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.
Basically, the idea is that there’s more to appeal to people about MMOs than the social aspect. Which is of course true, but most people wouldn’t agree that they’re enough on their own.
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.
But I like to understand things. The MMO phenomenon is something that fascinates me, and I would like to understand what effect anti-social players like me have on the genre.
So I must ask for your opinions: Are players like me bad for MMOs?
Provocative piece, Tyler! It really made me think about my own preference for soloing in MMOs. If I’m being completely honest, I solo in MMOs to avoid being judged as inadequate by complete strangers. Some of these players are real jerks, and are fearless when dishing out insults. I’ve had players inconsiderately critique my choice of weapons/armour, my playstyle, and even my choice of toon creation. Having said that, I do like games which give the player a choice of whether to join the fray or to solo–games in which group play is not critical to progression of the game. I like to PvP, but I tend to avoid group play. I have a lot of fun soloing, and isn’t that the point of gaming?
Ugh, I hate when people give you unsolicited criticisms. I mean, if I’m under-performing and it’s causing a problem for the group, that’s one thing. But I hate when people just randomly whisper you before a pull to tell you you’re using the wrong enchant or whatever.
Also, I hate it when people judge your spec as inferior or arbitrarily decide it can’t do certain things. I’ve gotten yelled at and insulted just for offering myself for raid healer spots on a holy paladin.
I also typically play MMOs as a single player. (Full disclosure- I hate WoW and its mechanics.) I’ve been testing all the F2P MMOs to find out which are worth it, but the one I keep going back to is DDO. You can solo it with the assistance of hirelings, and they have a new group finder mechanic that makes it easy to jump in and out of groups for those quests that require at least 2 players (for toggling switches and the like). It’s also the only game I’ve joined a group in, that being a permadeath guild that takes the easier-than-sin game and makes it challenging. I prefer games like Skyrim (heavily modded) for my immersion fix (I played Oblivion for years). I guess I’m one of those that doesn’t see the point of MMOs if not for the people, but I also won’t take away from someone who finds entertainment by completing a never-ending chain of “kill x monsters and find y ingredients.” The actual game content of MMOs is lacking compared to AAA single player titles, but being able to tackle it with friends makes it worthwhile. If you do get entertainment from soloing MMOs, more power to you! $15 a month is cheaper than buying a new $60 game every 2-3!
I have to ask: have you given The Secret World a whirl? You need to buy the box, but it’s only $30, and there’s no sub fee. It doesn’t have the “quantity over quality” philosophy most MMOs use, and I find it as engaging as any single player game. You might still get the occasional kill X or collect Y quest, but it’s light years away from WoW.
It’s an challenging, but most of the game is soloable if you play smart. Unlike most MMOs, it focuses on story and interesting quests rather than things like dungeons or raids, so most content is built with solo play in mind. It’s more like an awesome single player game with MMO elements than anything.
I haven’t. I don’t think I’ve actually heard of it, honestly. I have been thinking about giving Guild Wars 2 a try for a similar reason- one time purchase, no sub fee. I’ve bought terrible console games for $60 that I only play once, though I’ll usually try to at least re-sell them to recuperate some of the cost. I’ll take a look, though. Thanks for the suggestion.
If you’re interested in knowing more, here are a few posts of mine gushing on the game:
Forgive my crappy screenshots. My computer sucks.
All MMO means is massive multiplayer on-line game – just a bunch of people playing on-line at the same time. Nothing in there suggests that they have to be social, work/play together or even acknowledge anyone else at all.
The game mechanics dictate solo/group content and either encourage co-operation (e.g. GW2 events) or hinder it (e.g. WoW quest phasing.)
How “social” the game is depends entirely on the players. Unfortunately, it’s my personal theory that the majority of MMO gamers lack basic social skills and suffer from Grandiose Delusions. Yes, I know a few nice people I’m happy to play the game with and have a great time when I do.
But I’m thankful for solo content as well because I have no interest in being forced to play with idiots when they don’t understand the simplest concept of “social.”
Yeah, the anti-social nature of most MMO gamers doesn’t help. I used to be more social in games than I am now, but I came to regret it.
To be fair, WoW has one of the worse communities out there, but even TSW and GW2 have their fair share of tools.
I think whatever you have fun with, works. MMOs aren’t like their predecessor, MUDs, which are often predicated upon players working together at a very extensive level (to the point that there is really nothing to do if you play alone) – they are aimed at a much larger audience, and the devs are wise to how hit and miss the anonymous players over the internet can be. I think that’s why it’s even possible TO solo-play (or, at the least, no-faults group play, like GW2’s dynamic group events). An MMO without solo progression relies heavily upon the players for success, and I suspect most game companies aren’t comfortable placing their odds of success in the hands of the internet. 😛
I really can’t say that players like you are bad for MMOs. Honestly, quiet players really don’t affect the world either way. The fact remains that they’re playing, and that helps the world. Really, MMOs are designed to play however you want to. So if that means soloing, it means soloing. If you WANT to play the game socially, then that option is also there. Personally, I found the social commitment of MMOs to be too great. I would promise to go on raids with friends, or to participate in an event, and it became just as ridiculous as ‘real life’ commitments. I found myself cancelling activities or making excuses so I could meet my in-game social requirements. I feel like players like you are doing the smart thing by avoiding those commitments. You’re enjoying the game, exploring the world, adding your expertise to the game, but you aren’t hampered by guild commitments. At the same time, you’re still another person on the game, and that adds to the community, even if you don’t do much outside of soloing. Introverts don’t hurt the real-life world. In fact, some of mankind’s greatest accomplishments owe themselves to introverts. I hardly think that means that antisocial people are hurting the world. Quiet MMO players are no different. Great article! Really enjoyed reading it! =)
Glad you liked the post.
I think you make a good point about a strength of MMOs being player choice. I neglected to mention it in this post, but that is one of their main appeals to me. If I had to stick with one style of play consistently, I would have given up on MMOs a long time ago, but I’m constantly jumping between different characters and activities, and that makes it hard to get bored.
I only used to play Guild Wars 1 for the fact that you could get by in there with only heroes and henchmen (and then only heroes with the 7 hero update). Playing in PUGs usually only got me 1) Annoyed, because you mostly ended up with players that chewed you out for not being good enough or 2) Players that were actually worse than me.
I got GW2 to stay in touch with people I know from GW1 who never log in there anymore, but I’ve had the game for a year now, and to be honest, I’ve not got even half the idea how to play it, haha. Just too much crap to get into with the new skill/trait/ whatever system. But it doesn’t bother me. I guess I just lost interest in the genre. I do log in to chat to people, and do whatever I feel I’m capable of finishing. But anything requiring more than what I know, I stay out of.
Pingback: MMOs, built for Solo players – Game Design – Gaming Link Media