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.