Sociopaths r us! Is a social game a polite game?

I read a great article this week (courtesy of RPS), and it was by a gaming journalist who was explaining how playing Halo tipped him over the edge. He’s describing here how he got ganked by a random stranger, became mindbogglingly furious, and spent the entire rest of the evening tracking and corpse camping the guy to get revenge.

Not unusual behaviour for someone in a shooter, you might think. It also shows signs of classical sociopathy (A pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others) and I think he was right to recognise that the game was bad for him and quit.  Here’s an example:

Who was he to take my stuff? He respawned, this time I was off to the side of the base and tossed a ‘nade. It was beautiful, curved delicately and landed right between his shoulder blades. Pow!
I wrote: “2-1″.
In truth, I was sort of hoping for an apology. He could have just given me what I wanted.

The italics above are mine.

I’d spent time tracking this guy down, I was /right/. I killed him and he quit. I tracked him down again and again and again. An evening lost to bloodying up some jerk, feeling like a vigilante.

So when someone ganked him, he felt owed an apology, but no notion of apologising to the guy whose entire evening he had ruined. FPS shooter players just don’t do that. PvP has a similar dynamic. Why would you ever apologise or expect an apology for killing someone in a PvP game? They chose to play, they knew the rules. They can log off and do something else any time they like.

By comparison, look at an article that Matticus penned this week on his blog. It’s called How to Apologize. This is about a very different type of online game, and very different types of relationships between players. He’s talking with respect to running a raiding guild, although it could just as easily apply to any player in a guild or online community.

Still, the contrast between how the writers expect other players to behave is very marked indeed. FPS online chat is known to be vicious, hostile, sexist, homophobic, racist – in fact you can name the unpleasant behaviour of your choice and it’s probably rife on Xbox Live. Trade chat on WoW isn’t all that much better, depending on your server. But guild chat is usually more polite (or at least everyone is equally accepting of the level of rudeness.)

So why do players act like sociopaths online?

Freedom to unleash your inner sociopath!

If people are acting like sociopaths, it is because they enjoy it. A lot of players have stressful factors in their jobs, relationships, study. or just generally in their lives. Logging on and being randomly horrible to a random player may be a source of stress relief. Obviously, it’s not so fun to be on the receiving end of the insults. But the sociopath player is able to ignore that; they’re either a sociopath, or roleplaying it well online, or else it’s the local game culture that everyone is randomly horrible to each other equally. Griefers even find it fun.

So people who find it great stress relief to gank people and vent at randoms enjoy the general xbox live and trade chat atmosphere. It’s perfect for them. Just as long as everyone else plays the same way too. And if anyone dares to get upset or doesn’t want to play the sociopath game then it’s their fault for being different and not trying to fit in.

I am reminded of a guild officer in my old DaoC guild (which was, in retrospect, home to some of the worst officers I’ve ever encountered.) He saw himself as an in game sergeant major and regularly used to bitch people out in public if they annoyed him.

One day, he did this to a player who became very upset. They hated being yelled at, felt insulted and belittled, and made sure he understood exactly how upset they were. At the time, his reponse to this puzzled me greatly. The officer became furious with the upset player. How dare they ruin his good shouting session by bringing stupid emotions into this? Didn’t they know that when he yelled at them, they should accept it politely and change their behaviour to exactly what he demanded?

I don’t think he was really a sociopath, just an idiot who wanted the virtual world to reflect his self image. I think he knew that he’d gone too far, but what he actually did was to yell more at the upset player for being such a delicate flower. Unsurprisingly, this did not help and resulted in a gquit. i.e. the person who did not fit into the sociopath’s guild left.

Because you can!

The internet is anarchy. And without anyone to moderate the chat channels, bboards, or live chat then sociopaths roam widely, free to force the other web denizens to conform to their mould. And if we can’t boot or report the perpetrators, then everyone else is stuck with them.

So where do people go if they hate sociopaths online? Well, not to xbox live or open FPS chatrooms, that’s for sure. They have to collect in communities which will allow them to moderate other people’s behaviour. So guilds, private servers, social networks, moderated forums/ newsgroups and anywhere else where they can keep the riff-raff out to let their frustrations out on each other somewhere in the internet back of beyond.

