Caring about Communication in the Community

The MMO Melting Pot is a new site I came across recently that covers many of the very good works of mmo bloggers around the interwebz, it had a recentish article with a very good thought behind it. It was discussing how the mmo community on a whole really isn’t very engaged and interactive with the various gaming sites and blogs compared to other genres’. The aim here is to open up the community that little bit more with getting more involved in conversing about their favourite genre which is very admirable. While we are all pretty much all Shut-Ins and Sociaphobes (apparently) it is just asking you to branch out, get out from under the metaphorical and literal Doona Blanket of safety and involve yourself and your compadres more in the community. So maybe share along the MMO Melting Pot, your favourite blogs (not encouraging my own of course =p) and encourage them to comment.

It is a funny thing the comment, often before you get to know anyone it can feel a little odd leaving a post, like your some unwelcome stranger whose interactions are worthless and not welcome. Honestly that’s how i first thought. The interesting thoughts i had because of someone’s brilliant post were for naught, which is a shame as they really could have invoked some nice conversation. Your comments wherever you travel will always be welcome, even if you do not exactly agree and especially if you have a diverging viewpoint, it really does brighten our dreary word spams and hopefully will brighten our community. It can create some great discussions as well and who knows maybe meet a few interesting people along the way. So get your comment spam on and fly that mmo freak flag.

Twitter seems to be the tool of the people right now too but it really is quite far out of my comfort zone for now. I made an account and linked it up but that may be the extent of my bird like travels for the mean time. But if you think Twitter is the bee’s knees or Sparrows fart get on there to extend those conversations with the community, and as Captain Picard (>Kirk) says  …. Engage

Communicate with Cretins

Sometimes i think the current mmo zeitgeist is to blame for the demise of community ties and interactions. It seems while the genre has moved further towards casual ties and more single player antics that our social nature inside the game and out has begun to dry up, just that little bit. Guilds even seem to be less tangible now, apart from the long established i see many popping up and then crumbling under the pressure, guild hopping has grown as well. Big communities of complete servers or even whole games are no longer forming as much and those long lasting social ties even less so. Many of these games are generally not even conducive to playing together, many mechanics of the current generation just don’t seem to encourage or even support creating social ties as well which is sad for an apparently interactive world.

Azuriel over at In An Age thought in a recent post that the invariable large player pool in our big mmo’s are to blame, like reaching a level of saturation point but instead of water its your usual mmo cretins and miscreants poisoning the rest. With the increased use of looking for group tools the player base has often gotten larger than it really should. I really do understand the pull behind LFD and catering to those of the population who are a tad more time constrained but the mechanics of a game can be worked together to preserve a better sense of accountability and comradery.
Azuriel thinks that due to the increased player pool it adds a feeling of a complete lack of accountability for ones action, killing the community, i think however it is neither the only cause or the main cause of our community concerns. Regardless of the population size SW:ToR had a rather terrible community in terms of grouping, finding enough for heroics was an effort in patience and dungeons took forever, finding a questing partner was so rare so as to be non-existent.. TSW even more so (luckily it is a pretty awesome single player RPG). Funnily enough in the GW2 beta as well, many of areas were decidedly quiet for such a large population, most times it seemed to promote play next too rather than playing with which may have been the issue. This may change later depending on the difficulty of areas but it felt strange, many times when entering a group no one would even say hello and that is all kinds of wrong.

I understand the issue with expanding an available population, you lose that sense of accountability. Regardless though some communities do better and some worse when enacting lfg tools, some communities are bad without anyway. It comes down to the core mechanics in the end and how much group play and co-dependance are promoted. In games promoting social ties communities become more open and tight nit and reputations (for good or bad) are earned far more easily. Player actions can follow them around and honestly that is the best part of a community as it brings out civility and those that stray from the group think are reined in a lot of the time.
Hiding behind the vale in relative anonymity brings out the worst in some and I do agree that attitude if large enough, and left for long enough will poison player behaviors. WoW is a testament to that occurring, but I don’t think it is the only issue. Even after the cross server lfg entered Tera I still witnessed the accountability for players actions popping up on the forums, it is a small and short sample though.

The Main issue i think is always the games mechanics, in essence this comes down to the single player design approach infecting the players with a sense of complacency and aversion to others, gamer empathy is lost. There is often no need to group in terms of difficulty or reward, you may get through content quicker but due to the short period of leveling it really isn’t required. When there is no need to group you really do see less social and civil players, and less people being involved in the community.

