Browsing Category Gamer Culture

The Winner Takes it All, or Collecting Things in MMO’s

A lot of social media space this week on my feed has been taken up by a Moose. This Warcraft Mount was going to be purchasable at some point before Legion. Instead the designers have decided that actually, this is too good an opportunity to pass up. So, as of Patch 6.2.3 that launched this week? You can only get one by defeating the End Boss of the Expansion on the two hardest Instance difficulties, Heroic and Mythic. The playerbase’s reaction to this has been nothing short of revelatory: groups of people offering to help the less geared and qualified with runs under the Twitter hashtag of #FriendshipMoose. Players who hadn’t even played organised content weeks ago are now touting Heroic Achievements and a new found sense of belonging. However, for some of us, this whole sequence of events is nothing new. There’s been Meta Achievements in game since Wrath of the Lich King whose rewards you can still gain. Blizzard now take the mounts away from Instances at the start of each new Expansion to maintain the ‘unique’ nature of the achievement. However, what people don’t realise is that it isn’t the pixels they collect to begin with. The ‘reward’ isn’t what you gain from defeating Archimonde, it’s what you find within yourselves that matters more. You’re not passing over money for a plush or a badge, this is simply a virtual nod to the time you took to go to Hellfire Citadel and make an effort.

So, why does anyone bother collecting anything virtual to begin with? If you have no real proof of your efforts, if there’s nothing to sell in X years or to leave to your grand-kids… really, what’s the point? A lot of this is tribal, of course, that for a new generation of players it’s just the same as sticking a band poster on a wall or sewing patches onto your jacket. Wanting to belong is a vital part of human behaviour, as is being able to use what you collect as a means of showing your worth. Every Moose that appears in my timeline (and trust me, there are many) is a sign that players have ‘completed’ one of the most poorly-received Expansions in Warcraft’s history. This is undoubtedly a good thing for a company who lost 40% of their sub base in 12 months over their inability to make compelling content. Suddenly, everyone’s in the one bit of the whole package nobody really had any complaints about: raiding. Maybe more of these people will raid come Legion: that has to be Blizzard’s hope as a result of the exercise.

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Maintaining a Gaming Community

What makes gaming communities strong? Why are we drawn to them? How do they tie in with culture and sub cultures? These are questions I’ve found myself wondering about lately. When I entered the world of online gaming I got to discover an online community that fascinated me. Gamers are very interesting and often a lot of fun to be around. These are educated, clever and entertaining individuals with wit and they keep things fresh when the games you play sometimes get a little stale. The stereotype of a sweaty, smelling basement dweller has, or should have been extinct a long time ago. Their creativity is not just evident from the innovative use of abbreviation and curses these players use to insult each other. Look at Minecraft and the worlds that these gamers create. Look at the fan art, the dedicated blogs and the YouTube channels made about games. I repeat: gamers are creative. They are also helpful. For every immature troll there is a friendly person who is always willing to lend a helping hand to someone who’s stuck or is looking for advice. As for the immature ones who are so very creative with their cursing, trust me, they have their place in this community as much as anyone. This is something I have recently come to understand.

THE CONTRADICTION

For online multiplayer games especially there needs to exist strong (ideally conflicting) sub cultures and personalities. Why? Because most of these games are built upon winning or losing. The community’s part in this is to define the value of  victory or success in relation to the rest of the player base which is vital for maintaining interest in the game. That’s why competitiveness plays such a large role in how strong these gaming communities are. A perfect example can be found in Mylex Asheron’s Call post:

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The Cult of Celebrity In MMO’s (but especially Warcraft)

In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit before we begin today that I’m at the more mature end of the MMO demographic. I remember when that Lara Croft lass was all pixelated breasts, for starters, not the realistic and clearly rebooted young woman she’s become. In between then and now, a lot has changed in gaming. Back in the day, streaming was what you did with a fishing net and Wellington boots (or possibly as a result of an allergic reaction) while the World Wide Web was merely a twinkle in Tim Berners Lee’s fertile imagination. Now it’s all Twitch and Kappa, plus that bloke who’s been dead for a decade still painting pictures. On top of it all, there’s a cult of celebrity that frankly puts early Norman feudalism to shame. And today I am here to stick my head in the mouth of a beast that frankly scares so many people I know into swearing they’ll never go near You Tube even if paid.

