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.
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.