’t calculated it. Just a guess. I also severely dislike to waste other people’s time. This is a courtesy I extend to everyone, because I hate having my own time wasted in turn. So I really can’t bring myself to join a group only to have it wait for me (x) number of times while I take care of the inevitable afks.

– I’m more efficient by myself. Over the years, I’ve found (to some horror) that I’ve become a very efficient player. As in, go in, get quest, do quest, turn in. Good? Next quest. Get’em out the pipeline like that. Having to add and accomodate at least one other player in that Gestalt of questing feels to me as if I’m throwing a wrench on the whole process. Slows it down to molasses. My whole contact to the game starts to grind, and I start to lose attention and will to play.

– I’m not selfish, but I also don’t like sharing for the hell of it. Example: A Kill Ten Rats quest. 1000xp for completion, 100xp per rat. Awesome. Someone comes by and asks to group. I -only- accept -if- I can’t handle the rats, because if I -can- handle the rats (and modern games go out of their way for solo players to handle most content as long as they have, well, a functioning nervous system) then it doesn’t make sense to have another player sapping all that kill xp.

Let’s see, I can get 2000xp by myself -or- 1500xp if I group with a guy. Hmm. Wow, what a tough choice, huh? Yeah, I might miss that .01% chance the guy is a really cool guy, and we hit it off so great that 3 years later we’re in Vermont getting married, Kumbaya and all that, but I’ll take my chances with the increased xp.

500xp is always better than a friendship that lasts 10 rats and ends with “k bye”. At least that’s hows I sees it.

– Hell is other people. And I want to be super clear on this, so I don’t hurt the feelings of someone I don’t know over the Internets. Look, I try to be a decent player. Particularly on MMOs which, by nature, are spaces shared with other people, with goals which are valid just as mine are, and with time as valuable as mine. So when I head out, I have free bag space. When I head out, I try (and fail sometimes) to have available time to do whatever needs to be done. When I head out, I have the quests. When I head out, I know where to go because I either know, or I looked it up. This is because of the first point I mentioned; I hate wasting people’s time.

So the more people I start bringing into a group, the bigger the possibility for all that to fail. The larger the chance I start seeing the inevitable cascade of “afk lol”, “brb mom caught me jerkin off rofl”, “hold up Im out of bag space”, “I don’t have that quest/I’m not on that part lol”, “shit, I don’t have the [Required Item]”, “can u wait? I only plays with Snoofles and Snoofles is loggin in 15 minutes. tnx.”

tl;dr version: I hate people’s bullshit. That doesn’t mean I don’t have my bullshit. That doesn’t mean I’m perfect, or better than them. I -do- very much have my own bullshit. I just make a strong effort not to bring it out when I play with others, and have to subject others to it.

– Little stuff that shouldn’t matter, but does: I get all the loot and all the drops. I play at my own speed, not having to slow down or speed up for anyone. Logistics are ideal.

All this would initially paint a very selfish, very retracted picture of a gamer but in reality it’s not really so. I’m not anti-social at all. I’ve always been guilded, and enjoyed the interactions with my guildmates (most of the time. you know what I’m talking about). I have been part of stable raid groups, and I usually do what 5-mans pop out when time permits. As a Roleplayer, I’m -constantly- doing stuff and developing storylines with guildies and friends.

And that’s the killer of the usual argument against soloing. The argument that goes “Well, MMOs are multiplayer games. If you’re not playing them with other people, you just want a single player game/go back to (insert single player game)”. But that’s a bit of an empty argument. It’s perfectly possible to enjoy the game as a whole, as a shared social space, and benefit from the interactions in that shared, persistent experience without having to be a group whore. Just as in real life we all have many good friends, but we don’t measure that friendship by doing things with them, face to face, 24/7. It’d be ridiculous to do so. Friendship is something that transcends the mere “face to face activities together”.

If we accept that in real life, why can’t we accept the emptiness of the opposing argument? I flatly reject the notion that in order to -properly- play an MMO one -must- group. That’s not the essence of an MMO. There are many people, like myself, who enjoy playing that shared world. Who can enjoy having that sense of community there, without having to tap it directly 24/7. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying grouping is useless. I’m simply saying it’s not the “reason to be” of the game.

To say otherwise, would be akin to saying that every minute you don’t spend face to face, doing something with a friend, you don’t -really- have a friendship. It’d be asinine. Sure, there are many different games with many different approaches to grouping. Some more beneficial, some more punishing. That’s how it is. The trick is not to design games to either extreme, where soloing or grouping becomes irrelevant. The trick is to design them wide enough to effectively accomodate both avenues of play in a rewarding way, and not fall in the trap of thinking that there is only one way of playing which approaches the essence of what an MMO or a game should be.

