The Unsocial MMO
If we are lazy and resistant to being social in MMOs (the path of least effort, etc.), is it the game’s/devs’ responsibility to encourage — or even force — us to do so?
This has always been a pet peeve of mine. As a long time soloist, I admit that I’m not generally a social person around people I don’t know, especially in situations where I’m expected to do something. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate grouping and socializing, but not as a replacement for my soloist ways. After all, I’m playing for my own enjoyment, not as employment, and not for the benefit of others.
So the opinion that the only reason why people should play an MMO is for the social aspect is one that’s never sat well with me. I have been able to enjoy MMOs for years, primarily as a soloist, which in my mind makes the argument moot. Still, people persist with this asanine idea that if you’re not chatting up a storm, jumping from PUG to PUG, or signing up with a guild on day one, you have no business in the MMO genre.
The usual avenue of attack usually comes in the form of “if you’re not going to [socialize], go play a single player game”. Unmitigated bullshit, and here’s why:
MMOs offer something DIFFERENT then single player games. The two are NOT mutually exclusive, nor are they divided be a social/not social partition.
Single player games control you. Look at Mass Effect. It gives the illusion of freedom because you can choose the order in which you take your missions, but you’re really dealing with a hub location (the Normandy) which serves as a gateway to very scripted missions. ME tells a good story, but doesn’t really give you a lot of authentic choice. You’re still bound to the Normandy, or the mission locations that you choose. When I want a story to immerse myself in where I have absolute control over myself and my party, I’ll go with a single player game.
MMOs — even the most theme-parked — are more lenient because you can choose to quest or not quest. You can craft or not craft. You can explore or not explore. You CAN socialize, or you can solo. You do give up some of the single player advantages like immersive storylines, but you do get options, and a certain degree of freedom that you don’t get from a single player RPG.
Add to this the patches and changes and expansions that add more areas, more content and more features and you’ve got a living product. Sure, a lot of single player RPGs get DLC and sequels, but at a certain point (usually within a year of release), the single player game is left in a specific state and will not change any further. Healthy MMOs change over the course of years, for better or worse, but the game you get at launch is never the game you’ll get when the servers finally shut down (except, you know, APB, Auto Assault, or Earth & Beyond).