When it comes to MMOs — well, and real life — I’m not really big on being told what to do. I don’t like being told when to log in, what to fight, whom to group with, all that funky stuff that other folks seem to think constitutes the core of the gaming experience.
I am not, however, an unprincipled slacker, and over the years there are a few things I’ve come to live by — when it comes to gaming or otherwise.
1) Pay it forward
If someone helps you and doesn’t want anything back (the best kind of help), make sure you pay it forward to someone somehow and somewhen. I’ve received a lot of solicited and unsolicited help, advice, and assistance over the years, and while I’ve not usually paid those exact people back I’ve made sure I always help others in return. I’m not talking showering someone with money in their first 5 minutes in the game, though I’ve been asked to do so many times; I’m talking about a range of stuff from the sublime to the ridiculous like “How do I join a chat channel!” to “Why can’t I find my arse with both hands?” Helping newbies is especially rewarding because those first few sessions in a new game can be utterly mind-blowingly confusing; anything that make sense of the input overload helps.
By the way, telling someone to go look it up on the wiki doesn’t really count as paying it forward, unless they’re a newbie and could benefit from knowing where to find information.
(I should admit here that I often take the “giving stuff” part overboard. I craft, so I’m always happy to make a crapton of stuff with which to outfit new players or new guild members. I don’t do it so much anymore because I finally realised my enthusiasm seemed to be putting people off. Being massively burdened by crafted goodness isn’t THAT confusing, is it?)
This is especially true in guilds, but it works outside of them too — in groups, chance meetings, forums (hah!), whatever. If you play in any kind of a group or association, it’s just plain basic courtesy to not be the person hogging all the Foozle Fizzles — and if you are, make sure you put back more Fizzles than you took out when you needed them. This doesn’t apply just to items though — it also applies to time and attention.
3) Avoid drama
This one can be difficult, because incipient drama isn’t always obvious. The obvious drama-causers are easy to spot and thus easy to head off or ignore, but sometimes stuff just creeps up on you. When it does, DON’T escalate stuff. Don’t type before you count slowly to 100, twice. When in doubt, log out before you say something stupid.
I’ve probably contributed to my share of drama over the years, but it’s usually unintentional. I’m learning, slowly, that trying to help doesn’t always help and that sometimes shutting up is better than anything else. (Tough lesson for me to learn — now shaddap you in the peanut gallery.)
A corollary to this principle is that text chat can and will be misinterpreted if there’s any earthly way to do so. A joke will be read as an insult, and an offer of friendship (or apology) will be read as a slur or a come-on. That’s just the nature of the beast — but it contributes more to unintentional drama in MMOs than anything else.
Another corollary is: if you don’t have anything good (or constructive) to say, don’t say anything. In large guilds — or global chat channels — it’s impossible to like everyone and chances are you’ll be thinking “what a twat!” several times a day. Just don’t express it. It’s not like you have to go to dinner with these people afterward, and everyone has a right to play in whatever boneheaded way they want, provided they’re not griefing anyone.
4) Play what you want when you want
I’m done with playing because I think I should, because other people expect me to log in, because I can’t think of anything better to do or because I seriously don’t want to think about something in my real life. Those aren’t good reasons for logging on. If you don’t really want to log on then chances are, you shouldn’t. Find something else to do.
As for playing what I want to… I used to think I had to group with people and go out and kill stuff and try instances and things because “it’s what people do in MMOs.” I’ve come out of the closet since then because I don’t much care for killing monsters and I really don’t like dungeons much (they make me claustrophobic, among other things) and, ultimately, I shouldn’t have to explain my playing preferences and actions to anyone. If MMO designers hadn’t wanted me crafting then they wouldn’t have put those systems in the game. If they hadn’t wanted me to explore, they would have made DDO. These days I play what I want, when I want, and I do what I like. I don’t interfere with anyone else’s fun. (No, I won’t raise the solo vs group debate here, other than to say that if someone else’s fun depends solely on me being online and available, then they need to find more (and more compatible) friends.)
5) Slack if you want to (to the tune of the B52s)
Yeah, this is really a corollary to 4) but I like to have headings that talk about slacking.
The second I start feeling pressured to do a certain thing or play a certain way in games, I stop wanting to play. The whole point is to have fun and for me, being directed and pulled around by activities is not-fun. For others, that’s the very definition of entertainment. Whatever it is, feel free to do it as long as you’re not hurting someone else’s playtime. (And yes, cybering in drood cat-form in Stormwind’s main square is hurting my playtime. I’m still scarred from what I saw. Get a damn room.)
There. I probably missed some, but the point of having a few guiding principles is that you shouldn’t have 137 guiding principles, or however many hundreds of Rules of Acquisition there are. What are yours?