We write our own gospels here, and there are many paths to enjoyment.

12 thoughts on “I’m not anti-social, just anti-grouping.”

  1. hehe
    One day ahead of ya.

    This really is the norm now, and most people don’t get it.
    All I hear is…
    “You don’t group…why play MMO’s?”


    I play as I like the setting, the game, and the “endless” adventure that MMO’s offer.
    The option to group should exist for those who like to group. But, if a game FORCES me to group, I am gone.
    Guild Wars did this right. You can sometimes do good with a group, but you have the option to solo also. You can either finish the game or continue playing “endlessly”…MMO done right.

    This was an AWESOME post, and really hits the nail on the head for the current market.
    MMO should not mean “MUST PLAY WELL with others”.
    But…”likes to play with others”…..sometimes

  2. “500xp is always better than a friendship that lasts 10 rats and ends with “k bye”.” Great line.

    I agree, and I think we have many similarities in play style. That’s why Guild Wars and Warhammer Online top my charts… they allow lots of self-XP gaining and GW allows for lots of AFKs and WAR allows for groups-without-marriage where you can join mid-Keep assault or mid-PQ. Good stuff.

  3. Man I don’t know how many times I’ve been shunned for wanting to solo. That whole “why play an MMO if you don’t even group” shpeal is probably the most annoying and usually comes from (imo) old school D&Ders who are used to NEEDING other people to play their games. I, do not need people, I do not like people who need me (so I pretty much NEVER group, don’t want to give off a good impression), and I don’t like people messing up my play style.

    So there go most guilds (why don’t you just come out with the rest of us?) as well. I just wanna do my own damn thing and it seems like making any kind of contact with people sets my course on the path of fail. Shit, I hate grouping with my own fucking brother, because I am just so goddamn efficient, and I don’t get mad at myself for going afk.

    Why don’t I go play a single player game? Because I can’t kick you and your bad friends’ asses in singleplayer games, buddy.

  4. I agree with your viewpoints on all the bullshit you have to put up with when grouping.

    Have you thought about multiboxing?
    Get yerself 5 accounts and you can do even group quests without having to put up with bullshit PuG’s.

    Add to that the fact that you can probably help out your guild do 10-man raid content when there isn’t enough people.

    Just a thought :)

  5. Spot on, this post exactly sums up why I usually prefer to solo.

    The only thing I’d like to add is my desire to be *very good* at soloing. “Group content”, for me, is shorthand for “I dare ya to solo it”.

  6. All this time I thought I was just anti-social but turns out I was just anti-grouping. Thanks for setting me straight. ;)

    Yeah, everything you listed describes me to a T. In fact, I wondered if WAR would be solo-friendly enough for a maverick like me. Turns out it is. Paradoxically, it is the easiest to join and leave groups as well. It’s been pure heaven for for an anti-grouper such as myself.

  7. I concur on the part about coordination problems. As group size approaches full, the probability that someone will have a 15-minute delay (that starts as 2 minutes) and want you to wait approaches 1.

    I do not concur with xp sharing. Early on, sure, I can kill faster than I can go through the grouping clicks. When it gets to Kill 30 Rats, the time/quest xp is probably worth more to me than what I lose from sharing.

    Make sure to e-mail me when that Vermont wedding is. My sister-in-law lives in Vermont, so we would totally come.

  8. Good article, and similar to my playstyle. Dark Age of Camelot was the first game that really broke me out of my solo playstyle…actually, it’s pretty much the only game that took me out of a solo approach for any length of time.

    My daughter was born a couple months after EQ came out, and my wife works evenings quite a bit, so I always had an ear out for the kid. That, plus a million other real life intrusions, pretty much eliminated me a dungeon-crawling, raid game lifestyle. I share your feelings about not wanting to hold a group up, and wanting to maximize my play time and not have to coordinate with anyone.

    Ya know, it’s funny, I’m not a fan of talking on Vent. It breaks the wall between game and life too much for my liking. But…I get impatient with typed communication when I’m in a group. It’s too slow, and I keep thinking “I could have already had this quest done, but no….we have to do the Typing Dance before we can get started killing…”. Drives me nuts :)

  9. Old news. You’re in a bigger majority than you think. The one MMO that helped me figure this out. DDO. It started off with a “Let’s have everyone group up to achieve something for XP – no group, no action” philosophy.

