Bloggy XMAS (1): Gaming and Community

Syl of MMO Gypsy has invited gaming bloggers to join in a blogosphere joint-effort to write one (or more) posts about “Gaming and Community” this month and I was one of the lucky recipients of the Dec 1st posting date.

Community is very dominant in my choices about what games I want to play or not play and has been since 2007. That fateful year I finally agreed to join a lifelong friend in playing a MMORPG, something I’d resisted in the past (“pay a monthly fee to play a computer game, madness!”). The game of course was World of Warcraft and it, unlike other online games before it (including SWG and Mankind), really drew me into online gaming and the notion of a virtual community.

Since that day I’ve become 100% focused on online gaming, I’ve passed on many stalwarts of the PC or console RPG scene including Dragon Age 2 (and now 3), Mass Effect 2 and 3, Dark Souls, Dragon’s Dogma and even Skyrim couldn’t hold my attention. It’s certainly not because MMORPGs are superior but there is some je ne sais quoi, some mix of ingredients that online gaming brings and I think community is a central part of that.

Interactions with real players can often be fleeting or negative, but they can also be very positive and memorable also. I greatly appreciated the culture of “drive by buffs” in early WoW days and on our roleplay server such interactions could even lead to brief spurts of improvised roleplay between random strangers. Very recently I’ve just started looking at Guild Wars 2 again and that game actually succeeded, regardless of its flaws, to bring a tangible sense of community into the gaming world. The game was designed to reward players in a small way for helping others and it also removed any notion of competition for resources or quest completion in the game world, one of the common potential causes of friction between players in such games.

My memories of strong and positive gaming communities are not limited to such systems-related areas, one of the strongest MMO communities I have ever encountered is or at least was to be found on the EU-roleplay server of LOTRO (Laurelin). That community always struck me as being an essentially welcoming and friendly group of players, I was happy to visit the player-organised markets and roleplay events on my crafting alts. Back when I was last playing you could still find people roleplaying in the major taverns at various times of the day.

Like many online gamers I benefit from the chance to play such games with friends or family who are not so near to me geographically. I would go so far as to say I prefer to play with people I know in small groups than large-scale raids or public events. However I stick with the MMORPG genre precisely because there are wider communities out there that are well worth being a part of. Friends will always take precedence for my gaming time but I want the opportunity to randomly help someone else every so often, to roleplay with someone while waiting on a timed boss fight or the chance to trade items with a real player and not just some NPC vendor. Playing single player or even multiplayer RPGs on the PC or console does not interest me anymore because the worlds, however beautifully drawn or creative the story-telling, seem flat and lifeless when there aren’t other player controlled characters running around.

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4 Responses to Bloggy XMAS (1): Gaming and Community

  1. It’s funny how GW2 has managed to maintain its die-hard community when so many foresaw its doom 2 years ago because it was supposedly asocial and didn’t force grouping on players the way other MMOs do. Turns out there are many ways to create community in games.
    And Laurelin really is the greatest server 🙂 I had so many nice encounters there just hanging in the Prancing Pony.

    • Rowan says:

      I never understood the “asocial” argument in GW2. I found there to be plenty of incentives to be social that didn’t require one to be stuck in a group to receive the supposed benefits of grouping.

  2. bhagpuss says:

    This is one of the oddest posts I have ever read because I agree 100% with almost all of it and violently disagree with one specific element. I think you express quite brilliantly the way that the experience of playing an RPG online with a massively multiple number of other human beings renders virtually all offline rpgs inert.

    My experience began in 1999 – prior to that I loved offline RPGs and simply could not find enough of them to fill may available playing time, which is how I came to try MMORPGs. Afterwards there really was no going back. That’s the “almost all” part.

    The violent disagreement with both you and Syl is over Laurelin. In 15 years it’s the only community that has ever driven me to stop playing an MMO altogether. I had my most toxic, offensive and disturbing interactions in any MMO on that server. I was followed, harassed and verbally abused specifically for not responding “appropriately” to an unsolicited, uninvited group invite. I was told that I wasn’t welcome on the server with my attitude (which consisted – entirely – of declining an invite to group). This didn’t happen just once or with one person but several times over the course of a couple of weeks, from apparently unrelated individuals.

    I’ve played on several RP servers in several MMOs and never, ever, have I encountered anything like the attitudes that seemed normative on Laurelin. I was enjoying LotRO and might have played for longer had it not been for the viscerally disturbing personal interactions with strangers that I sadly found unavoidable there.

    That was a long time ago. Maybe the community has improved. I can only hope it has.

    • Telwyn says:

      Out of interest what period did you play on the server? It may well be that the server’s general community or dominant community rules changed. I’ve never come across this myself but have read of over-zealous roleplayers trying to force others to conform and of the usual LOTRO issues, e.g deed-farmers emptying low level zones of mobs to the detriment of leveling characters. I’ve not come across the harrassment you speak of so can’t really comment.

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