Important notice: This is a rant about rants, wooo! Also: I have adjusted some of my opinions on this blog over time, as some of the links provided illustrate. That’s because I am old and fickle!
One of the great MMO blogger evergreens is the (anti-)social debate; with the genre becoming ever more accessible and mainstream since its earliest beginnings, players new and old keep musing on the pros and cons of MMO gaming allowing for increased flexibility and playstyle variety. Stuff like removing role restrictions or shared loot, are dividing topics. Depending on where you stand, your “more social” is someone else’s “anti-social” and it’s very difficult to reach any kind of consensus. I hold with what I’ve said in the past, that the two approaches to MMOs can’t reasonably co-exist. A lot of this stuff is mutually exclusive and even when it isn’t, solutions are usually too complex for practical application. LFG tools in many MMOs are ‘optional’ but we all know what happens once they are introduced: they impinge on everybody.
Roger recently deliberated whether he has become a more anti-social gamer over the years. This struck a chord with me because I find myself in the company of many 35-45ish players who have at some point gone through that stage of self-evaluation. As commented in Roger’s thread, I personally do not believe he’s become more anti-social; what I believe is that MMOs have stopped enforcing planned cooperation via game design. I have made this case before at length and I still don’t buy into the whole altruism spiel, nor will I ever. Being “social” is absolutely an intrinsic quality – you either are or aren’t social. The rest is facilitated gameplay.
Then today, Eri followed up with a similar post, professing her disdain for shared loot in GW2 and the “entire shift” to self-centric gameplay in MMOs. I’m rather sure that even in my most hardcore raidleading days, I was pretty darn self-centric in pursuing my dreams of raiding and loot and whatnot. I faintly remember removing players who weren’t up to the task. But anyway, these posts made me realize something: I am so done with the (anti-)social rants. It’s like we’re stuck and never get beyond them.
I carry as much MMO nostalgia with me as the next veteran player, heck sometimes I miss the good old, bad days. They were bad a lot more than good but I am not always rational. In truth, I understand why things are different today and like so many older gamers, I need them to be different. My investment choices like anyone’s, shape what MMOs may or may not become. Inevitable fact: MMOs that are trying to survive, have to be financially viable. MMOs that introduce gatekeepers, forced grouping, fixed setups and any variation of limiting factors, are very likely not going to make as much profit on today’s saturated market. And no, don’t look at WoW – look at Wildstar or ESO instead. I am sure all of us would prefer having both: the freedom/flexibility and the social bonding experiences but it doesn’t work that way. Not in the traditional sense we are so used to anyway, where game design pushed us into talking to strangers, grouping up with strangers, cooperating with strangers longterm until they were strange no longer. Maybe in this new era we need to explore different ways, make more conscious efforts?
There’s a significant percentage of 30+ players populating MMOs today, players with bigger pockets, and they need gaming to fit around their lives, not vice versa. That’s okay! I’m not saying I like quiet party chat or mass-zerging so much either but any solution to these issues will have to either address that reality or remain fictional. If you’re against the social shift in MMOs, great! The solution however, will need to be more original than returning to what we already had. Today is not going away.
P.S. Don’t miss the full strip on “A Decade of Love and Hate” over at Dark Legacy Comics!