Are we become lazy?

Way back in the depths of MMO time, in the previous millennium, I wasn’t quite the social snob I can be now. While I would play with friends when they were around, I also grouped up all the time with people I didn’t know from Adam, either for short tasks (get a kill credit) or longer quest-sessions, or just some grinding on mobs.

(Obligatory Corpse tangent: Interestingly enough, I never called it grinding then. In Asheron’s Call we just called it hunting and we’d do it for xp, to raise skills, and to get loot for selling, wearing, enhancing, house decorating – whatever. But that’s a story for another day.)

I’m not quite sure when strangers in MMOs became people I viewed with distrust first and friendliness second. Asheron’s Call had its tools, sure, like all social gatherings everywhere, but they seemed fewer and also spent most of their time being tools on the Vault Network boards. Maybe the lack of regional channels made them easier to avoid.

There were asshats in SWG, too — but again, they were avoidable and on the whole, when approached by people, my first assumption wasn’t that they were going to waste my time. I’d interact with them without the instant mental groan that seems to surface now whenever I’m approached by someone I don’t recognise in an MMO.

I shall blame WoW, not because it’s fashionable, but because it came at the right time and was an enormous, continent-wrecking runaway train success, both of which matter. Vast legions of new players in the MMO arena (geddit?) means, statistically, a lot more tools and asshats. In my own experience, WoW and EQ2 were among the first games I played that had constant, ubiquitous large-area (or global) chats… and there was chat flooding, and it was bad. Bad, because for some reason asshat chat in regional or bigger channels just seems to come though more often, louder, and almost limned in red. Or maybe that’s just me seeing red at some of the tripe that gets typed.

It’s also well-documented that in many cases it was a lot more efficient to level solo in WoW than it was to try to spend time with anyone else. Why should I bother getting to know anyone when chances are that a) they’re that “IownUpewpew” character that’s been irritating you on regional chat for 3 hours and b) you’d be better off by yourself?

Initially, I tried. I was courteous to people. I tried to help, I tried to answer, and I tried to assist when it was asked for. Several hundred experiences later, I am now mostly only courteous. I don’t swear at people for being tools, but I do not let them waste my time, either.

The downside of that is, by being suspicious and insular and unwilling to encounter yet another waste of pixellated air, I’m drastically reducing my chance of meeting all the nice, fun, friendly people who are *also* out there. For the player new to MMOs (if there is still such a creature), the silences and cold shoulder and rough treatment on regional+ channels has to be a bit of a shock. We courteous, helpful older players are out there, but most of the time we’re either ignoring chat or running past you looking FAR too busy to be interrupted.

Whether games have created this insularity or whether gamers have become insular as an unintended side-effect (I suspect the latter) is a moot point — it is what it is. So, next time you play WAR (or whatever), try something new. Wave at a stranger. Say hello in /scenario chat (and listen for the surprised gasps). Start an open group wherever you happen to be, just because (all it takes is a couple of clicks) — and when the group forms, say hello.

Oh and, have a thick skin. People just don’t talk to people they don’t know anymore. The risk of being tooled is just too great, and maybe we’re starting to see a generation gap in MMOs too. (If I hear “wut” I automagically put that person on mental ignore until they prove they can type in complete sentences and syllables. I’m old. You kids and your leet speak!) But still, by being social snobs we’re only making things worse. One can’t complain about growing disconnect and isolation in online games AND be a social snob, not without a huge dollop of hypocrisy. So this week is Tolerate A Tool (and hopefully meet someone nice) Week. Good luck!

7 thoughts on “Are we become lazy?

  1. In days of yore, MMO players were a small enough group that it felt almost like a big club. The rest of the world looked at us as such freaks that on some level I think we felt a certain bond with anyone else who was playing.

    Other factors: pre-formed guilds (when you hit a game with your own social group you tend not to look outside it as much) and Vent. When everyone was staring at the chat box all the time I think we were more likely to respond to others.

    All that said, I’m anti-social by nature, so I don’t feel your pain this time. I honestly hadn’t noticed that things had changed all that much. LOL

  2. Agreed, it’s less stressful to avoid the proliferation of tools on the off-chance of meeting someone worthwhile…and the word ‘asshat’ needs to be added to spellcheckers everywhere!

    **actually the word ‘wordpress’ isn’t an allowed word in the wordpress spellchecker…go figure 🙂

  3. I have a friend who’s policy it is “If you type ‘plx’ because it’s faster than ‘please’, then I will type ‘no’ because it’s faster than ‘yes’…” I do find myself falling more and more into that mould as time goes on.

    I do try and champion a movement of what I call ride by buffing, whereby I will randomly buff a stranger who is passing by, just because I can. Occasionally I get a buff back in return (not that was the plan in the first place, but it’s a nice thank you) – very rarely I get an actually “thank you”, or *winces* “thx”. I also try to be generous with healing random players who appear to be in mortal danger but for some reason I find any lack of response to this deeply galling. If I’ve taken the trouble to a) see that you are in trouble, b) stop whatever it is I am doing and c) try to stop you from interfacing your nose with the dirt, the least the recipient can do is muster up a response of some kind. I’ll even take a “thx”, if nothing better is forthcoming.

