Death of Socialization in MMORPGs

I consider myself an avid fan of the MMORPG genre. I started playing them when I was in high school with the game EverQuest. I have a lot of fond memories of playing with my friends, even camping the infamous Raster of Guk for weeks on end. These days fighting and camping rare spawns don’t exist like they did before. Now if you want to kill a specific mob or complete quests, all you need to do is shard hop for the spawn or wait mere minutes for it to show up. Raster, on the other hand, required me to sit in a dungeon for hours on end, killing a placeholder mob every 12 minutes with the small hope that the next time the mob appeared it was my quarry. Its spawn rate was so low that I would spend 5 hours killing the placeholder every day gaining a few coins out of the deal. The only reason that I didn’t go completely insane was that I was able to talk to my guild and others in the zone who were either trying to level up or, like me, camping some rare monster for a single item.

I became close to some people that I have played MMOs with. I have even played a few games with them beyond our time in the game in which we first met. The way MMOs were back then required a lot of patience and something to distract you. I would generally play music, and then talk to whoever was on Teamspeak (or Ventrillo or Mumble or Discord). Players were mostly courteous to you. A new player could ask questions without someone making fun or yelling to ‘get better’. A group could be formed and have real conversations, ranging from what they are enjoying about their class to they had a great day and just wanted to share. That very rarely happens anymore.

How did this come to pass? Well I like to blame, in part, the McDonald’s method of gaming. “I want it fast and I want it my way.” The biggest game that has supported this terrible idea is World of Warcraft. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved WoW. I started playing on and off from beta all the way to…2 weeks ago. I raided Molten Core with 40 people who really didn’t know how to min/max, and I had fun. I raided in a top server guild in Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, and I had fun. Eventually I had to step away and focus on paying my bills and talking to people face to face.

I came back later and somehow things had changed.

It became custom to join a group using the group finder which was convenient and not say one word to your party members. At most people would say “Hi” and start pulling. Those were generally best case scenarios. At worse someone would say they were new to the game or dungeon, and someone else would try to get them kicked out; fearing that they would cause a three minute delay to either die and run back, or just to explain the bosses. God forbid they don’t say anything and cause a death or wipe. If someone caused a wipe other human beings would sit and belittle and chide the offending member with foulest English they could think of. It became routine to run across this. This was all small time behavior to the hive of scum and villainy that is Warcraft’s ‘Looking for Raid’.

Looking for Raid is essentially the big brother of the group finder. However, instead of putting together a group of 5, it assigns you to a 25-person raid with 24 other people. Don’t get me wrong, there are people that are nice. They drop feasts to give food buffs, they revive those that die to trash as soon as they are able. They are the unsung heroes of the raid. But for every single nice person I get paired with, there seem to be about three people who believe it is their job to yell and scream about every insignificant thing they conceive as a slight. I’m not talking about just anger here either. I’m talking full blown psychopathic meltdown. Group finder to the 10th power.

Now without getting into the details which I could write another whole article about, let’s just say that these people actions are so commonplace now that for the past few months I have not been apart of a raid that has not contained racial and sexual epithets so demeaning that if said in public the person saying them would most likely be punched in the face. It is not acceptable, except in MMOs apparently.

We as gamers have gotten so complacent that we allow this to happen. I know there have been a few times where I literally closed my group or raid chat. I play my character solo because more times than not if I do join a group no one speaks and it feels like I’m soloing anyway. Which is still better than putting up with those who snap out at the slightest issue. When I played games like Dark Age of Camelot or Shadowbane, games focused around player killing, of course I had rivalries with other guilds. We would rib each other sure, but it would never devolve into hatred or rage. I have even had some people who would be on opposite sides join forces on a different game. We had a mutual respect for one another because we were able to have conversations in the game or on the forums. We would joke about killing each other’s avatars, then talk about how to optimize skills.

My guild was a gaming family growing up. I played with multiple generations of people who weren’t obsessed with speed and loot. Sometimes my best nights of play were due to finally reaching a threshold of gear or levels, and having people who were my friends congratulate me, and be sincere with joy for me. I started playing MMORPGs because I love the lore and stories in RPG games. I kept playing MMORPGs because of the social aspect of guilds and groups working together just to have fun. I stopped playing MMORPGs because logging in and joining a group leaves a bad taste in my mouth. A player should never have to worry about making a mistake and being attacked with insults. It is not worth the time and effort. I finally come to that realization.