For a title like Warcraft, there are streamers now for everything. You have players of both sexes, Lore, PvP, questing, pet battles, farming vanity mounts and that’s even before I get started on the Gold Farmers or the Role Players.

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Are you aspiring to be a better player? Should you?

A few weeks back I got into a bit of hot water by suggesting that Warcraft players could be better than they are by coming more prepared to Group content. In fact, my assertion that using a food buff plus a flask (+200 to primary stat) met, from some, with calls for me to check my own mental state. Because CLEARLY, preparation for anything is not within the remit of anyone else to suggest to players, let alone place IN A GUIDE. In the end, the arguments stretched from passionate agreement with my stance all the way through alternatives and suggestions. Maybe it wasn’t about the stats per se, but the willingness of players to show that they understand that grouping has a different rule set than playing alone.

What followed in the next few days was not dissimilar to the run of personal abuse I experienced when I suggested that players might not need flying for Warcraft content. Perhaps there was more fun to be had by learning to overcome difficulty as opposed to simply trivialising the content by flying over it. It is abundantly apparent that some don’t only dislike being told what to do, but will have serious issue when it is suggested they could play better than they are. This is not unusual across the MMO spectrum either: often, players will tell you how friendly their title of choice is in terms of helpful people. We all know those individuals who can’t take criticism, and we understand how hard it can be sometimes to tell others that they’re wrong.

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Why do we troll? – The toxic side of disinhibition

Back in June I did a guest post on Ravalation‘s blog discussing why we troll which I explained by reciting the result of the research done on “The Online Disinhibition Effect”. Later on I wrote an article based on the same research discussing “Why we develop feelings for people we meet in games“. To really understand why we behave the way we do in online environments I believe the disinhibition we experience to be key. Therefore I’ve decided to re-post “Why do we troll” on my own blog to give a fuller picture of what this online disinhibition is and how it works. Enjoy!

Having always taken a great interest in human behaviour and interaction I was intrigued by the world of gaming since I first came in contact with it. My fascination with online gaming and the communities that dwell there was striking from the start and it’s what I tend to write about. My thoughts tonight are revolving around a story a in game acquaintance of mine from SWTOR, let’s call him “Tristin”, told me recently. Long story short Tristin thought he had made a new friendship in game. He seemed very happy about this new friendship. Soon enough some very personal information Tristin had told this other player in confidence ended up in a forum somewhere for all the world to read. The person he had befriended wasn’t the person he had thought at all, it was someone having created a fake in game account for the sole purpose of trolling Tristin.

This made me think about the notion trolling. What is trolling? Why do we do it?

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Are Friends Electric? :: The Minefield of Friendship in MMO’s

I’d like to tell you a story about an Internet Friendship.

Once upon a time, two people met online. They were drawn together by mutual interests, and the love (in this case) of an MMO. They spent time together chatting via various forms of Social Media, but for one of the two involved, alarm bells had already begun to ring. Because this person knew that the Internet was not a place to begin relationships, that the level of anonymity that the medium allowed meant that people could not be trusted. This meant Person A was open and polite whilst talking to Person B, but wasn’t truly being themselves, or indeed respecting Person B’s enthusiasm and love of what they did. You see, B loved the Internet. They saw it as a golden opportunity to meet people that shared their interests, and A was exactly the kind of person they’d just love to hang around with at the end of a long day. What this meant, of course, is that this friendship was doomed to fail, because sooner or later A and B would collide, and they did. The likelihood was that it would be over something totally trivial and nonsensical, and the drama that resulted would undoubtedly end up being smeared all over everyone’s social media. The final straw was when A blocked B on Twitter, and B had a very public and pointless meltdown as a result. T’was ever thus.

