I began playing SWtor at launch and was utterly new to MMO’s. In fact I had no intention of spending much time interacting with other players. I had a few real life friends who had expressed mutual interest in the game and that was cool. I intended to play the game for the story alone as I was already a fan of Bioware & Obsidians outstanding Knights of the old Republic games. Obviously this all changed and I soon became part of an online community within the game. I was just casually minding my own business, levelling on Voss as I recall and a guy asked me to group up for a heroic quest. This was pretty alien to me at the time, mingling with a complete stranger in a virtual environment, but was very rewarding! The sense of accomplishment and teamwork was great and something which I had yet to experience in video games.
After completing the quest, the player who invited me to the party offered me a place in his “guild”. This was another concept I was unfamiliar with, but the last novelty went ok so I said “sure” and took my first gm ‘Ruuk’ up on his proposition.
Being part of the guild certainly had a positive effect on my time in game, advice and help was always offered and there were always people around to just hang out with. It’s funny how someone just saying “Hi” can put you in a good mood when you log into a game. Which brings to mind the question, are there other online communities outside of gaming that can induce a strong feeling of interpersonal bonding? I ask this since the competitive nature of playing video games and the immersion factor appears to enhance the connection.
So what about the elements of discovery and sharing skills and techniques etc… in gaming, would that help bring people together community wise? This leads me to go off on a little tangerine from where I started and get to the point.
Before I started playing SWtor, I spent quite a lot of time active on an Internet forum called ‘The Serious Sounds Network’. It was a place where people interested in making/playing/Dj’ing, and listening to more underground styles of music could come together and share ideas. A place where people would be able to come with a question, and from my experience always got precisely what they were looking for! Setup in 2003 by record producer and Dj Xe-Cute, TSSN was a little known goldmine to anyone interested in sound design & audio production.
There was a wide variety of content available, including user created sounds, samples and links to royalty free vocal websites, but it was on the forums where all the juicy stuff took place. Members would compile detailed instructions, tutorials and YouTube videos and offer advice to those who sought it, where this differed from other forums though was in the board ‘moderation’/’administration’ system Xe-Cute had implemented. If someone had created a useful piece of content on the forums, users could ‘upvote’ the post, a standard function in most forums & social media now. But Xe had designated certain ‘Ranks’ so to say, and the upvotes were almost like gaining experience points to ‘level up’ to the next rank! It was a great way of rewarding people, a sense of achievement. The members who created did so for no gain other than to help someone in the community out, when other companies and institutions would charge a fee for the privilege. Some of the more prolific contributors had gone on to become successful record producers, label owners, sound designers (no name dropping here, I’ll resist the clang). I had made lots of friends and connections in the community whilst raising my ‘prestige’ with any contributions I could make. One of my friends there even turned out to be playing SWtor on the same server as me, so was great meeting up in game and beating up some nasty Sith baddies!
Then in 2013, after an extended period of inactivity, we found out from another TSSN member that the site founder Xe-Cute had passed away. I had never met the guy, and only ever had limited interactions with him (although they were great and he was a sweetheart) but I suddenly felt terrible. I had evidently formed some sort of bond for this to happen? Regardless, I knew I would miss him and so would the other members and board admins who knew him better than I.
A while after the passing of Xe, the remaining forum moderators and members had tried to contact his family to organise acquiring the website to preserve the TSSN name. It was Xe-Cutes legacy and people were quick to want to contribute once more to the community. Unfortunately, due to complications unknown to me at the time, this was not an option. The members knew when the site was going down and that it was kind of an ‘end of an era. Some had tried to setup a similar forum, I had joined too but it wasn’t the same and I slowly drifted away from there. Although quite a few of the remaining members are in a Serious Sounds group on Soundcloud, so we can keep tabs on each other’s progress there. When the site went down, I can’t speak for everyone but I kinda had that feeling like you get when you all leave school, it was sad to be coming to the end of something which had been so positive and creative in a social aspect, but c’est la vie, the most exciting thing about change is that you never know what’s around the corner.
The way Xe-Cute had created this little community was awesome, as was the contribution by all those involved and I’m proud to say I was part of it! Now I’m part of an awesome menagerie of friends from all over the globe, participating in another social online activity. Being part of my guild in SWtor and the friends I have in game makes me delighted to be part of something so positive and fun. The community on my home server have managed to surpass my expectations. Holding events, such as PvP tournaments, Speeder races, quiz nights to mention but a few. This kind of attention to detail is what keeps people interested, and the developers could benefit greatly from the hard work of the players. The sad thing is, I know now from experience that it can’t last forever. Especially in a game like SWtor I’m reminded of this often. Many of my friends have left the game, and it seems from my point of view the population is declining.
So what do you think? Who else found there perfect little virtual communal sanctuary? Tell me about it in the comments below!