I added a name to my RealID list this week: it wasn’t an applicant, blogging buddy or real-life friend. It was a PUG I met in a random heroic.

Some friends and I were running a few of the early Cataclysm heroics. One of my buddies had rolled up a new shaman, and was interested in getting him geared up enough for some LFR action. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in an early Cata heroic, but said friend was a bit disappointed in the folks he’d met so far, and wanted a strong, friendly group to make the experience more enjoyable.

We queue up for our first heroic for the night, a Deadmines run, and get a tank. As soon as we queue in, he says:

I haven’t played since BC. This is my first time in the dungeon. If there are any tips or pointers that would make things easier, let me know.

We thought it was nice that he’d said something. Perhaps because most of our party was overpowered, we didn’t bat at an eye. We could probably survive without a tank for stretches if we had too. I told him it wouldn’t be a problem, and I’d fill him in as we went along.

And away we went. At breakneck speed. It wasn’t too fast, but it’s the type of pulling I’m used to seeing in experienced tanks: it was beautifully done, and honestly, a pleasure to work with. As we neared the first boss, I started typing. I think my instructions were fairly simple:

Normal tank fight until second phase. He’ll become untankable and summon fire. Just stay out of it.

The fight went fine, even though I think he must have grazed the fire sometime as he didn’t get the achievement, but nothing horrible either as it didn’t even make a blip on my healing radar. But the best part of the night was as soon as the fight was complete:

That was awesome! I wonder what’s next?

When’s the last time you ran across someone so excited to be playing the game? Who enjoyed seeing a “simple” boss die? Who wasn’t calling someone out for being bad because they were, you know, geared for the dungeon they were *in*?

As we were clearing our way to another encounter, my group started chatting about how much fun we were having with this tank. It wasn’t that he was playing his character well, which he was. It was that he was having such a fun time doing it. He wasn’t overly chatty, he didn’t really talk except to acknowledge some instructions I’d doled out as we traveled from boss to boss, but we had fun with this guy. At the end of the dungeon, he apologized for his lack of experience. We did our best to reassure him, and asked to run another dungeon. Repeat of dungeon 1: fun times.

As we were saying our good nights, I asked if he’d mind sharing his real ID: while we didn’t run dungeons a lot, if we were all available, we’d love to get together again. He readily agreed, and since then, we’ve chatted back and forth a few times as he continues slogging through dungeon after dungeon on whatever goals he’s trying to meet. Poor fella didn’t even know LFR existed until I let it slip last night.

In the same time frame, my hubby has made a new connection. He’s been playing as a balance druid since Karazhan when he decided to stop bleeding his targets to death, and instead, to drop orbital laser beams from the sky. He was running a random heroic a couple of weeks ago, and apparently salvaged a horrific pull with a well-timed rebirth/tranquility before he valiantly sacrificed himself for the group. A fellow group member congratulated him on his quick responses and the group finished the dungeon.

Then he got a whisper from a random boomchicken. Apparently, that group member that congratulated him had been working on her own laser chicken. She was ready to learn everything balance druids had to offer, and succeeded to spend a few nights grilling chatting with the awesome guy she discovered in a PUG. Although he’s been playfully referring to her as “the stalker,” they’ve had quite a few good chats, which I imagine will continue.

This is how you build a community in an MMO. You do it one encounter at a time, one friendly soul at a time. But in order to have these experiences result in communities, you have to be willing to let them happen.

You can pin all your hopes and aspirations on your guild experiences. You can even narrow down where you want to play in order to *hopefully* facilitate meeting like-minded people.

But to say that tools like LFG and LFR destroy community seems a stretch to me. Maybe some raiding guilds are suffering, but guilds in general: those huge 500 people guilds that people join to level alts and hang out with a great group of folks? I can’t imagine they’re bothered a bit. Just because you find more than your share of bad apples in large, random groups doesn’t mean that community has died.

How do you build a community in an MMO?

Play the game. Talk to people. Be willing to accept that maybe not everyone left in the virtual universe you inhabit is a total dingbat before they say “Hi.”

Community isn’t created by developers, and it can’t be destroyed by them either. Community has been, and always will be in the hands of the players. At their root, guilds are tools to facilitate group play and communication. Maybe the newest tools, LFR and LFR, doesn’t fit your expectations, but that doesn’t prevent you from utilizing it to make connections, or even eschewing it all together and forging bonds in a completely different way.

I choose to be an optimist, to look at the bright side of things, because despite all the bad experiences I could share: they don’t matter. They don’t ruin the game for me, but finding people to share my gaming passion with do make the experience better in so many ways that I can’t help but fail to describe them.


14 thoughts on “Community

  1. I have to say that LFG and LFR, mostly since the Real ID grouping has become available, has BENEFITTED my sense of community. Not only have I gotten to run current raids (If a bit toned down, difficulty-wise) when I can’t run them with my guild, but I’ve gotten to run them with some awesome friends that I really enjoy talking to, who are on completely different servers from me.

