Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bringing the Social Back?

Had originally intended for this blog to be called 'Anti-Social Gaming', it was supposed to have been ironic, how I had come from 2 years of playing WoW and had so little to show for it. It was really having a major effect on my life and how much I felt it was a diversion from all the negativities and doubts that have filled my life for several years now. One of the straws that broke the proverbial camels back was sitting for several hours in a Naxx raid with a PuG from mostly the same guild and people were barely tolerating each other and all for filling out gaps in their gear. So this blog was intended as an outlet for examining how anti-social it had all become for me, (hence the new moniker of 'Dark-Adjusted Eye'), but also as a form of therapy yeah I admit I've social anxiety not just shyness, having fallen into a trap it was time to step back and look at things from a new perspective. And just recently several people involved with MMOs have been looking at the same issue, starting here, continuing here and here. Massively picked up on the theme too.

It's an important discussion, but one that's steeped in nostalgia too for past games, 'Everquest' is mentioned a lot but seeing as my MMO experience starts with WoW can't comment on it much, suffice to say it was probably more to do with the community than the design of the game, it being more akin to a small town of like minded individuals willing to share the experience than the gated-communities of modern MMOs where even within guilds can feel very unwelcoming.

But why aren't MMOs like social clubs where people with a common interest can meet and play together, it's a lot to do with the anonymity of the interactions. Many commenters have already talked about creating Facebook like profiles for the MMO players, even to link an MMO profile to any other social networking sites would be great. Would amend that with something I'd think even more important, an itinerary, where you could schedule in what you plan to do each day, saying what areas you plan to quest in and what times, maybe even listing some of the important quests you want to do, then an advance LFG tool matching players. That's really what it boils down to, bringing strangers together in a helpful way to accomplish goals. Adding players identified in this manner to a temporary contacts list.

Like Keen's assertion that MMOs can't be more social without looking to past games, and take it a step further and create a world based on our distant past such as getting rid of currency and only having a barter system, something completely divorced from modern life and these notions of always making gold and the ridiculousness of 'vendor trash', it's a fantasy genre after all so why is there a need for a constant wage with everything done in the game world, it only breeds greed and selfishness.

Think the most radical idea along those lines is to remove regional chat or any form of chat where you can not see the player, but still allowing people to IM/tweet people on their friends/temporary contacts list, so bye-bye general chat, bye barrens chat and good riddance to trade with it's inanities like 'Dirge' and 'Anal[...some random ability linked...] spam. I'm thinking about how this would make players feel about the zones and areas they find themselves at any particular time, and would hope they notice the other people around them more, it would become necessary to achieve a rewarding playtime to fill out the itinerary, and actually make use of the suggested contacts without a LFG channel, a twitter like interface would be great too for updating it as you went about it. I'm really drawn to the idea of being out in the wilderness and meeting a friendly face, even if it is just to wave and then continue along my path, but what if you needed to ask directions, because you couldn't spam chat and hope for an informative reply? For one thing it would encourage more interactions at quest hubs, if something wasn't clear you could ask the other players hanging around so you're certain of the task before setting out, of course only if you're not of mind to check online for the solution.

This is quite hard to surmise, but the best social experiences for me is ending up somewhere you never expected to end up and all because of someone you'd met, here's an example from Keen about a memorable journey in Everquest. Your playtime can be planned with an itinerary but player's still need to be willing to take chances along the way .

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