And then people wonder why women don’t feature much in online gaming.

Social games force people to be more polite

So if a social game is one that forces players to communicate with each other, and to cooperate, then there is a limit to how sociopathic a successful player can be. If you want to win, then you have to work with others. That’s the bottom line in this type of game. A whole guild of sociopath players can be functional, as long as no one expects anyone else to care about what they think ( if you are the type who expects apologies when someone else insults your mother, then it’s obviously not the guild for you.)

But if a player who might be a sociopath in FPS is also an achiever, they’ll probably have to modify their behaviour in a social game. So social games will tend to be more friendly — whether they’re raid based like WoW or gift based like Farmville. Their communities will tend to be more supportive and functional.

We see this even more on roleplaying servers, because RP is all about socialising (you cannot RP on your own). So these servers hold a special attraction to the most social players.

More solo friendly games will breed more sociopathic gamers

As matticus’ post shows, players who make long term commitments to their online communities do need to foster and care about their relationships with other players. You don’t need to become best friends, but you also can’t treat them as abusively as a perfect stranger who you will never meet again.

And I wonder what this means with the ongoing trend to solo-friendliness in MMOs. Although the majority of players in the random dungeon finder are fine, it’s easy enough for the sociopathic ones to sneak in these days. And the less players need to communicate and cooperate with each other in game, the easier it is to treat the others as random objects of abuse.

But MMO culture isn’t the same as FPS culture. Many more women and older players play MMOs, for a start (and yes it does make a difference.) They won’t all suddenly become randomly abusive just because they can. But other people will. And especially if game companies keep chasing the hardcore male 18-30 year old player and putting out more solo friendly games, the prospects for better communities online are poor.

So driving away from that hardcore market and more towards the mainstream is a good trend, in my opinion. Casual gamers who won’t accept that they need to put up with all that shit as the price of entry may yet keep us all honest.

5 great ways for you to help new players

Blog Azerorth has a particularly challenging Shared Topic this week – it’s about helping new players.

Here are some other bloggers on the topic:

I do not spend a lot of my time  helping new players, if only because I don’t encounter very many. It also can be tricky to spot the new guys, often indistinguishable from experienced players who just act like newbies. So before I tackle the topic, here are a few pointers for newbie spotters. This is how you know you’ve got the Real Deal on your hands.

  • Player has not yet figured out how to use chat channels. They may use say or whisper instead, if they’ve worked those ones out.
  • Player does not know how to find the bank or auction house (or add any essential facility of your choice.)
  • Player is confused by need/greed conventions. Unfortunately this is easily mistaken for ninja behaviour. This could also just mean an experienced solo player who hasn’t grouped much.
  • Player can’t ask for help because they don’t really know what sort of help they need. If you are struggling with how to start combat, there’s no point asking for help with complex rotations.
  • Player went exploring and ended up in a totally inappropriate zone for their race/class/faction, and doesn’t know how to get back. (It’s the not knowing how to get back which scares newbies, more experienced explorers usually have A PLAN involving a bucket, 50’ of rope, and/or a hearthstone.)
  • Player got lost. (This does not hold for instances such as BRD where everybody gets lost.)
  • Player wants to improve or learn how to do something better. This is how you know you have a live inexperienced newbie and not an experienced zombie.

So, assuming that you’d like to help new players, how do you do it? Here are five things I try to do – and you will notice that I don’t go too far out of my way. I’m in game to play and have fun, not to act as teacher or big sister to the unwashed masses (err, excluding my actual sisters). I have also learned through experience that I won’t be helping anyone if I’m grumpy and out of sorts.

1. Answer (sensible) questions on global channels

A lot of people goof off in trade chat or the local equivalent, which is all well and good. But one easy way to help newer players is simply to answer questions on the chat channels. If someone has gotten as far as asking a question, it means that they’re taking the first steps towards helping themselves. And if you happen to be in the area covered by the channel and aren’t busy, why not answer?

