MMORPG’s Friendships and Geeks

Ulric | 5 October 2009 | Comments off

I was at work the other day and I got into a conversation with a couple of people about MMORPGs and the online worlds that we spend our time in. We were mainly talking about what attracts us to the games, and where reality starts and ends. One of them piped in with a really good question: how can you say that online friends aren’t ‘real’? Aren’t they just a friend that occurs within a different context? So, really, are the individuals we play MMO’s with friends in real life?

The example he gave was that interacting with someone face-to-face is just a single type of interaction, one just as valid as talking with someone over the phone, via online chat or through a computer game. It’s quite an unusual question, really, but it’s exactly the type of thing that attracts me to online games. They change the way we interact, socialize and work, and I think it’s cool to observe. It would be pretty cliché to call us geeks and encourage us to get a real life instead but, if you looked at it from a different perspective, we could argue that living a virtual world and having virtual friends is no less real than having them in a ‘real’ world.

Personally, I believe that nothing can replace real life interaction, particularly as it’s just too easy to project a persona through a computer and to never really be ‘yourself’. I don’t mean lying about who you are or what you look like - it’s more about the way you talk and interact. If you’re typing with someone, for instance, it’s very hard to convey emotion and, even if you’re chatting to them over a mic, it’s impossible to see their body language, or they yours.

Many people choose to play MMORPGs because they are lonely, not good at making friends or simply because they are bored so they turn to the game to socialize with other people and have fun. The online world has many things to help people socialize, like parties or groups. During downtime, some of us get to know one another via our forums or chat – text-based communication. For ease of use, we also may connect using TeamSpeak or Ventrilo. This gives us a second avenue of communication: while we cannot see our virtual friends, we can hear them. This makes us all a little more close. Through these forums, while we obviously have the game in common, many of us find that we also share outside interests, anything from medical issues to a love of renaissance festivals to being over-worked. What’s more, we’re a very diverse lot, hailing from different parts of the world, and our interactions can be a real cultural exchange.

When we’re in a party or team, working towards a common goal, it helps people to have trust in each others’ abilities. When we find ourselves joining pick-up groups, we can often easily see, first-hand, how the lack of constant interaction with and corresponding trust of the people can affect the outcome and enjoyment of the game. Usually someone is blamed for messing up or dying or not doing their part, or stealing loot, or going the wrong way, or a host of other perceived infractions, major and minor.

If you constantly blame your party-mates any time anything goes wrong, they aren’t going to want to group with you, and you’ll have a lousy experience. On the flip side, don’t group with someone twice who repeatedly makes the same mistakes and won’t listen to any polite suggestions to try something else (unless you’re patient enough to be able to handle this with equanimity); you’ll only frustrate yourself this way.

The majority of us in TOG, though, have the same point of view on a lot of things. Things go wrong – it happens. It’s easy to misjudge distances and aggro ranges and accidentally pull an extra mob or some such thing, or get momentarily confused about what the objectives are. I have found that when in a TOG group, things never descend into accusations, finger-pointing and other useless drama. I always find myself apologizing and all I ever get back is “np, it’s cool. It happens”

In closing, ask yourself several questions: is there anyone in-game that you feel that you could share your mood or personal information with? Have they become important people to you, much like the people you call ‘friend’ in the real world? If they left the game, would you try to persuade them come back to play with you, follow them to the new game to see what’s caught their fancy, or worry that they’re not ok?

For The Older Gamers, I will never be the one to leave first. I would rather be abandoned before abandoning others. If all of us can think that way, and remember to have that little bit of patience, we’ll all maintain a good relationship and keep together a great community.

Article by Wired Solaris

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