This is where Tera got it all perfectly right, after all of the games lately it really promoted group play and encouraged establishing connections.

  • Hard to Master- there was always a shortness of players who were great at their role and the mechanics. You made friends through playing well who would contact you regularly for another run of a dungeon somewhere else or even just to group… you even made some enemies.
  • Plethora of Group Quests – Bams, dungeons and even certain quests. Interesting fights and very beneficial in terms of gear and experience.
  • Safety In Numbers – It was a rough and tumble place on a pvp server
  • Leveling Difficulty Curve – Coming to the end zones content become a lot harder to solo especially for some classes encouraging you to group.
  • Politics – it got a lot of communication happening between guilds, good and bad.

Ganking and the Act of Retaliation – Server Responsibilty in Action

The promotion of group play was extremely evident in the  amount of conversation in game and on the forums, the hive mind was great and during the few weeks of launch it grew. Area chat was always full, the often time irrelevance of the convresation is immaterial though… it was a game that felt alive with it’s inhabitants. Picking up a group just through chat was a breeze through nearly every zone and every lvl and when in a group be it for leveling, bams or a dungeon people talked. Sometimes it was just hi, often times though it extended into conversations about class mechanics, music, movies, or even about your weekend. I also found the community was regularly setting up there own events within their own group as well as between guilds.

Milady over at Hyper Criticism discusses the often toxic nature of the community and I see this just about everywhere, some being worse than others. I think it has gone on so long now in the mainstream that people are genuinely forgetting how to be social. Many talk about being far more restrictive with the chat channels but I believe that would hurt the communities even more then the trolls ever could. You want chat and forums too feel open and less restricted to make people feel comfortable. Restricting language and enforcing courtesy is all well and good but i would much rather some passion to the interaction then being tightly controlled.

Milady says
“Back in the old days, people behaved because they had no other option if they wanted to engage in high-end content. The community could regulate itself by ostrasizing harmful elements such as ninjas, slackers and jerks. And what do we have now? A system that eliminates any rough areas so that we can ignore that we are actually playing side by side with a bunch of jerks! I dissent! People should learn that bad behaviour is not tolerated, not that there is no possibility of behaving bad!”

I like this part, players given the tools to combat the unsavourable elements is how it should be done. I don’t wish to be rid of it all, i encourage a sense of free speech as it tends to make a server more lively and the more conversation the better in terms of building a community. Tera had trolls, BOY ever did Tera have trolls but with that comes a reputation, and with a reputation came the possibility for retribution (friends list made this too easy mwhahaha). You better believe some took out there pound of flesh from the trolls, I myself took the chance to nip back occasionally. One of the Tera devs originally said the goal was for the community to police itself to an extent, with the right mechanics this is indeed possible and in my opinion preferred. This is all not to say i condone sexist, racist or discriminatory practices and there is definitely a time when enough is enough, but whats wrong with adding a little spice into the mix even if it isn’t your personal style. A lively chat in my opinion is always better than a dead one.

The new movement towards a personalized resource be it gear or ore is a bad idea as well. So take turns whackign the loot pinata.. I’m sorry but I don’t call that being social. Enforced Civility does not guarantee being social sometimes it can even be detrimental to community. Just think about how rarely someone shared an item they couldn’t even use in D3, I know I handed over items during group play but others not so much. Take turns whacking the loot pinata.. I’m sorry but I don’t call that social. The personalised loot ideal actually brings out a sense of entitlement, ultimately it is greedy and entirely unsocial. An open world pvp Battle Royale, now that’s social.

Gw2 personlised resources are in no way social either, it ostracizes you away from others as there is no need to be social or even acknowledge other people. Co-dependance can absolute be a great thing for promoting the social aspects of mmo’s and encouraging communication. In Tera (harping on I know) nodes were shareable and as many who could fit around were able to gather it together, whether or not you even had the required skill level. This is true civility, it creates a sense of working together that enriches an environment. It brings out the social nature of mmo’s and encourages communication. Hell even killing someone for a resource or node stealing is more social since you are at least being acknowledged.

