Nothing social about online games.
Now hear me out, this is not a rant, or sarcastic strike at online play. It’s not about blaming companies or communities. It’s just a sad, all too realistic image of what seems to be happening. Go back to the time when you were a kid…okay maybe you’re still a kid in which case sit down little Timmy, its story time.
Remember when you use to go outside because anything was better than being at home simply because you had nothing to do. Remember when playing sport was still a thing? Well, here’s the thing, online video games where meant to be exactly that minus the need for physical fitness. In other words, they were meant to get to play with other people. Don’t think playing 1 player cricket was ever a thing, if it was…I am sorry.
The point remains that online gaming was supposed to introduce to a wide variety of characters that existed in reality. You were meant to make adventures in the world with people you meet. So why doesn’t it happen. Why don’t make friends that last and enemies that are fun to fight against. Well, its because of a bunch of things. Shyness, bad sportsmanship and trying to pair people up all over the damn place.
Let’s work from the back. Remember during the 1st to 3rd iteration of the most successful MMO called WoW. Back then, servers had a limited number of players that sat 4000. At any one time you could play with roughly 3999 other people not accounting for all the other limitations. Seems like a lot of variation indeed? Now consider having the option of being paired up with an entire region…say the whole of Europe or the Americas. Absolutely bananas! Cross server play aimed to reduce the wait time between being able to do content, it makes sense, you get more play time and less wait time.
But then something had to give way!
What we got in instant grouping we lost in community. You wouldn’t meet that same tank or sniper… or troll. There wasn’t that chance of meeting that same person again and through the difficulty of game overcome obstacles and become acquaintances. There is no second chance; not making contact immediately costs your only chance.
This plays in tandem with the theme of shyness. Actually is more of a theme of cautiousness. That suspicion of other people. We can’t deny it, but it is what makes us reluctant to initially speak to people. Fortunately it can be eliminated, when we are around them for a substantial time length…but 1 meeting isn’t enough. Sometimes it takes 2 or 3.
Bad sportsmanship isn’t punished, someone will always play with you because neither of you know each other.
The last point may work in a sort of opposite way based on the same principle. You can happily insult, abuse and shame your group knowing that there is very little chance of you ever meeting them again. We don’t take the time to wait out and progress a difficult scenario when there is the likely hood of getting out and finding more “competent” players. The mutual bonds of succeeding together are no longer optional but not even required.
Perhaps the online feature has taken us from 1 player in a basement to many players…in their own basement with advanced AI NPC’s called “other people”. Maybe developers need to help us out a bit, encourage us to make friends rather than guaranteeing shorter wait times. We’ll hate it at first, but good friends will make up for the loss.
Hamtaro – Official Scrub