I sometimes talk to people via whisper if they are asking warrior or tanking questions. For example, I spoke to a player last week who was asking how to gem gear for a protection paladin – it’s not a difficult question, and it’s also very little effort for me to give a basic informed answer, and offer signposting to decent tanking websites if the guy wants to read more.

2. Help new players to settle into your guild

If a new player joins your guild, you can help to smooth their experience. This doesn’t mean that you need to talk to them extensively every time they log on, especially if your guild isn’t chatty anyway. But you can help by making sure they know about guild activities, bulletin boards, addons, bank, or any other way in which your group usually communicates and organises.

It might mean as little as checking that someone has read the guild info tab (if your officers are organised and put useful information in there). Or asking if they want to join some regular guild activity if they are online and appropriate level.

3. Gold$$$

You can, if you choose, help new players by either giving them gold or sharing gold making tips. (Do lots of dailies to get gold for your epic mount, is a good one in WoW for example. Or start with two gathering skills.) A lot of players are ethically opposed to giving gold to beggars. Others may be amused enough by a good pitch to help an enterprising new player out with some starting cash.

I have been in guilds – and am sort of running one at the moment – where we aim to give people gold to buy their flying mounts at level 60 if they don’t already have the cash. The idea is that people can pay it back to the guild bank later and since we’re careful with invites, the facility won’t be abused.

If you’d rather give goods, then bags are always helpful to new players. So if you get chatting to someone after giving advice on a chat channel and would like to help them further, a gift of bags will not compromise your gold giving ethics but is a very helpful gesture. If you are a crafter, there may be other low level gear you can help players with. Glyphs and potions can be helpful too, if you don’t mind explaining how to use them.

In general, giving stuff to everyone who asks will make you feel like a sucker unless you just won the in game equivalent of the lottery or are a generous drunk. But giving stuff to ‘worthy’ newbies is a time honored way of helping new players.

4. Don’t bitch at people in low level instances

News flash. You will sometimes find new players in low level groups or instances. Do not expect these low level groups to function like well drilled raid groups in which every player has been studying their role for several years.

Instead, go in to have fun and be entertained. If the group upsets you, then you can always leave. But newer players can have an infectious enthusiasm and the better ones will take tips and advice if it’s offered in a generous way.

Low level instances are also often harder than higher level ones if you tackle them at the intended level and gearing. (I have come to the opinion that LBRS is the hardest instance in the game. It’s certainly the one I have seen completed least often lately.)

Give the lowbies a break. Assume they might be new. Give them a chance to take advice before you give up on them.

5. Don’t socialise if you are in a bad mood

This is the biggie. You cannot help anyone, newbie or otherwise, if you are burned out, stressed, bad tempered, or feeling anti-social. The kindest thing you can do for your fellow players in that case is to take yourself away from the social scene and either stay offline or maintain radio silence.

Never mind if you feel an obligation to help newbies. Never mind if you promised them an instance run. If you don’t feel up to it, make your excuse and back out. It’s allowed. And you need to put your own fun and welfare first.

It’s probably better if you don’t agree to do anything that you know you didn’t really want to do in the first place. People can take no for an answer. I know a lot of players who do have trouble with saying no, but it’s just one of those life skills that you need to learn for your own protection.

Bring out your dead: Profiting from the demise of other guilds

otters

In which we pore over new recruits from dying guilds like otters waiting for their fish.

It is a sad day when a guild or a raid community dies. Not just for the players involved – although by that time, many of them will probably be relieved to be free to find new homes – but for the wider community and even the game itself. A guild can represent so much combined effort from so many people. It isn’t just an in-game identity, it’s also a virtual home. And when a guild fails, all that effort goes to the wall.

Some guilds have an actual end day when everyone ceremonially leaves and the (ex)guild leader does the equivalent of falling on their sword and dismantling the guild. Others simply fade away over weeks or months of fewer people logging in, fewer events being organised, more raids being abandoned due to lack of interest, and players drifting off to join other, more active communities.