    I must have been only one of an immense majority who couldn’t manage the time and effort to spend an hour forming up a group even before a 2 hour ordeal in some dungeon. Hence I quit after the free month. Shortly after, they started backtracking and putting in ‘solo’ content in an effort to lure back the anti-grouping cohort. Now why would they bother…unless there was tons of $$$ at stake?

    People do hate dealing with bullshit from other people, and the larger the group, the more bullshit, which is why bigger carrots are often dangled in an effort to get you to put up with the crap.

    I like games which make it easy to form a group and don’t punish you for being in one. CoX PUGs form with regularity because there’s rarely any bullshit – all characters are fairly easy to play, a short mission doesn’t punish an accidental mistake, and often 3-5 people knowing what they’re doing can cover for 2-3 people who don’t. And it’s easy to leave when you need to go AFK or just can’t stand what they’re doing anymore, no hard feelings, no foul.

    Warhammer tries to be flexible, and I like it generally, but there are still a few stuck points here and there. One has to do with a scenario group – if you group up with your guild for one, you can’t join any other open groups/warbands for other things on and off, so you mostly end up solo questing in various lands – not everyone is on the same quest, possible rank differences, etc.

    The other is just an unfortunate consequence of open grouping. Make it easy to form up a 24 man group with no real defined leader – and after a while of wandering around with no organization, about 3-5 people hit their limit at the same time and start barking orders or offering suggestions. All different. And some do it more obnoxiously than others. Abandoning group is ridiculously tempting at this point, and if enough do it, whatever you wanted the big group for can’t be achieved any longer, and so the group dissolves and dies a natural death.

    This is all very well if people are well socialized as in CoX to think of group formation and dissolution as perfectly normal. I fear in WAR that it’s slowly encouraging people back into playing only with their guild and keep groups closed, because of already established MMO tropes and better vent coordination. It’s nice if a guild opens up its group to PUGs and helps move them around – but honestly, I mostly see only my own guild/alliance doing it on my server. Many others are closing elitist doors and letting everyone else sink or swim.

  10. Hey thanks for the great article. I just know how it feels and it is nice to see someone else with similar views and read it written out. I rarely group because of the load it brings with it. Every time I group a lot of time goes down the drain because someone is not ready to go … right then.

    On the other hand of course I am a social player, I formed friendships in the game that transcend the game, I founded a guild that still exists after 3 years and I am still part of the leadership. So the game is a social one. I just don’t group so much and I keep having to explain to people why I solo so much why an Instance is a rare occurrence in my play style.

  11. My issue is that most of these games assume I want to group with strangers, when I don’t. I really don’t.

    I love co-op, give me any sort of cooperative stuff and I’m there with a group of my friends (once they come online after a long commute home from work, bah reality).

    What I loathe is if I’m enjoying myself soloing and someone comes along and insists that I need to group with them because I’m standing near where they need to complete a quest and they’re worried they’ll be inconvenienced a few seconds if I kill a mob or two.

    Especially when they don’t take “no thanks, I’m happy solo’ing” for an answer.

    I also can’t stand large guilds, where sooner or later you have to listen to someone else’s drama. Or politics. Or religion. Or which country they hate this week. Ugh these games are my downtime, I’m happily active on those subjects elsewhere but I stay away from large guilds primarily because I don’t want to group / raid / warband with someone who’s ranting about their fears of the gov’t taking away their guns. My gaming ears aren’t for your soapbox.

    So it drives me nuts that the gameplay is often made for the biggest guilds to excel at. Hell, my dislike of that isn’t just about the guilds themselves, but I find zerg-anything so absolutely dull.

    And finally, the game mechanics that seem designed to ensure that my friends and I cannot play together, that I must constantly find other people at the same level as me to play the game with.


    I like to solo. I like to group. I like to make my own choices for both. I love MMOs, for the overall populace, the overall community, the feeling of a living world and for the potential for co-op content I can enjoy with my friends. Amongst all of the positive aspects included, I don’t think any of them should require me to group with a bunch of strangers.

  12. Great article, good point of view, but I disagree 100%.

    A large part of multiplayer gaming is taking the good with the bad. Avoid groups, and you’re missing out on a bulk of the game as it’s intended to be played. If all you want is a single player RPG, with social interaction then save yourself the subscription fees, buy single player RPGs and fire up a copy of IRC alongside your game.

Comments are closed.