Looking in from the outside

Remember all those blog posts about grouping vs soloing and how those of us who soloed in MMOs should “go play a single player game”?

Well, I finally did that. Not by choice, but due to a lingering injury that made playing PC games painful. And at first it really sucked. I was really hooked on Fallen Earth at the time and ached to play it (pun intended) but just couldn’t manage more than 10 minutes before my arm felt like it was on fire.

So I turned to my consoles for solace, and played some pretty fun games. Need For Speed: Shift, Demon’s Souls, Brutal Legends, Uncharted 2 and Borderlands. And somewhere in the middle of all that, I stopped missing MMOs; or at least, the missing eased somewhat.

And what happened next was interesting. I started to notice how much MMO players complain about MMOs. I’m not talking about a scientific poll or anything, but it seems like MMO players are a lot unhappier with their games than non-MMO players are. I find myself thinking “Why are you playing this game if it is making you so unhappy?” fairly often now, even while acknowledging that I was the same way, and probably will be again someday.

I don’t want to come across like the alcoholic who gets all holier-than-thou once he stops drinking, but it is peculiar. I guess it has a lot to do with the amount of time invested. When you’ve established a ‘home’ in an MMO and you have friends there, the benefit of your social network outweighs the detriment of the aspects of the game that bug you. Meanwhile the non-MMOers have significantly fewer ties to any given game (and often, thanks to Friend lists and social networking, they can take their friends with them to the next game without a lot of hassle).

I can’t decide if this social connection to a specific game is ‘good’ or not (though I’m pretty sure I’m in no position to make that determination for anyone but myself). I will tell you that being a non-MMO gamer is a helluva lot more expensive than being an MMO gamer!

What’s strangest of all is this lure of re-labeling myself ‘MMO gamer’ just to be ‘part of the group’ again. Even though I was one of those anti-social soloers, I did feel part of the uber-group that is the MMO playing community. I kind of miss feeling passionately about the cost of a retcon in Champions Online or the problem of Radiance in LOTRO or whether the scarecrows are working right in Fallen Earth…

Maybe that’s why I still have my accounts active. I’m not ready to cut that final string yet.

4 thoughts on “Looking in from the outside

  1. The MMO gaming community is like the mafia: once you’re in, you never get out 😀

    I think you’re on target. Because of the fact that people interact with one another in MMOs, the game becomes the medium for communication. Look at…hell…look at Europe, where pubs and bars are oftentimes the center of social activity. Even here in the US. If you go to the bar alone, chances are you won’t have an affinity for it, but if you and your friends visit, and visit frequently, it becomes a home of sorts. You start to care when they change the menu, or the decor, or when they hire or fire staff.

    One thing that DOES get lost in the complaining, though, is that people complain because they care. Really. Sure, they aren’t always as articulate or.. restrained…as they could be, but no one REALLY spends time an effort to unleash venom on something they REALLY want nothing to do with. Even “I’m leaving” posts are done because the poster is telling people that they like the game, and are saddened by some of the design choices. It’s an extreme and childish method, but in the end, people are attached to their MMOs.

  2. Scopique is right, but I think there’s an element of bitching to hear oneself bits when it comes to MMO discussions. There’s also the element that “good news isn’t news” so when we discuss our online games we don’t always talk about how great they are (which people tend to assume goes without saying, even in normal life — and which is a hard habit to break) but rather about what’s bothering us.

    Then again, I don’t consider the community of gamers I “hang out” with to be representative. Most of us are thoughtful and articulate in our opinions, and most of us don’t knee-jerk about whatever the latest bitch-fest is — and even when we do, we tend to do it entertainingly and not just in the style of the whining 8 year old over in the corner.

    Maybe I just hang out with too many bloggers and not enough forum-goers. (Heaven forfend!)

  3. Heh funny how since my PC has been on the fritz for a few months plus I’ve been on MMO break anyway, the less I actually miss MMO’s at all. I mean, I do miss my kinship and being able to chat with some friends in LOTRO who I don’t have any IM or email (does anyone actually *use* email anymore?) so I can’t talk to them out of the game.

    But I’ve been enjoying the heck out of my 360 the past several months. Mostly playing either online co-operative or competitive games, naturally. I own very few single-player-only games (other than RPG’s) although I’ll give Batman props for Game of the Year, hands-down.

    I’ve made enough friends on the 360 I’m never lacking for someone to play any number of games with, and especially now that Bordercrack is out and nearly every XBL friend I have plays the game. I’ve been co-oping with them plus I have a character just for my blogger-only group. I will say one thing about Borderlands though: I was going to get the game on Steam as well but now I don’t think I will. It’s so fun and addictive, I just keep going for hours and hours, and I don’t want to rekindle my wrist injury I sustained from playing waaaaay too much competitive FPS games a decade ago. Playing anything for too long — such as raiding in an MMO — brings it back and I end up with a wrist-brace and a lot of pain. That alone makes me wish someone would get off their butts and release an MMO for consoles so I can play without worrying about eventual wrist pain from holding a mouse for hours.

    For that matter, I don’t even need the “massively” part since no one’s really ever figured out what to do with “massively multiplayer” games other than having a massive amount of players on a server but they’re all separate and playing the game solo or in a “normal-sized” co-op group. So… why bother? Just give me Age of Conan that’s somewhere around 4 to 8 player co-op and I’ll be good to go.

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