On playing MMOGs and being anti-social

27 May 2009
11:34 pm

Two weeks ago, I hit level 80 on my priest in World of Warcraft. This was a bit of a momentous occasion for me, not because it was the first time I hit the level cap, but because it was the first time I hit the level cap when another expansion wasn't arriving imminently. While I play WoW pretty often, I wouldn't classify myself as anything more than casual with it. Part of that is because I really, really hate playing with people.

I know that really misses the entire point of the whole MMOG-deal; it's a game that you're supposed to play with other people, it's pretty much made clear in the acronym. Having sampled almost every online game from text-only MUDs to Ultima Online (which I recently discovered not only still exists, but is releasing an expansion soon even) to EVE Online and onward, WoW finds itself in a funny position of really enabling a good chunk of the content to be experienced by players until you hit the level cap, then the necessity to play with other people is forcefully slammed in your face. As such games go, it's possible to play through most of it without needing to involve other people: I've done it twice with two characters, so I'd know. While every now and then you'll come across a quest that requires (because you have to kill some creature that's a billion times stronger than you) participation of others, these quests can always be skipped (but you're going to forgo the better loot and experience) or come back to when you're ten levels higher and can finish it in a blink.

So it's perfect for anti-social people like me that hate playing with others, but when you hit the highest level and have to start the "endgame" content, it rapes you with a radical shift in perspective.

For the uninitiated, "endgame" content in WoW consists of two paths: you either join a guild (an alliance of other players working together) and set about helping them take down the uberbosses in the various raid dungeons so you can collect increasingly better weapons and gear until you've killed them all and have all their stuff, or join an arena team and set about killing other players so you can collect increasingly better weapons and gear until you've killed everyone else and sit at the top of the pyramid. Both paths require an inordinate amount of time and seriousness, not to mention the grind, and as a predominantly solo player disliking the participation of others, neither idea entices me.

In the past this has never been an issue. As I said, this is the first time I've hit the level cap when there weren't more levels of leveling to look "forward" to. My original character was a warlock, and I didn't hit level 60 (the first level cap) on him until after the first expansion had already been released, thus increasing the upper limit to 70. When I started to approach the end on that account, I started over with my priest. When the second expansion was released I finally hit 70 on that one, and took both of them through the next ten levels. I've now capped out the priest at 80, and the warlock is almost at the end himself. When I get that character to 80, I'm not sure what I'll do. I suppose I can always start over with another character, but frankly I don't have any interest in the other classes and the thought of 80 levels of content I've already seen– twice– is not enthralling to me.

For a variety of reasons, the endgame stuff is not appealing either. As I pointed out, it requires a significant time sink; there's a high expectation of other players that you begin treating the game as a second job if you're going to do the raids, and as my priest is an integral healing class, that would be the expectation even more than if I was just playing backup damage. There's also a ridiculous hierarchy in place: you have to grind the instances to get the gear to enable you to grind the instances that are harder; every guild has restrictive expectations on equipment that must be in place to join, but it's prohibitively difficult if you're just starting out because you have to do instances to get the gear to begin with. It's like needing credit to apply for a credit card. And my experience with guilds has always been lackluster all around, both because of a maturity-level issue with the player base and the inevitable dramatic in-fighting issues involved in playing with a group of others. You've never seen ridiculous until you listen to four grown men violently scream at each other in voice chat over a pixelated weapon in a video game. So this is the first time I've found myself at the end of the game without a clear idea on what to do next. Not to mention that months of perpetually repeating the same dungeon fights or arena fights that I'll already have seen a hundred times by then, after grinding my way through 80 x2 levels, isn't very sexy either.

There's also always the unspoken option: suspend my account until the inevitable next expansion and pick up a new game in the interim. I've a feeling that that's where I will probably go when I truly do get bored, but it has its own negatives too. For whatever reason, no other online game has managed to engage my attention the way that WoW has. It's hard to quantify why that's the case, but I'm obviously not alone when you look at its record-breaking subscriber numbers that no other game has managed to approach, much less topple.

7 Responses to \'On playing MMOGs and being anti-social\'

    Josh I feel your pain. Ive played all aspects of the game you listed above and been in several different levels of guilds. I currently found a home with some people I really enjoy playing with and it reminds me of why I play the game. For the fun. Sad part is I had to reroll to the opposite faction than when you and I played together. Yes I now play a Dwarf Rogue. I'm not saying in none of my former guilds I didn't have fun, just the people I play with now seem more at the level of commitment that I have.

    Maybe you should consider trying to level a DK on another server on the alliance side. I would offer up my current server but Im not sure how you would respond to me. I would just play around on a couple different servers until you find one that has the type of people you could enjoy playing with.

    The whole MMO thing is lost upon me too. While I enjoy playing with people from time to time, I prefer to play alone. I'm nowhere close to the endgame content though – I think I am still at level 45 after playing since beta. I go through phases with WoW, but something about it always brings me back eventually. No other game has captured my attention the same way, except Viva Piñata. 😀

    Chris: I would just play around on a couple different servers until you find one that has the type of people you could enjoy playing with.

    I'm sure there's good people everywhere, that's not really the issue for me though. Even when I play with friends I don't really find it fun, I find it more frustrating having to rely on other players who aren't psychic and can't read my mind and immediately understand what I need them to be doing. On top of that the pressure and expectations of needing to be online at X time on X day to kill X boss really sucks the fun out for me; I did it once for a couple months when I finally hit 70 on my warlock (prior to the expansion, and before I decided to start over with the priest) and it wasn't an enjoyable experience. That was only while I was a backup damage-dealer too, so I don't even want to think of the pain running as main healer would be.

    What's fun for me is playing by myself. 😛 It would be nice if Blizzard would release a solo version that I can do totally alone. They can call it the anti-social expansion. Either that, or I buy eight more accounts and just multibox my way through every raid.

    This is my exact problem with MMOs. I am eagerly awaiting Diablo III and in the mean time, Guild Wars is pretty damn good for the hack and slash stuff. (HIT IT WITH A BIG HAMMER) and you can fill up your party with pretty useful NPCs.

    Adri: Guild Wars is pretty damn good for the hack and slash stuff

    Guild Wars is pretty interesting; I definitely like the only-purchase-once business model, even though I've probably spent like a hundred and fifty bucks on all the addons in their store (but when you contrast that to how much Blizzard's got from me in subscription fees it's not so bad.) The game is also beautiful and, like WoW, plays on everything from modern computers to old laptops from 1997. While the first game doesn't have the neat NPC stuff, the latter two do and that option is absolutely what I love. It's nice to have as a background possibility for when I'm bored, even though it's never held my attention for very long. But I guess that's probably meant to be the point.

    I know what ya mean. Glad I'm not the only one who prefers going off into the wilderness in an MMO alone. Even when people approach me I really try to just avoid chatting for long and go about my merry way. Then they nag me about wanting to come along, etc etc. I guess I should just stick to one player games for the most part, haha. 👿

    I don't let my kid play unless he's in a group – I feel that soloing is a waste of time.

    10 traits your kid develops while playing MMPORG's IN A GROUP
    * Learns to deal with other's "personalities"
    * Strategic Social Thinking
    * Interpretive Analysis of Strengths and Weaknesses of the Situation and the Group
    * Problem Solving as a Group
    * Group Plan Formation and Execution
    * Complex Situation Management
    * Group Decision-Making
    * Goal Directed Cooperation
    * Networking
    * Cross-Cultural Communications

    Of course, I'm a adult so I just queue the underplayed battlegrounds or camp my Nelf hunter next to a titanium node while I study for my masters degree. Hypocrite of course.

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