    And of course, those things haven’t ruined the sense of community in my guild. My sisterthing Kelly has gone from terrified of even talking in /g to actually tanking actual Heroics on her bear with only a healer she knows as backup – in LFG – and this is thanks to the amazing sense of community in our guild and the encouragement and support she recieved from us.

    Yeah. The sense of WoW community is still strong.

    • I spent a few years in friend/family (literally) guilds, and I spent my raiding time in little groups thrown together from meeting people on server. I think this is part of the reason I love LFR so much: because I can imagine that people wanting to stay in a guild that they like for all the right reasons, but they can raid too.

      I wish that Real ID had been available back in those days. Perhaps I would still be in touch with the many people I’ve had to leave over the years due to guild meltdowns and schedule shifts that prevented us from playing together anymore. I think that’s my favorite part of the system: that leaving a server doesn’t mean leaving my friends behind.

  2. This is a shiny example of the redemptive qualities we as gamers with the right attitude and meeting people at face value can make happen. We all have experienced the grab-bag of horrible PuGs, RDF, & with 4.3 the sheer pain LFR can be; however, those nightmare groups are not the only samples.

    Thank you for sharing how one player that was a bit rusty can be honest, upfront, and able to fill a role in a 5man without getting flamed or made to feel inadequate. Keep up the example of helping and having fun while slaying Dragons and their respective boss minions.

  3. Great post

    I love it when people admit to being afraid or nervous about running randoms. I was terrified at one time. Now I’m toughened, nothing surprises me, and I ignore the vitriol. But if someone is nice, witty, or creative in any way, that stays with me all day.

    I always try to remember that there could be someone in any random PuG that is extremely nervous or sensitive, and that their experience could make a huge impact on their day, or how much they love this game.

    That’s player generated content, and it can save a game.

  4. *CLAP* BRAVO! You get it!

    Very well put. BTW, my comments do have my real ID… as soon as the battletags are implemented I am going to try to put a blogger raid together, even if its just firelands or LFR!

    • I’m still a bit leery of Real ID myself, and really looking forward to battletags.

      Sometimes, you just can’t let a good thing go though 😀

  5. How do you build a community in an MMO?
    You can’t. I can’t. No one can. It is entirely 100% viral. It’s a cooperative mindset that forms… and it forms around objects or activities of interest. It’s why LFR is precisely a community destroyer: those who convened, forming a communal collective, for the purpose of socializing through a backdrop of PvE are now left with the very thing that called them together. Negative reactions, and the critical mass of contagious attitudes runs its course.
    There’s a good speculation as to why the player who hasn’t been around since BC was such a joy to work with: he’s been absent during all the design decisions that caused various ripples in the pool of WoW. Some of those ripples might have been good for some, bad for others, but that’s irrelivent. His mindset going in is one of being open: pure learning, and thus, pure fun. But this is an attitude that isn’t sustainable. The very name of this blog (jaded =P) would indicate as much. Eventually we all need a reason other than just having a simple reason itself to perform given activities or take interest in given objects. If there is no substance onto which to adhere, people will leave: either by burning up or fading away.
    No matter how one dices it, developers absolutely do control communities. But what they fail to understand is that they cannot do so directly, and the more they try, the more they fail. We are free-minded and willed after all. Newton’s third law does the rest.

    • Yet I weathered 7 years worth of WoW changes. I can still be positive about the game despite my “jaded” attitude. While I might be jaded about gaming, and the challenges it entails, I continue to believe that gaming in MMO’s is *still* a fun and valuable leisure activity.

      Community is not synonymous with the platform. Some message boards are full of vitriol, some are constructive places to discuss, learn, and result in friendships. The attitudes of the people playing definitely has an impact on the type of connections that form between people, but each individual works to construct that attitude, and chooses how to respond to others, whether they’re mangy trolls or fun-loving adventurers.

      You’re complaining about a lack of content satisfying your desire to play, and tying that lack of satisfaction with the ability of players to form online communities. I’ve left plenty of MMO’s in the dust, but I still remain friends with people I no longer game with. Although you could argue that one to one relationships/friendships are *not* communities (which I’m surprised no one has mentioned >.>), saying the game is not meeting expectations, therefore players are not going to form bonds doesn’t add up for me.

      • Short of falling into hair-splitting, note that I mentioned how changes to game content and structure cause ripples, some good and some bad. To each their own (what is deemed good vs bad), and to each their own (tap out point). I never claimed that you were jaded, but that becoming jaded happens sooner or later. Provided the good ripples outnumber the bad, absolutely the point of becoming jaded can be pushed back.
        Communities that exist beyond a given backdrop’s lifetime or identity have merely redefined themselves. They are equal parts *who* as they are *what*.

  6. I think that’s a great story! I am a bit hesitant about realIDing a total stranger though, I know if it had been me I would have readily battletagged. Now you make me feel guilty Windsoar, a tank I pugged a random with was so grateful for my help he asked to realid me so we could play again and I refused because I hate sharing my realID… if only battletags were here I would have said yes.

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