Declaring my independence

Maybe if I post this on a weekend, and a holiday weekend in the US to boot, nobody will notice and my rant can slip by unnoticed while still satisfying my need to get this off my chest.

(Post-publish edit: my rants seem to work better than I expect. A lot of this is tongue-in-cheek — I’m usually very much a compromise, negotiate, see-the-other-side type person, but that kind of thing makes for boring ranting. I’ll do a nice rational post later this week, honest. Apologies also to those whose posts I use as springboards — they’re just idea-bouncers. I’m not implying any of you are bastages or asshats or indeed anything but interesting, although our opinions may differ. If I didn’t find em interesting and thought-provoking, I wouldn’t be reading your blogs.)

Various people have done some fascinating posts about guilds — here most recently, and here and of course a fair few of my own (I guess I write about this a lot: here and here too) — as well as some very intense and interesting posts about grouping and soloing (Spinks has two I particularly liked: this and that) and I’m seeing an interesting but disturbing trend. “Solo is bad, group is good,” and “guilds are for groups.” Corollaries to this are: “solo lacks social-skills” and “solo is only solo because a) they don’t know what’s good for them and b) they don’t know how to make friends and/or how to play,” and finally “guilds are for raiding.”

None of these are entirely true. I remain deeply puzzled and saddened by the fact that players who prefer to group sweep my kind of play under the rug and refuse to even attempt to understand that their preconceptions may not be entirely accurate. Do I think all grouping players are wannabe Sergeant major activity-fascists who want to tell me what to do every second of the playing day? (Only when I’m ranting.)

Now, I don’t actually want to just rant. I want, one last (I promise) time, to try to foster some kind of understanding. You may not LIKE how I play, but I really would be grateful if you could at least try to see it from my point of view and not assume it’s bad. Just once. It’ll do you good, like grouping.

Here’s why I mostly play solo.

1. I play at odd, usually early-morning hours when there aren’t many other people around. This actually started when I played in the UK and most of my online friends were either working (UK) or still asleep (US) — I’ve almost always worked from home and that’s just how my schedule pans out. In the afternoons I’m usually working and in the evenings I’m usually doing something with friends and/or other halves. Yes, I do have them.

2. I’ve got a lot of distractions. Work is one — as I said, I work from home, which means I’m prone to getting work calls and/or having to deal with work emails and stuff like that. I’ve also got pets who distract me (in a good way) and housing stuff that also distracts me (in a less good way — laundry, cooking, bills, all that happy crappy). I don’t compartmentalise my playing and my non-playing into discrete and utterly separate chunks because I’ve never had to, nor do I feel the need to. What it does mean, however, is that I go AFK a lot — not always for very long, but usually unpredictably… and sometimes I don’t come back at all for a couple of hours. That’s murder on any kind of group activity and it’s not something I impose on anyone else unless I know them well. When I group, it’s with people who understand that and can work around it — by carrying on without me for instance.

3. I have a very limited combat-type play reservoir, especially when it involves lots of separate people. After an hour or two at most, I start to get input-overload and if I don’t stop and do something else, I’ll get cranky and want only one thing: to log the hell off. Blame my neurology or whatever — it is what it is. I can’t do 4-hour dungeon crawls: I’ll be chewing the walls to get away from it about 90 minutes in. It’s not a boredom thing, it’s an overwhelm thing, and it just is. No, I don’t want to change it; yes, I’ve tried. Not all of us are wired the same when it comes to what we like doing and for how long we like doing it.

I don’t really hate raiding, I’m just not interested in it.  It epitomises what I can’t do in games: a large time-block commitment with lots of visual and mental input (do this, go there, fire this, watch out!) in order to obtain gear to get better gear down the line. Since I don’t give a stuff about gear for the most part, that’s just not enough of an inducement to get me to bear with the input-overload of doing raid-type combat activity for several hours running. I also am not interested enough in the combat game to enjoy having to work out exactly what sequence of buttons to hit when — I realise many people do, but it’s just not my thing. Why does that seem to be so hard to grasp?

Does that mean I want raids to be taken away from games? Not at all. Does it mean I think I should just be handed said gear without having to put the effort into it that raiders do? Please — that’s specious and facile. Of course I don’t. As I said, I don’t give a shit about said gear in the first place, but if I did, I certainly wouldn’t expect there to be an easy way to get it and a hard way to get it. That’s not fair and besides, it’s stupid.

