Browsing Category MMOs

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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Knights of the Fallen Empire and how we got here

As I step into the story-driven adventure SWTOR has provided me with I can’t help but fall in love with the plot of this new expansion. Through BioWare-style cinematic storytelling we are offered a high quality narrative filled with well rounded characters, comic relief, dynamic conflicts of interest and many twists and turns in the story. This kind of single player like story telling is new for an MMO and we are all watching with excitement to see what happens once the chapters are completed. Will people stay for the end game? For the community? Is SWTOR taking a chance on a new brave concept or just repeating old mistakes? Before we return to dig deeper into the new expansion, bear with me for a minute while I quickly reminisce over how we ended up where we are in SWTOR today…

Developed by BioWare Austin, SWTOR was first announced on October 21, 2008. In 2009 the game’s first cinematic trailer “Deceived“, made byDeceived Blur Studio, was presented at a press conference and in September the same year BioWare began accepting applications for testers from the gaming community. Within minutes, the official website was down due to the high traffic. The increase in visitors was accommodated and a second  and third cinematic trailer (“Hope” and “Return“) were released. Books were also published to increase the hype. This was a great way to promote the game to Star Wars hungry fans and within three days of its launch SWTOR had one million subscribers, making it the fastest growing MMO ever seen. However, this thrilling success did not last long and in the following months the game lost a fair share of its subscribers. What happened?

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What You Want, Others Don’t Like :: Expectations in MMOs

My (utterly brilliant) editor tells me I need to prepare you good people for a fairly personal post, which this is. It’s been a tough couple of weeks at Alternative Towers, and it all came to a head yesterday when I was informed in no uncertain terms that I’ve no idea how to have ‘fun’ in the game I choose to write about daily. Needless to say, I know a red flag when I see one. So, instead of going and muttering incoherently about how people don’t understand me in a corner? You get this, because sometimes it isn’t just about what I want or what you think is right, it’s about making everybody understand the bigger issues at play.

I’m getting increasingly annoyed with being told to cheer up when it comes to how I write about Warcraft. It appears that, according to some, I just don’t have enough ‘fun’ any more, and that being ‘nice’ is far more important in most cases than playing the game.

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Extra Life – Gaming and increasing awareness

Throughout the short period of time that I have been gaming I’ve seen announcements for many charity events. In the very start this seemed like a strange combination. Gaming and charity? Really? We often learn from society to be skeptical to the world of (especially online) gaming. We hear much of the negative effects. The people who are a part of online communities that they genuinely care about are often made to feel foolish by people who are not a part of this environment and who will heavily judge those who are. I’ve written before about the positive effects of gaming for the individual. But is there more to it?

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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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Azeroth: Confessions and emotional investments

The first game I ever played was Pong. It was 1978, and I was twelve years old. My father worked for the Ford Motor Company and flew a lot between Dagenham (Essex, UK) and Detroit, and on one particular trip he arrived home with an Atari 2600. That’s when everything changed. After that it was the ZX81, then the BBC B and an Amiga. The first pay cheque my boyfriend earned after graduating University went on buying a 386 PC with a copy of Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Nearly thirty years on we’re still married, and gaming is a part of everyone’s lives in this house: my 14 year old son and 10 year old daughter are playing Trove together as I type this article.

However, these days I spend quite a lot of time in Azeroth playing World of Warcraft, and that’s what I’ll be talking about during my tenure here.

The MMO was bought initially in order to help me through long nights breast feeding the youngest, and in the end it saved me from myself, after I was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. It became a space where I could allow myself to just kick back and relax, and evolved into something more significant as time went on: becoming a GM in a small but committed Guild gave me confidence in the virtual world where none existed in reality. It was a vital first step back on a road to recovery which pushed me to write daily as a means of helping to rationalise how I felt and to deal with the issues I had. In February 2016 I will celebrate seven years of my Warcraft Blog. I know that without this particular game in my life, I’d not be the person I now am.

It’s odd when people ask me to describe the journey I’ve had with games since those early days. Being a woman in what was back then very much a man’s world was always difficult, especially when I could make my 10p last longer in a Galaxians machine than most boys my age.

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