In a previous fit of madness I ranted about how isolated and spread out the gaming communities can be, and how sometimes it can be hard to find other people to socialise and game with in our modern day society. Of course, everyone’s views and experiences are unique and different. While a lot of us might play the same games, travel in the same circles, and even troll the same forums – it can be surprising how differently we see the world. It occurred to me that perhaps the gaming world is not as bleak and desolate as it seems in my mind. That perhaps, just perhaps, it is in fact a happy HAPPY place, filled with gooey caramel marshmallows and fluffy double rainbows. But then again… who am I kidding? While the gaming world might not be all doom and gloom, one thing we cannot deny is that there ARE problems out there. One such problem is the “grouping” part of gaming – and it is a problem that has generated (and will continue to generate) many blog posts, drunken discussions, and heated debates.
A lot of gamers other than myself have expressed their concerns and troubles regarding grouping, especially in the genre of MMOs and other online games. So what can we do? What can be done to make grouping more accessible, more reliable, and most of all more fun? Fixes and ideas have been suggested by people all over, and many have been experimented with (the ideas I mean, not the people). Indeed, a few have even been implemented into many of our games. Some interesting mechanics of note that have appeared in recent times are things like Guild Wars‘ Skill-based gameplay and their one-server-many-districts system; Warhammer Online‘s Public Quests and their Open Groups; the level matching and mentoring system found in games like Champions Online; and last but not least, World of Warcraft‘s cross-server random group matching system (which I personally dislike). However, while game mechanics do play a large part in influencing grouping in games, what also needs to change in my opinion, are the players themselves.
I personally enjoy grouping with likeminded folks, and I have fond memories of hanging out with random players and exploring online worlds, telling jokes, chatting and laughing, and running around poking wild animals. Sadly, for me such experiences are becoming a rare thing of the past. The games nowadays places too much emphasises on ingame loot and progression as rewards, and little to no emphasises on the social experience. And the problem is, we as gamers, are allowing this – and in fact we are asking for, and even encouraging it by the way we play, and by the way we interact with the players around us. Players everywhere are rushing through zones and instances, power grinding for their rep, their XP, their gold, or their top tier loot or tokens. The word “Endgame” has become a sacred mantra, whispered by all. A collective whisper that have accumulated, and cascaded into a deafening roar that spreads out like bands of bloodthirsty battalions, marching in unison, trampling and consuming all in its path. Stopping to chat and socialise has become a thing of the distant past. The few brave souls who would stop to utter words of greetings, are often met with angry stares and ridicule, until finally they too turn away in shame, and continues on their march. It is a sad state of affairs when you are likely to be insulted and laughed at, or worse, dropped (without a word) from a group for “slowing down a run”, simply by stopping to say hello and introducing yourself.
Of course, I must stress that as I have stated earlier, it is NOT all doom and gloom in the gaming world. There ARE still pockets of decent friendly players out there. They are fighting the good fight, keeping the enclosing darkness at bay with their warm embraces, and their oh-so-radiant smiles. Now my question is, will YOU fight the good fight? Next time you are online, why not stop to help a random stranger, or chat with a random passerby? Remember, even a small greeting can make a major difference – it’s out of context perhaps, but I would like to leave you with these immortal words: “Stop. You had me at Hello.”