On a tight knit server, others outside the guild will notice the loss too. Some well known guilds spawn long, surprisingly sympathetic threads on realm forums where other players (including past members) voice their memories. A long running, well known guild is simply a part of the server history, a history that could be measured in the rise and fall of guilds, with all the associated drama ….

When my first raid guild in WoW split up, I was gutted. I was an officer at the time, and a class lead, and I’d ridden through both the high and low points with the rest of the guild. But by the end, I was so very tired of it all. I asked if the GL at the time minded if I left my character in the defunct guild, while I took a break from the game. When I logged in several months later to take stock, I had several whispers from people who just wanted to reminisce about my guild tag even though many of them had never been members themselves.

So when a guild dies, what happens to the now homeless players? If players had been very invested in the guild, it’s a time of grieving. Some will transfer servers to be with other friends, others will look for other guilds on the same server, and still others will spend some time as free agents, or even take a long break from the game altogether. Occasionally new guilds spawn from the ashes of old ones, but it’s never quite the same.

Good news everyone! Applications are looking up!

In WoW at the moment, things are winding down towards the next expansion which will not be for several months (no, we don’t yet know the release date). Many raid guilds are struggling for numbers as players get bored and decide to take a break until Cataclysm.  The ennui is hitting guilds which I had thought to be immune. Maybe things are really worse now, or maybe just older guilds have hit the point where the game itself has changed so much from when they were created that the leaders don’t want to keep changing with it. Or in other words, they don’t much fancy the idea of raiding in Cataclysm anyway if it carries on the way it has in Wrath.

In any case, we can tell that other raid guilds on the server are breaking up because we get an influx of new applications. And since the hardcore raid guilds on AD are … well … more hardcore than we are, those applicants are generally well geared, well disciplined, well spoken, and any raid guild would be delighted to have them.

It feels like a reward for hanging in there, because we’ve also been struggling for numbers but (much credit to all the comm members and to the long suffering raid leaders) have still managed to keep raiding and keep the progression just about going. But raiding has definitely slowed, and if we take on some of these guys, it would be a shot in the arm.

It is a risk also. Can someone who was a mainstay of a hardcore guild really be happy to raid on a more casual basis?  Maybe they can, if what they really wanted was a virtual home.

One thing is for sure, whenever one raid splits up, many other struggling raids will suddenly get an injection of much needed raiders. They died so that others could live.

Game jargon: When is a group not a group?

When is a group not a group? When it’s a party, fellowship, fleet, team, gang, etc.

New MMOs often flood players with a tsunami of jargon, using new words for old, familiar concepts as well as thinking up terms for new gameplay or lore which is specific to that game. It isn’t just the humble group that gets the makeover treatment, games use different terms to describe guilds (kinship, corp, legion, supergroup, society, etc), raids (warbands) and even different types of spell (mez, sleep, incapacitate, blind).

It can feel overwhelming when you jump into a new game. As well as the official jargon, players have probably adopted their own abbreviations and nicknames for different locations, instances, bosses, quests, items and each other. A general chat channel might as well be in a foreign language for the amount of sense it makes to a newbie – or at least an unfamiliar dialect. Learning the local slang is an important part of learning a new MMO and joining that game’s community. Many of the wackier pieces of jargon are purely emergent — the player base thought them up to represent something they wanted to talk about.

So why think up different names for groups and guilds in every game?

Names have power. By renaming a familiar entity, you can change how players perceive it. For example, in D&D the player who runs the game is known as the DM or Dungeon Master. Later RPGs renamed this role as Game Master (showing that a game wasn’t really centred about dungeons), Storyteller (White Wolf trying to focus their games on stories and storytelling), and … infamously … Hollyhock God (I think this was an attempt to make Nobilis even more way out than it is anyway). Most pen and paper games settled for some version of GM — after all, players knew what it meant and it did describe the role.

Guilds and groups don’t really fall into the same category though, because a guild in most games serves the same function. It really is just a case of swapping the name to something more immersive. And immersion is another reason to pick different names. Would it make as much sense to talk about a group in EVE as it does to talk about a fleet? Even if they are functionally the same? A fleet implies a group of ships, after all. Using the name reminds players of the setting and of what their ‘group interface’ represents.