I honestly miss the vibrancy of that small Tera community when it first began and will keep looking for it in the next. It really is funny how much simple game mechanics and direction can change the social nature of an mmo into something either quiet or crass. In the end though I would always much rather crass idiots and conflict then complacency. But never mind me as this is just my personal opinion on the matter and I am sure everyone differs on how they like communities promoted and the quality of the conversation.

8 thoughts on “Caring about Communication in the Community

  1. Ahh, remember my days of ganking on Vanilla WOW. The number of kids I made cry has to be in the hundreds :).

    • I’m not much for ganking myself but there is definitely the thrill of the chase there, like a lion hunting a zebra.
      It’s funny though as the ones that actually kept cool and thought about it would ask in chat for help or in guild and sure enough a few people would come out to exterminate us evil beings. Then there are those that rage, my god it is fun killing them.

  2. Interesting post – thanks! (And thanks for the recommendation, of course!)

    I’d not heard TERA held up as an example of community-building before. That’s very interesting, and I shall look into it!

    You talk about TERA in the past tense, though – is it still as good for community, or has that fallen down now?

    • It had problems like every game but coming from ToR to Tera, it was night and day in difference, it was so remarkably easy to find a group.

      I can really only attest to my pvp serer Valley of the Titans but others seemed just as good, there was even a huge introduction post on each of the server pages. It was a small community compared to some games but then so is TSW, and it was full of “dudes” (you now the meme type) but if you could get past that it was quite ok.

      Sadly Endgame was atrocious and more of a grind then you could imagine so i and many others left. It also had the whole pve for pvp gear which rubbed me the wrong way.If it had the server battles they were attesting to it would have eeked out a nice part of the mmo pie.and i would probably still be subbed.

  3. I do not understand why making aggressive answer to bad comportment will enhance it. Kicking someone (like you proposed in a previous post) is an agression, Century of history has proven that in society allowing people to agress people directly does not go to a better society but to a more aggressive one.At the oposite restricting this power to some small part of the society (police) help everyone to act gentler.

    I also agree with you that ignoring someone does not help much neither.

    Reporting seems to be the right solution, but it take a lot of money for Blizzard. Maybe community judgement can help ?

    I strongly disagree on punishing bad player. AFK player shall be auto kicked, or at least should automatically propose a kicking vote.

    If you want a good community imply to reward nice comportment, and punish aggressive one. Of course, if the goal is to have a aggressive community to give a sens of “Jungle” – and this can be very interesting and fun to play – you shall give player a lot of way to punish other one – team killing for exemple.

    • Firstly I want to preface by saying I don’t agree with kicking bad players, if they don’t understand their role or are very unfamiliar with the mechanics. There is always a time of learning and in groups I actually try to help them and guide them along, If it gets to a time when you are not going to be able to finish, a friendly sorry will always suffice. I was talking more along the lines of bad players in terms of rude, discriminatory conversations, the ones that are forever the bane of an online world.
      I also don’t agree with using the ignore feature and would much rather either report them (if behavior is serious enough) or have a go at them myself (if it warrants it). It is hard to tell the difference sometimes though between amusing banter and being an a**hole. Stubborn at Sheep The Diamond also made an interesting post about the perils of /ignore
      Community judgement maybe but then how and who would rule, you usually have to cater to the medium in cases such like that to have a sense of fairness. A regulatory body would have to embody the general consensus of players and that could be a bad thing in some situations. I would certainly not want the average LoL player to be ruling over the quality of a persons conversation.

      I understand your point of view and in some cases aggressive actions can make a situation worse then need be, the age old “violence begets violence”. I think though that sometimes putting up a little passion and fight for ones’ community can be beneficial as well, bringing the unsavory elements into line so to say. Just look the government and police’s roll in society, you could argue they are fairly aggressive sometimes in upholding the peace. Hell look at the Syrian crisis right now, I would like to think people are not fighting in vain and i truly believe they are fighting for a better world for themselves. You may want to read the speech “The perils of indifference”by Elie Wiesel as well..

      “Anger can at times be creative. One writes a great poem, a great symphony, one does something special for the sake of humanity because one is angry at the injustice that one witnesses. But indifference is never creative. Even hatred at times may elicit a response. You fight it. You denounce it. You disarm it. Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response”
      And thanks for the comment, made me think about my own view on the matter in a bit more depth

  4. Pingback: Social Nicieties and Missed Opportunities « Healing the masses
  5. Pingback: Back to the Blogging Future « Healing the masses

Comments are closed.