This is pretty much how the world works for many people who use the Internet as their extended social circle on any given day.

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I’m a completionist. With a limited attention span. Wat?

So, I’m playing a single player RPG. Like lots of people, I need to talk to everyone and I need to collect every bit of trash. I need to complete all the side quests and I need to do ALL THE THINGS. It’s compulsive. I literally cannot enjoy playing any other way.

In Skyrim, for example, I religiously looted every one of the tens of thousands of urns, containing random worthless junk, wherever I went. In games like KOTOR or Dragon Age, I have never and will never experience the wonderful writing and acting, or differences in story, associated with killing Juhani or arguing with Leliana to the point that she leaves.
Whilst I tend to typically play the “good guy,” hence no fighting with Leliana, the reason I don’t do these things is not because I don’t want to be evil. It’s because I can’t stand the idea that I will miss out on content.

Im KOTOR 2, where your alignment dictates whether you recruit Mira or Hanharr, I could play either and do either. However I could never kill Juhani, even if I played Dark Side, because that would mean having slightly less content. Hell, I hardly ever used her in my team, so it was only conversations on the ship I would be missing out on, but still I couldn’t do it.

This has always intrigued me as I have pondered what it is that I actually enjoy about games, or at least about single player games. Going back to Skyrim, I played to the point of abject boredom and ended up not finishing the major quest lines in that game as a result. I became despondent as I constantly fast travelled to various vendors to sell my junk and free up some carry weight. I got bored of clearing every single cave and tower, whether I needed to or not, because it irritated me to have to run past them. Hell, it irritated me that I would have to leave them ‘undiscovered’ as I zig zagged all over the map, from one nearby point of interest to another. The world map itself, featuring those locations that I had actually discovered, became more like a to-do list than a map.

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Cyberspace is a small world…

Yet another sleepless night. Tonight I am finding myself pondering over the complexity of chance. Coincidence. Some believe that the probability of a certain set of circumstances coming together in a meaningful or tragic way is so low that it simply cannot be considered mere coincidence.  Some believe in destiny. Some might say we don’t create our destiny but participate in its unfolding. Others, like Ernest Henley would undermine the power of chance and famously say “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul”. Albert Einstein said that coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.

I personally don’t believe in divine intervention. I don’t believe in destiny. I believe in randomness. A beautiful mess of constant occurrences in this huge space known as “the present moment”. Right now is happening all across the world and in this enormous collage of “now”, collisions happen. We only find these collisions strange when they are of a certain character which is somehow meaningful to us.

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Asheron’s call Part 2: “Carebears”

Follow this link to read Part 1 in this series.

Before the story goes any further, I really need to explain the key mechanics at play. Without understanding them, it’s impossible to see the fascinating behaviours exhibited by the player population.

Carebears

The most commonly used insult and an accurate description of most people. As in real life a Carebear is someone who wants to play if they are on the winning team, who wants to fight if the odds are in their favour, who wants to progress without obstacles. They are followers rather than leaders.

Whilst Asheron’s Call had an economy (based around cash and loot and player trades for rare items) on Darktide the currency was Carebears. Available in their thousands, Carebears were the worker bees that powered the XP Chains and the cannon fodder that won or lost wars. The only information anyone could see about a Monarchy was the total number of members, by viewing the character sheet of someone in that monarchy. Therefore, in a time of war, the only measure for the progress of that war was whether the Monarchs concerned were gaining or losing members.

Because Carebears don’t stay and fight for the losing team.

Second, Character Builds & Leveling

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Games that blur the boundaries of work and play

Video games are often framed as sites of play and entertainment. Their transformation into work platforms and the staggering amount of work that is being done in these games often go unnoticed. Users spend on average 20 hours a week in online games, and many of them describe their game play as obligation, tedium, and more like a second job than entertainment.

So begins Nick Yee’s study “The Labor of Fun“, an article about the work like duties that come along MMORPGs. Today I wanted to give a quick shout out to this study which I think you might find interesting if you are an MMO player like me.

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