Thursday, February 10, 2011

Community, Or Lack Thereof, Revisited

Have I no shame? Will I really reprint a response I made to someone else's blog and call it a post? Yes, yes I will. I touched on the theme of community a few posts ago (remember the shower scene.......) and it is something that fascinates me-on an intellectual level. In real life I can't be arsed with people but the sociologist in me can't help but be fascinated by social interaction. It's a lot like a car crash....I just can't look away.

Take a look at Wolfshead's post, and be sure to comment if you're so inclined. I really like his posts (especially since I now know he is Canadian) as I think they are both thoughtful, and well written. And to think I was about to remove him from my blogroll! I have a 3-week (ish) policy I'm trying to enforce. No posts, you're out! Harsh, maybe, but there are so many people out there blogging I aim to go with who ever is making the effort to at least keep up with it every few weeks at the least.


Response:

I have been thinking a lot about community, and its impact on my gaming as well lately. I am a natural solo ist. I tend to avoid social groups both in game and in real life, but I readily admit that when you have a good group your experiences are enhanced.

I think you have presented a balanced view on the issue of grouping in MMO’s. Games will continue to be solo friendly for all the reasons you mentioned, but I agree that this will decrease the quality of the community as a whole. This will, in turn, decrease the ability of players to enjoy the game except the most solo of circumstances including turning off general chat and completely isolating themselves in game. Who wants to play with, or listen to the anti social element in game?

When I’m enjoying a pint in my local, be it alone with the paper, or with a group of friends, and a group of rowdey’s who don’t usually frequent the place come in, how do I feel? Annoyed, put out, and generally intruded upon.

It’s not whether games should, or should not, be solo friendly because the larger titles will continue to do so. It also isn’t about whether this is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I feel that the point is the general community in most games is deteriorating and that, of course, is because we have stopped interacting and listening to each other. Co operation and mutual need is a social glue. That deterioration has an impact on me weather I am playing solo or looking for a group.

I am following (and playing) a small, niche game called Xsyon which is designed around player inter dependence and co operation. I’m not plugging the game as god knows it has a lot of flaws, but of interest to me is what kind of world will the players choose to create?

No NPC’s of any kind, open world PVP (combat is horrible though), and designer included penalties for ‘evil’ players are some of the features. Essentially the world is blank and the players must build, and create everything. The game is going to be an interesting look at what choices players will make when given the freedom to do so. Will the community be better because the necessary crafting is designed to be interdependent?

Games that provide this opportunity are rare. Ultimately, as consumers, players will have to choose what they want, and what they are willing to put up with. If the game I enjoy gets overrun with players who are rude, abrasive, or abusive I can always move on. It’s a shame but we do have options.

Communities, families, and society have changed and will continue to do so. I won’t bore you with sociological theories on the impact of the Industrial Revolution on family, and community, or (more recently) the impact of technology and how it actually keeps us apart. I also remember when communities pulled together in rural Canada and can remember the stories of my Great-grandparents who pioneered these lands. With winter temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius, isolated communities/families, and no cars in the very beginning…you couldn’t afford to go solo because lives were literally on the line.

This year we had (have) record snow fall and bone chilling temperatures but I’ve only spoken to my neighbors a few times. Life, and perhaps games, have moved on, for better or, in the case of games with ‘bad’ communities, for worse. We can lament, and even do our best to bring those values back, but we have to accept that some things, and people, will never change.

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