LOTRO in particular really went hell for leather on renaming just about everything in game to be more Tolkienesque. As well as Fellowships (groups) and Kinships (guilds), they even reimagined character death as representing loss of morale. It made for a very immersive experience, even with the exotic and unfamiliar naming system. Even when the name is not particularly immersive, different words have different connotations to players. A ‘party’ just feels more fun than a ‘group’.

Then there is the issue of trademarks. If a company thinks up a lot of new jargon for a game, they can trademark it and prevent others from using it inappropriately. If you look through the list of registered trademarks for a company like White Wolf/ CCP, you’ll see that they have trademarked a lot of the game jargon for this reason.

Players are more amenable to some kinds of jargon than other. The different names for guilds have been enthusiastically embraced in games I have played. LOTRO players jumped immediately into ‘kinships’ and started happily referring to their ‘kinnies’ (instead of guildies). My friends who play Aion are chatting about their Legions. There was no confusion, no resistance, they were happy with the new name for a player organisation.

Groups on the other hand are usually referred to as groups. It may be different in space settings where the players represent ships, but my experience is that people have been more resistant to adopting different terms for a group. Perhaps the game jargon for groups was either awkward or didn’t add enough in the way of immersion to really catch on.

But still I wonder how upcoming MMOs will name their groups and guilds. I’m thinking that fleets will feature in Star Trek, but I wonder how Star Wars (yes you can sign up for beta now) will choose to portray guilds in that game. It’ll be a challenge to think of guild jargon that could apply equally to a player organisation for sith warriors or for a group of smugglers. Perhaps they’ll decide, in the end, that the easiest way is just to call a guild a guild.

How to get people to read bulletin boards

Every MMO guild I’ve been involved with has used a bulletin board to pass on information and let members chat outside the game and in non-real time. They’re fantastically useful mechanisms.  You can post something in the morning and when you get back later, it’s spawned a multi-page thread, inspired your entire guild to get really enthusiastic on the topic, and gotten you banned.  And as well as threaded discussions, many bboards also allow you to send private messages to other players which is great when you want to bitch at people privately.

They really are a fantastic, simple solution as to how groups of people can communicate when they aren’t all present at the same time. In fact, bulletin boards may be the apex of human achievement.  They solved a very real and very human problem – without them, the internet might be possible but it could never really work. Also, flamewars: the second apex of human achievement.

And what are facebook and twitter if not clever tweaks to bboards?

There is a downside though. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but most people don’t care about your bulletin boards.

It doesn’t matter if you are running a guild, or a RL company, or a voluntary organisation. Even if the bulletin board is a crucial part of your communications strategy, most people ignore it, don’t care about it, and won’t read it unless you force them to do it. I used to work for a company that used bboards extensively and we had regulations about which boards we were supposed to keep up to date with. The fact they provided a ‘mark all as read’ button meant that you never had to actually read the things. Most people never read official forums. They won’t read your guild forums either.

The reason they don’t care is that the information isn’t always well organised, it’s a time consuming hassle to read the boards, and they aren’t all that interested in anything going on outside the game anyway. So they’re lazy and disinterested: welcome to the player base.

If you’re reading a blog, chances are that you may also read bulletin boards for your guild, for a really good game related site (eg. elitist jerks), and for the game itself. You’re in a small minority. You have the power of information, and it is at your fingertips. Yet with great power comes great responsibility. If you are the one who is often telling your guildies about what’s coming in the next patch, you are doing your bit to share the knowledge wealth. If you are the one who lets them know when there’s an interesting class Q&A on the official forums that is about their class, you’re doing your bit for the community.

And this is how bulletin boards typically work. They’re read by a few people, but the people who do read them disseminate the information. This is also why you have to take what players write on bboards with a pinch of salt; sure they are an influential minority but it’s not really clear if they pass information back the other way from the playerbase.

So you’re running a guild, how do you get people to read the boards?

