MMO Hell isn’t always other people

Just a small thing today, something I noticed over the last few days.

I don’t mind solo-playing in games at all — quite the contrary, I define myself as a solo player when it comes to the line that’s inevitably drawn between one playstyle and the other (as I’ve written about copiously before; here’s just one example because I’m lazy). Solo play suits my lifestyle — or, more to the point, group-play isn’t usually an option for me for various reasons.

Guild Wars is extremely solo-friendly, at least at  the low levels I’ve been playing at; with heroes and henchmen (NPCs) available, it seems it probably stays that way for a good part of the available content. This is a good thing.

But last week I finally convinced the spousal unit to give the game a try and we played a few introductory sessions together. We didn’t get much done, admittedly, because he’s still in the learning to walk and chew gum phase, but we bimbled around in pre-Searing Ascalon, slew some stuff, looted some other stuff, and made a few quest NPCs happy.

And the plain fact is: games are more fun when you play with someone else. I’ve found myself less inclined to log on and mush about with my solo characters, hoping instead that we’d be able to find the time to do some stuff together. Mort is the perfect playing partner for me, not least because he’s in the same room and if one of us has to run AFK for whatever reason (dinner, laundry, dog with possible plague/tularemia*) it’s easy to say “Ack! Wait!” and not have to worry about your group-mates standing around being bored out of their heads while they wait for you.

Aside from that though we also have very similar playing styles — which was in fact how we made friends in the first place a decade ago.  We don’t slam through content at breakneck pace, though we also don’t really snail our way through stuff. We’re careful what we pull. We consult each other before we go this way or that way. We don’t argue about who gets what loot. It’s a relaxing group atmosphere.

(I’m not going to touch grouping behaviour other than pacing — loot behaviour, telling other people how they should be playing their class, all that stuff. Because if the pace ain’t right, most of the other stuff will never get a chance to come out anyway.)

I’ve got some very good friends with whom I avoid grouping if possible (when we’re playing the same game) because our grouping styles just aren’t compatible. Some can’t ever get their arses in gear — which is easier to deal with than the opposite type but can still be annoying. Some can’t stand that sometimes I can’t get my arse in gear, or that sometimes I can forget from one minute to the next that we were about to do something together. (Forgetful? Moi?)  Others group like they solo, forging ahead regardless of group pace and ending up half a zone in front of everyone else because that’s how fast they play and there’s no reason they should slow down for anyone else.

Both of those bug me. To my mind if you’re going to group you have to compromise a little, and if that means slowing down somewhat or speeding up somewhat to match the average group pace, then that’s what you do. But if the pace just doesn’t suit you no matter how much you try to adapt — don’t group with those people.

Of course, I have the luxury of being picky. I don’t play games that require me to group, and so I only group when I want to. I don’t feel compelled to group because I don’t feel incomplete when I play solo. Some of the least flexible group players I’ve encountered are the ones who’ve had to group with goobers (of whatever kind) too many times, and I can understand their frustration. My solution is to simply avoid grouping, but that’s not always an option if you want to experience certain kinds of content.

Group woes aside, though, when you do find a good person or five to group with there’s just no denying than gaming is more fun. We’re social creatures and we like to laugh and achieve stuff (to whatever extent), and grouping in an MMO fulfils those drives on many different levels.

I almost wish games would include playstyle-matching in their LFG interfaces. It’s not just a case of whether you’re playing a fighter or a healer — it’s also a case of whether you play slowly and carefully or whether you play like the Energizer bunny on steroids. I’d tick the “likes to stop and smell the roses” box and definitely leave the “it’s all about getting to the boss as fast as possible!” box empty.

Anyway — there’s no real point to this post other than to appreciate the people I play with. If you have a regular gaming buddy or group and your playstyles are compatible, take a moment to be grateful for that. The older and busier we get, the harder that seems to achieve.

Unrepentant altoholic LF laid-back, relatively slow, plays-odd-hours G in Guild Wars. Likes long walks on the beach and slaying monsters with plenty of coffee breaks. Slackers only please!


*Which she apparently does not have, according to the initial test, yay!