Is this a crazy fantasy, something taken out of the blue? Well, although a little bit exaggerated, I think he has a point. Without having any scientific data as support, I have the feeling that many players have become less and less interested in the social aspect of WoW during the four years I’ve been playing it.
A waste of time?
Judging not only from what I see on the forums, but also from many blog posts, we tend more and more to regard other players as obstacles and annoyances rather than as potential friends, people you might like to get to know and hang around with. People are annoying, they’re clueless, they’re morons, slackers and above all: they’re not you.
If we socialize, we tend to do it with people we already know. I feel truthfully sorry for new players who enter the game on their own, like I did once upon a time. My impression is that you’d better have some real life friends joining at the same time, or you might end up lonely and alienated. It seems to me as if people don’t have the time for small talk they used to have once upon a time. It’s all about efficiency and return on investment of time. Get your achievements done. Gear up. Get your ranking. Accomplish. Don’t waste your time on strangers!
Or as Tobold remarked:
“I bet that over half of the people reading this post think "I want to play that!" instead of considering it as something bad. One day you will need to realize that you are part of a shrinking minority that actually wants player interaction in a multiplayer game.”
The word “social”
Adam at The Noisy Rogue is also talking about this in a post, where he rightfully puts up a different meaning to the word “social”, which seems to have become a bit of a dirty word in the gaming world. He points out that the social aspect is the only thing that makes an MMO different from a single player game – the ability to log on at any time and encounter people playing the same game:
“You can see them, you can talk to them. I remember the first time that I logged onto an MMO virtual world and another player walked past me, and I realised that I had just seen another person playing the same game that I was. It was mind blowing.”
Exactly. It was mind blowing at that point – and it still is. The thought that someone sitting in Italy is seeing and fighting the same ugly dragon as I am and that we could talk to each other any second, just a click away, fills me with wonder.
Playing with NPCs
Currently I’m finishing Twilight Highlands and the other night I ended up doing exactly what Tobold predicted could be standard procedure in a future WoW. I grouped up with a squad of NPCs and we worked our way towards Grim Batol, fighting off ambushing mobs on our way. I tossed away a scorch here and there, since it seemed to be the best way to make the NPC soldiers understand that they were supposed to kill stuff. (To be honest they were kind of dumb for being artificial intelligences).
And all this time, as we fought in the canyon, I thought about how much more fun it would have been if the squad had consisted of real players instead. Even a complete moron makes better company than an ever so skilled and polite NPC, void of anything that remotely could be regarded as a personality.
Annoying or not – every time you team up with another player you bring something from it. You may not get a new person on your friends list, but you may gain an insight, a laugh or a good story to share in your blog.
I’m not a horrible person to be around, but I would absolutely hate to play an MMO where I was left out to only have company with myself. I hope sincerely that Tobold’s vision of the future online gaming won’t come true.