    Like most people in large scale MMOs, I’ve had widely varying PUG experiences. From the great group where everyone knows their roles and you steamroll towards your objective, to the PUG’o’Doom where you appear to be the only adult in a nursery or you are trying to herd cats.

    One particular PUG was going badly, a wipe or two in silly places and one player was going to drop out. I asked if there was any way we could tempt him into one more try on the boss and he replied that he was getting grouchy and didn’t want to continue. Considering the remarkably honest reply to my question, I instantly assured said player that he was certainly free to leave with no hard feelings and that I hoped he got in a bit of fun to counterbalance his current feeling before he logged off. A few minutes of silence occurred on the party chat whilst various other members poked guildies/friends to see if someone could pick up the slack. Said player then responded to say that he’d give the boss another try. I got a whisper from another party member saying that I’d been so nice it changed his mind. We downed the boss and finished the instance in style. The player who was going to leave thanked everyone for a fun time!

    To me it’s not rocket science that if you behave decently to people, especially if they are honest enough to tell you the real reason they want to leave a group you are in, then you stand a better than average chance of carrying the day. On the flip side, there is more than the average chance of being in a group of complete mongbats (to use an Ysh-ism), where all the tolerance and politeness in the world isn’t going to get you anything other than a headache and a repair bill.

    As a final note, I think it’s sad but true to say that finding a decent player by random chance in an MMO is very much like oyster farming in a sewage works: you have to wade through an awful lot of excrement to find a pearl.

    Eric

  4. Some of the fondest memories I had in EQ1 were fuck ups the group had (some of them were my fault – like swapping spell gems for Lull and Stun and forgetting I swapped them…) and how the group reacted to it. If the experience is so easy and repetitive that it simply starts feeling that way, where is the fun?

    I think there is a mentality shift as well. People view the time spent differently. They want constant success and advancement. Don’t believe me? How quickly does a group or warband disappear to sudden crashes or remembering it’s time for bed when things go sour?

    Forced grouping, for all the hate it had, drove you to interact with others and inject some randomness into the repetitve nature of the game. It also meant that you see the game from another prespective because Class X had a quest that took them somewhere you didn’t go before because you didn’t need to. You also get more of a sense of accomplishment for helping others on top of completing your own quests.

    The difference is grouping so someone doesn’t have to wait on the spawn and grouping so you can actually get to the spawn…

    “As a final note, I think it’s sad but true to say that finding a decent player by random chance in an MMO is very much like oyster farming in a sewage works: you have to wade through an awful lot of excrement to find a pearl.”

    I don’t believe that to be true outside of WoW – as much as people might thing. I don’t believe the 11 million players from WoW have trickled over into other MMOs.

    I do believe we carried the mentality forward (or backward) to other MMOs we play and it is for the worst. Like Ysh says, it’s all WoW’s fault.

    “In days of yore, MMO players were a small enough group that it felt almost like a big club.”
    I do think that was part of it. Older MMOs weren’t as accessible as the newer ones so the quality of idiot has gone up because of it.

  5. First of all…

    “There were asshats in SWG, too — but again, they were avoidable and on the whole, when approached by people, my first assumption wasn’t that they were going to waste my time. I’d interact with them without the instant mental groan that seems to surface now whenever I’m approached by someone I don’t recognise in an MMO.”

    YOU KNEW ME IN SWG!?!? I’m trying to place you now. LOL

    Second of all…

    I think communication translates directly from the real world to the virtual world. A majority of people don’t just walk up to others in the street and say ‘hi’. Nor do a majority of people simply blurt out the current score of your favorite hockey team just because you’re wearing a hoodie with the logo on it.

    A lot of developers, including myself in hobby, worked under the grand notion that if we gave players a tool – Telnet, chat rooms, message boards, MUDs, MMOs – this would break them out of their shells. It would be a great communication tool! People could get together and do cool stuff!

    Well, it was sort of true at first. After the novelty wore off, it was back to the usual. A majority of people keep to themselves. They also inject their real life feelings about how they socialize into their virtual lives, as well. 40% of gamers today say they are solo players. They deem interaction with other players as not much of a goal during their game time.

    Not sure if it is laziness or just human nature…but it may not be what was expected either.

  6. Good points all. I’d like to add that most people don’t socialize with total strangers on the trains or buses or planes so you need some help to come out of your shell. Good dungeon runs were my favorite way of doing this myself and helping other people do it in WoW. I haven’t been on a good dungeon run yet in WAR and while I have in Lotro, there aren’t enough dungeons period until lvl 50.

  7. I think another factor is that work and home life is more complex & stressful than decade ago. Many of us deal with tools of a different sort at work and other aspects of real life. So when game time comes it’s one of the view places that you can decide to be a social snob, be selfish, be self concerned and declare, that at least hear I don’t and won’t suffer fools.

    That’s my take and how I roll in MMOs. 🙂

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