So, onto guilds. By most guild=group=raiding accounts, I shouldn’t need or want a guild, and most guilds should keep me away with the longest bargepole they can find because I’m just no use to them.

That’s just wrong. It’s also pretty bigoted, don’t you think?

As it’s been designed in our MMOs, raiding pretty much requires guilds because it’s the most efficient way of organising people, assigning roles, and allocating loot (or looting rights). Guilds were one of the first MMO social systems to have their own global chat channel, so using them to organise large-scale combat events is a no-brainer as well as a decade-old legacy. That doesn’t mean, however, that guilds require or even exist purely to facilitate raiding, and it’s blinkered to see it that way now.

Guilds are social systems. They are not just glorified, extended LFG interfaces, and they’re not just convenient name-lists for organising DKP. I understand how useful they are for that; I just wish the raiding/grouping players would, for one short second, allow themselves to see that that’s not ALL they do. I’d also like for them to see that different playstyles are acceptable, though by now I”m resigned to being told, in various ways, that MMOs are multi-player games and that multi-player means “constant grouping.” Oh, they qualify their statements and say “Well, I don’t think we should group ALL the time, but I do think we should group most of the time” — by which they almost always really mean “YOU should group when I need you to, you solitary bitch! Can’t you see I’m not having fun?”

Well, my sympathy is all used up and I’m going to turn my empathy off too. I’ve walked in your shoes and I’m damned if I’m doing it again until ONE lousy raiding/grouping/you non-groupers suck-type player demonstrates that they can walk in mine. This isn’t hyperbole — all I’ve seen so far is justification and explanation and qualification, but not one shred of real understanding. For grouping players, soloing is just plain wrong and will always be wrong and must be exterminated or electroshocked into conformity through stringent game design. By all means, show me differently.

For the last time: solo /= anti-social or anti-guild. Hell, group does not equal social; because if it does, then I guess all the grunting, monosyllabic morons I’ve met in groups, the ones who can neither say hello nor learn simple grouping techniques (like, don’t pull the entire fucking zone every damn time!) or loot courtesy — those guys must have just been having a bad day. Riiiiiight.

As I said, guilds are social systems. Some of us use guild chat to, you know, just chat with people. I have no problems at all making friends, thank you very much, and I’ve made hundreds in the last 10 years of MMO play — hell, I married one of them. Many of the friends I’ve made over the years are STILL friends even though we don’t play together anymore. If I wanted to group, I’d have no problem doing it and I’d have no problem fitting into the group mentality. What galls me is the assumption on the part of some players and commentators that I should HAVE to want to because they want me to, and that if I don’t, it’s because I’m a maladjusted borderline whacko sitting in the dark unable to make connections with people. Seriously. Do I seem unable to make connections? I don’t group not because I’m not capable of it, but because it doesn’t usualy suit my damn playstyle. How hard is that to grasp?

I’ve said elsewhere what players like me use guilds for: to keep in touch, to help, to advise, to provide gear/support/comfort, to laugh until we fall off our chairs, and to bitch about life in general. Aside from the base use, which is to get together and do stuff — but is it that hard to see that “doing stuff” isn’t just hitting “Invite X and Y and Z” and going off to fill out quests and kill shit and do a raid?

Who’s blind, here?

I understand that group-oriented players need other group-oriented players in order to have fun. But guys, that does NOT give you the right to decide that my playstyle is wrong. Nor does it give you the right to pontificate that I’m not playing MMOs the way they were designed to be played — bullshit. Any game can be played alone if that’s what you want, even Monopoly. It most certainly doesn’t mean that soloers have to be lobotomised into understanding that what they really want to do is toe the grouping line — if that were the case, due to RL stuff and the way my brain is wired, I’d have to stop playing MMOs. Thanks for that idea. Really, thanks. And it certainly also doesn’t mean that MMOs have to be lobotomised to only provide group content.

What it means from where I’m standing, is that you raiding, grouping people who so love to blame all MMO social woes on soloers need to learn how to make new friends. Sound fair?

About as fair as what you say, right. So. Suck it up. I’m done here.