It’s time to be honest about something: I’m not social in MMOs. I’m not an outgoing person by nature, and most of my experiences with other people in MMOs (and across the Internet, for that matter) have been negative. So I was never very social in these games to begin with, and I’m getting less so all the time.
I like the concept of massively social games with hundreds of players interacting. I’ve done much harping on how MMOs don’t do enough to support this kind of environment. But while I like the concept in theory, it doesn’t mesh well with my personality.
I do not belong to any guilds or cabals in Guild Wars 2 or The Secret World. I’ve spent the vast majority of my time in World of Warcraft in just two guilds (one for each faction), and I essentially fell into both by accident. Time has taken its toll on both guilds, as well, and I now have only a handful of fellow WoW players I still speak to in-game.
I’ve said before that I basically intend to play TSW as a single player game, but now it occurs to me that I’m basically playing all my MMOs that way. I’ve decided that I simply don’t want to bother with group content — discounting ones that can be easily accessed by soloists, such as WoW’s Raid Finder — because I’ve just never enjoyed it.
That begs a couple of questions, though.
Why am I playing MMOs?
I’ve gotten pretty heavily into MMOs. I’ve played several (I’m juggling two or three right now), and writing about them has become a cornerstone of my career. Why would this happen when I don’t appreciate one of the core purposes of an MMO?
The main answer is happenstance. I am a hardcore Warcraft fan and always have been. This meant I had to play WoW to keep getting my Azeroth fix.
And then it just kind of dovetailed from there. I started hearing about WoW-killers and got curious about whether other MMOs really could be that miraculously perfect. Spoiler alert: The answer is no. But I did find some games that were pretty damn good.
Of course, now I’m attached to the MMOs I play, and I couldn’t give them up.
There is another factor I’ve heard other MMO soloists offer to justify their habits. I’m hesitant to bring it up, because people usually get laughed out the door when they bring it up — and perhaps rightfully so.
The main appeals MMOs have over single player games other than the social aspect are persistent worlds and endless content updates. Certainly, I couldn’t play a single player game for years on end like I have with WoW.
The persistent world is what really appeals to me, though. I’ve always loved immersing myself in fictional worlds — be they in video games, books, or my own imagination — and MMOs let me do that much more so than single player games.
But that brings us to the next question.
Are players like me bad for MMOs?
I don’t know how many soloist MMO players are out there. I haven’t encountered very many, but that’s probably to be expected considering our habits. I’ve heard some people claim they’re spreading like wildfire across the world of MMOs, but I don’t know if I quite buy that, either.
There is a perception, though, that MMOs are skewing towards solo play both in terms of developer actions and player desires. Look at all the solo content in Guild Wars 2, The Secret World, and Star Wars: The Old Republic.
The consensus seems to be that this is a very bad thing. People complain that us soloists are ruining MMOs, and that the true MMO experience is slowly dying off.
While my natural instinct is to defend my habits from such criticisms, I’m not sure I can. I do believe in the ideal of social gaming MMOs offer, even if I don’t participate in it, and it would seem a shame for it to slowly die off to a plague of us anti-social gamers.
I can’t answer this question myself, so I would welcome comments. Is there a place for the soloist in the MMO world, or are we just dragging the genre down?
It does occur to me that it depends on how we define socializing in MMOs, as well. Do you need to actually be playing alongside people, or is just chatting with them while you do separate things valid? Do you need to actually form lasting friendships, or is just randomly chatting with a PUG acceptable?
The latter is something I have done often, though less so these days as I gradually lose faith in MMO communities.
I’ve even heard some people argue it can be a meaningful interaction even if players don’t talk at all, that there’s still value in silent PUGs and quiet cooperation in the open world. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I see the logic.
Mind you, I’m not going to stop playing my MMOs even if I come to the conclusion players like me are bad for MMOs. You’ll take my Secret World from me when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
So I must ask for your opinions: Are players like me bad for MMOs?