Claiming a space in new games

I abhor pristine hotel rooms.

Whenever I arrive in one, I have a compulsion to dump my case in the middle of the bed, put toothpaste in the bathroom (even if some is already there), hang clothes up (even when I wouldn’t bother at home), throw the pillows around and generally place my home-brought stuff on their nice hotel tables. It is a compulsion. Once I’ve put a few things out, I can go out and grab a coffee and do other things. But it doesn’t really feel like MY hotel room until stuff is removed from my travelling bags and put … somewhere.

I call this a kind of ‘claiming’ behaviour. There are (random) things I have to do before a new space feels as though it is mine. I’m sure part of the desire for housing in MMOs is just to have a space where you can strew some stuff around to make it feel more like your own place.

And of course for games which allow UI customisation/ addons there is a nearly limitless variety of ways to make the playing space feel like your own. It’s something I sometimes miss in single player games – although a well designed UI is probably better than anything I could do anyway.

Similarly on new social networks. I joined google+ recently and I obediently filled out some profile details and added a picture, just because it makes my profile page feel more ‘homely’ and less sparse and pristine. If you’d like to be added to my g+ gamer circles, just leave a message on this post with your favoured email address (if you’d like to be added to my social work/ sociology circle can you also say cos I try not to spam disinterested people with that.)

So it’s interesting to me that there’s really very little you can do to claim a new character other than picking a name. Sure, in games which allow cosmetic gear you can work on customising it later on. You may later be able to use different titles also. Some games allow the player to generate a profile page if they want (or generate one for you a la WoW’s armoury).

Do you like to customise your own space in games/ social networks?

Being alone in a MMO

336295941_00e23f305fAlejandra Mavroski@Flickr

So the rumours are increasing that patch 3.3.5 is due to drop imminently in WoW, and with it the RealID integration that could potentially make privacy  a thing of the past. One of my reservations about the new scheme is that if you swap RealIDs with a friend, they can see who all of your alts are.

But sometimes, I just want to log on and not be bothered by anyone. Just to pretend I am alone to explore peacefully in a big virtual world, with no social obligations at all.

I used to game with a Finnish friend who would periodically gquit and spend a week or two guildless. Then he’d rejoin. He said it was ‘his log cabin’ time and he’d go hang out in some unpopular zone where he’d never see another player. Now that’s a little extreme, but I wonder how many people enjoy the anonymity of being able to make a new low level alt, tell no one who you are, and just melt into the virtual world.

I used to notice this a lot when my boyfriend (now husband) first moved in with me. We were living in a small one-bedroom flat and whilst there was room for us both, there wasn’t much ‘solo room’ for anyone. And sometimes, being logged into the computer and playing a single player game almost felt as though it genuinely did add some virtual space to the house. For a lot of players, living in cities or far away from open land, being able to explore a virtual world is more virtual space than they might actually see in a year.

As well as an alt or two to just chill out, my bank alts are usually guildless. There’s no special reason for it, but I quite enjoy being able to drop online to quickly check auctions without being drawn into conversations or pestered to play my ((insert group specced character of choice)). I suspect that a lot of healers in particular lean on anonymous alts for some quality solo time in game.

The other bonus of an anonymous alt is that you can easily avoid players you don’t like. I’m sure we all are far too mature to harbour grudges against guildies or other players BUT if one was so inclined, one could log in an alt and check the /who list to make sure the object of derision was not online. Maybe it’s kiddie and immature but we’ve all done it!

So understand my concern about RealID. Even with close personal friends and family, we may sometimes want anonymous alts. This is entirely the type of behaviour that Facebook and, it now appears, Blizzard would like to wipe out. They find it deceptive. They find it unfriendly. But I know my anonymous alts are neither of those things. They’re just an attempt to find some extra me-time online when I can’t do it in any other way. If they didn’t exist, I’d probably go for a long walk or hide in my bedroom with a book.

Do you have anonymous alts? Would you be happy to share that information with your friends list?