This can be very frustrating if you are running a guild. Maybe you’d like to use bboards to let people know about upcoming raids, or to discuss class issues. You realise that a well used bboard can become a living community of it’s own, and you’d like that for your guild.

But how do you get people to use the boards?

  1. Create an atmosphere right from the start that is centred around the boards. Make them the front and centre of your community.
  2. Force people to use the boards regularly. Maybe use them for raid signups, so that you can make board usage a kind of gatekeeper for content the players want to do. (eg. if you don’t sign up, you can’t come.)
  3. Appoint an unofficial community manager. Companies have them, your guild can too. You just need one person who loves bboards (I know, I know) to keep thinking of cool ways to get everyone else to use them.
  4. Invite a few members who have fulltime jobs. They’ll be much more likely to use the bboards – it’s their way to keep in touch while they are at work.
  5. Reward the people who do use the boards. Be proactive in posting links to interesting news, blogposts, and other things they might be interested to see. Run competitions (I know we’ve had some cool screenshot competitions in the past). Have consumable giveaways.
  6. Most games let guild masters edit a message of the day that is shown to people when they log on. Use it to advertise the guild bboard, or any interesting threads up at the moment.
  7. Make sure all new members are informed about the bboard. Requiring all applications to be posted on the board is a good way to make sure they know where it is.
  8. If you’re the GM or an officer, then engage with the guild members. Answer their queries, listen to their issues, be available to chat on the bboard. Don’t make it a top down affair where you post instructions and they go away and do what they’re told. The baseline of a community is communication and it goes both ways.

Soloing, going casual, and the tragedy of the commons

People talk about soloing in MMOs as if having the option to solo to the level cap was a recent innovation. Actually I remember playing MUDs mostly solo. As long as there have been virtual worlds, there have been both players who just wanted to quietly get on with their own thing and those who wanted to play with others.

However it’s the players who want to play with others who create the in game community.

MMOs are all about options. You can have soloers, raiders, hardcore, casual, explorers, achievers, et al all playing in the same virtual world. And that means you can play different sides of the game depending on how you feel.  I used to be in a guild with a Finnish guy who occasionally would /gquit for a couple of weeks to get away from the world (including guild chat). He referred to this as ‘going on holiday to his virtual log cabin’. He could have just not logged in but that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted to be alone in the virtual world.

Sometimes you’ve had a rough day at work and don’t want to be hassled. Other times you really want to be around other people, and I love that the game provides these options.

But, aside from the regular flow of people who switch between soloing and grouping as their mood dictates, there are a lot of players who never have any intention of grouping with anyone they don’t know. I’ve always felt that they were a large but mostly invisible segment of the population. You don’t ‘see’ them because they don’t talk, they don’t join guilds. I remember being surprised when a guy joined our WAR guild and commented that although he’d played MMOs for years, this was the first time he had ever joined a guild. He’d just been playing with friends and never needed nor wanted the guild.

So who needs who, really?

A soloer, or a small group of RL friends who only ever group with each other, is a self contained unit. They don’t need anyone else to play in their preferred way. They don’t really need access to a guild bank or guild crafters because there are Auction Houses and trade channels.

Some may choose to join guilds because they like to be in a friendly atmosphere, and to share information, loot, and skills. But it isn’t really clear what the guild gets from having soloers as members.

Players who like to group, on the other hand, need to be around other social players. You can’t run group content on your own, by definition. And so social players tend to cluster into guilds because they like to be in a friendly atmosphere and to share information, loot, and skills, and also so that they can more easily find people to group with.

There are two types of successful guild, really. One is the very focussed one in which every member wants to do the same type of activity in game. These would be like raiding or endgame guilds. Over time they may ease the focus, let in more alts and social members, and evolve a more casual tier alongside the hardcore centre.

You can have a guild that is focussed on supporting casual members who are mostly soloers. But it’s very difficult to keep that kind of community together unless there’s a core of the guild who is a little less casual than the rest or unless you prearrange set times to play.

