Boatorious on Bonding

Bad/Unforgiving games tend to have very tight communities in a Stockholm Syndrome sort of way. You join a guild in WoW to raid some dungeons and get some loot. In old EQ or UO a guild was more like AA or a cancer survivor’s group or something, and naturally tight bonds formed.

So I guess the question I have about UO, and FFXI, and EQ, and all those great old “social” games is this : did those games have great communities because they created social interaction, or did they have great communities because they eliminated non-social players?
— Boatorious

5 thoughts on “Boatorious on Bonding”

  1. False dichotomy.

    Like minded folks with shared beliefs, values and goals come together naturally to form communities. It helps if you can eliminate players who don’t share those goals, to minimize conflict. (eg. roleplaying guilds, hardcore raiding guilds, casual family-oriented guilds, l33tspe4k hangouts)

    At the same time, a game that is built to support many different types of such communities becomes a world in microcosm. This adds to the alluring feeling of “depth” in a world and development of interesting complexity for personal stories and player-player interactions.

    And games can also be designed to steer player behavior into desired channels of expression. Eve Online is cutthroat because the game supports and expects players to act in that manner for successful outcomes (as defined by that game.) World of Warcraft is centred around gear and loot drama because a character’s performance is so drastically dependent on it.

    Games that allow random dungeon finding / auto-pickup group formations cater to different types of social interaction as opposed to games that necessitate 1 hour prep and LF healer chatspam.

    Players will drop out of unpleasant groups without a word in the former, while still joining many more fun groups because it’s easier to form them – whereas they may grit their teeth and hang on, while hating the group’s members with every bone in their body, in the latter type of game.

    Is one game to be considered more social than the other?

  2. I think it’s more about game play style than bad or unforgiving game design.

    When I played EQ, I spent a lot of time sitting around healing, trying to sell/buy things, looking for groups, traveling, etc. I joined a guild, or at least stayed in it, because I spent that downtime in guild chat – first about game related subjects and gradually about more personal things as I got to know people. My guild mates helped me out, and I them, and while having a friend online spend 3 hours helping you collect a difficult quest piece isn’t quite the same as having a friend in RL spend his afternoon helping you move, it’s surprisingly close.

    When I played WoW and LOTRO, I never joined a guild. Groups were easy to come by, healing downtime was minimal, and there was an auction house and fast travel. I didn’t chat much with anyone because I was busy killing shit and running quests, I didn’t ask for help because I didn’t need it. On one hand, I absolutely support all the changes and polish the new generation of MMOs added. On the other hand, I never felt that attached to any of it – I burned through the content until I got tired and unsubbed.

    Now, I play EVE. I joined a corporation (guild) because I had questions, needed help, and had a lot of time. Team work is essential, and you need to trust your team. Mistakes are very costly, and betrayals more so. The game can be very unforgiving. After a year of chatting with and relying on the same set of people, you get pretty friendly. I know most of their wives names, I’ve seen their kids pictures, etc. In many ways, I find it easier to sit on vent and chat with some of my online friends than to sit with guys I’ve known 10 years and carry a conversation.

    Without pressure from the games environment, without the forced trust, co-operation and even downtime, I just don’t think I’d have ever come this far or made so many friends in an internet spaceship game – or any other MMO. I’m not saying it can’t or doesn’t happen, it’s just a question of ‘why bother?’. I’m just not the type to go seeking out internet friends when it’s more practical (and respectable) to do it in the great ‘RL’.

    1. “My guild mates helped me out, and I them, and while having a friend online spend 3 hours helping you collect a difficult quest piece isn’t quite the same as having a friend in RL spend his afternoon helping you move, it’s surprisingly close.”

      In EQ I played on a Team PvP server, and the feeling of helping a guildie get the Ancient Cyclops ring for their J-Boots (the speed effect overwrote snares) WAS surprisingly close. And I didn’t have to strain my back or even get off my butt to do it. ;)

  3. Seems like you’re asking this question coming from modern MMOs which are more “mainstream.” Back then, though, EQ was as “mainstream” as it got with 500K players. For the most part, it was the MUD-ers or the D&D-ers who put up with EQ, UO, AC; in other words, the majority of the community were already like-minded folk so they already had something in common. Add all the downtime where there was nothing else to do but chat and you have what the veterans look fondly back upon with their rose-colored glasses. These days the player base is more diverse and more mainstream so it takes longer to find (assuming you bother to look at all) groups of like-minded folk you can fit in with. Just like life…

  4. I agree with you, Scott. I had played DnD for some 10 plus years when EQ came out. I had played a few MUDs, I was learning how to play in the fantasy setting I was used to for so many years with people other than my close nit 4-5 guys, it was exhilarating to find so many people/strangers that were interested in the game concepts. When EQ came about, I was sucked in by co-workers with, “it’s like DnD, but with graphics!” I was hooked from my first few hours in Norrath. From the guards doing trash pick up (I was doing money transfers between characters, I swear!), to corpse running / pulling for guildies at Crushbone. I think we stood shoulder to shoulder in those first games because we were trailblazers, we were the niche gamers, we were finally seeing a world displayed before our eyes that previously only existed in the pages of our favorite books or in all-weekend DnD marathons played over pizzas and half a dozen 3 liters of Mt Dew. Rose colored glasses indeed…

Comments are closed.