Although Syl’s recent article on Guild War 2’s end-game have absolutely nothing to do with my subject, they did remind me that this is a post I wanted to write. I’ve seen the argument (sorry I’m link poor on that one) that the on-the-fly-fellowship model improves the social life of the MMO.
How does that work? How does not having to communicate make you more social? How does it make you connect with other players? It doesn’t. In the *almost* month I’ve been playing GW2, I can count the total number of things I’ve said in a chat channel on one hand.
Now, I’m willing to take the bulk of the blame. I’m very happily wandering around the world and discovering little nooks and crannies. I’m sure there *is* some way to actually scroll in my text box, but I haven’t taken the time to figure it out. What can I say, I’m a little anti-social on a good day. When I have been social in MMOs, it’s primarily been the result of group content. I had to communicate to function in a group setting.
While I don’t have any quibbles about not having to be social in order to enjoy an MMO, I do have a major quibble with saying that I’m enjoying the “social life” of an MMO. Auto-grouping doesn’t encourage me to do group activities and it sure doesn’t encourage me to actually interact with my fellow players. While I have enjoyed the group encounters I’ve taken part of, the absolute self-reliance that players are encouraged to embrace has left gaping holes in the mentoring you often see in new MMOs.
Let’s look at one of the encounters I took part in. The boss did a stomp. If you weren’t dodging during the stomp, you died. Pretty simple. You could spot the new people by the ring of death surrounding the boss. Since we’re not a “group” in the traditional sense, it doesn’t really matter to the bulk of people that these folks are dying. We’re all self-reliant, they’ll figure it out or just die a lot, right?
Chatter in the area was either:
- Melee can’t do this fight (lies! I was melee!)
- Rez me (it doesn’t matter that I’m right under the boss and you won’t actually have time to rez me before the stomp again)
It was rather frustrating to be a part of. Since it was my second time at the boss, I’d figured it out, and actually had enough time to look around and see the circle of death. I realized how nice it would have been if someone else would have done what I did: explain how the fight works. Moving on to new zones and new encounters, I saw this pattern repeated again and again. Sure, people were talking, but it was generally the same crappy bullshit you get in any forced group. As much as I’ve complained about having to struggle to form groups, or to keep groups together, the very fact that I must depend on other group members for a minimum set of time made me want them to succeed. As a result,because I was invested in my fellow players, I’ve formed a lot of great relationships in a multitude of different communities. Now that’s what I call being social.
The GW2 model, at least for outdoor auto-group type raiding doesn’t make me invest in others, which means I have less reason to want to talk to them, help them, or form relationships with them. As a result, I fail to see how we can say that the GW2 model encourages socialization. It might encourage you to enjoy “group” content, but that’s a story for another day.