The other type is a larger social type of guild which is more of a broad umbrella under which members do what they like. And this kind of guild can carry a few soloers, maybe even a lot, but it absolutely must also have a critical mass of members who like to group because otherwise the guys who want to group won’t be able to find guild groups.

This isn’t just about grouping for instances or raids or PvP. I’ve been in RP guilds where we organised little RP events and were struggling to get people to come to them, while seeing half the guild online but off soloing somewhere else. Those are players who went to the effort of joining a RP guild but then when it actually tried to organise something that they could easily have joined in, they preferred to keep farming. They didn’t really want to be part of the guild or interact in any way beyond the chat channel.

And let me tell you, when you are trying to organise anything in guild and people flip you off for no real reason other than that they can’t be bothered, even though they are online and not busy, it will quickly put you off trying to organise anything else in future. This is why social guilds need to keep the number of soloers down and the number of social members up.

If the number of social members falls too low, then the rest MUST leave too for a guild with better grouping opportunities or else they’ll be very very miserable. And you can guarantee it’ll be the guys who mostly solo who will be tutting and complaining that people aren’t loyal to their guilds any more these days when they go.

The only guild that truly benefits from soloers is the solo-centric guild, made by and for other soloers. And ironically, most soloers who want to join a guild for the chat channel and crafters are not looking for that kind of guild.

Note: Yes, when I say soloers I mean people who have no intention of ever grouping with anything they don’t know iRL. I don’t have a problem with the playstyle. I still think it’s great that MMOs can cater to all sorts. And I do have friends in my guild who mostly solo because of RL issues, and we love having them around. But don’t join a guild just for its chat channel without telling them that’s all you want.

Just bear in mind that if I want to group, I need to have people around who want to do the same thing. If I want to solo (or play with a partner or fixed group), I don’t need anyone or anything. And a social player can provide all the same things as a soloer, but they’re also helping to build the community.

So why are you soloing in an MMO anyway?

Syp is tired of being asked why he would want to solo in a multi-player game. That’s a fair point, it’s no-one’s business what you do in the game as long as you aren’t harassing anyone (and by definition, soloers are very unlikely to be in this situation).

But he then goes on to explain that soloers may not really want to be alone, and thinks it’s reasonable to join a guild anyway. I beg to differ. It MAY be reasonable to join a guild, if you can find one that it copacetic with your playstyle.

He also comments that solo players may appreciate the support network that other players can provide. And they’ll provide you with this for no return why exactly? How is that not leeching? And why do you need a support network anyway if you are soloing?

But if you join a social guild, every time you are online when someone is trying to organise a guild activity and you could have taken part but you decided not to bother, you are breaking a piece of someone’s heart. But of course, you’re solo, so you’re not interested in being anyone else’s support network. Why should you care? Why should you help to support the guild, you’re only there for the chat channels? Maybe they’re the ones who  should  chill out and remember it’s just a game.

(I’m not convinced that MMOs offer more bang for your buck than single player games, though. I suppose it depends which single player games and which MMOs.)

Relying on the more hardcore

Actually, a lot of players do rely on more hardcore people to provide their player-generated entertainment. A guild leader or raid leader puts much more time and effort into the game than a rank or file member. Both types of player need each other, but one is definitely working harder.

So maybe a casual player wants to not be tied to a schedule, but still be able to log into a friendly guild and find competent groups whenever they want. In order for a guild to provide that, they need to have a core of more hardcore players who will be around more often, will play enough to become competent, and will want to group whenever the casual player logs in.

I don’t think people always see that side of things. In order for me to have my great casual friendly guild, officers and raid leaders need to want to put in a lot more work than I do. It isn’t that I’m not valuable, but I am relying on some people being more hardcore.

So … tragedy of the commons?

What happens if MMOs develop along lines such that most people are soloing most of the time? There’s no downtime built in where you might have to talk to people you didn’t know? There may not be enough of the more hardcore to form all the guilds those people might want to join? The people who would have been running those guilds are all going casual/ solo/ in small groups of RL friends instead?

Would a game like that really have much of a community at all? Is there any support network left for anyone at all?