The word conjures a certain image of people living near one another, helping one another and in general interacting together. In the MMO world it is usually defined loosely as interactions per server and mainly on the primary chat channels of the game and on their forums.
The discussion invariably leads to its degredation from the old games to the newer generation of games. Was community better and if so why?
The simple answer is yes, it was better then.
The best analogy I can equate it to is the difference between being a part of an exclusive country club and how its members treat one another compared to a public golf course; or the difference between a '7.00 a drink' night club and one that sells 2.00 drafts.
As the MMO genre moved from niche to mainstream they swept up with it people who had never heard of RPGs. When you advertise yourself as all-inclusive you gather up the riff raff.
The game formats have also lent themselves to rudeness and abuse.
The reasons are varied but some primary reasons are as follows:
- Ease of Leveling: As games have gone from hard, slow grinds where item loss and xp loss upon death were the norm, to a quick jaunt from the graveyard and a bit of gold loss, the loss of consequences has generated the equivalent of a poker player that plays on house money. A person in the newer genre of MMO can be a total asshat on the chat channels, grief, be a bad group-mate and in a few short weeks reroll from that character to another. Worse yet, in the case of World of Warcraft, pay for a name change and assume a whole new identity without even enduring the tedium of the level grind.
- With nothing to lose you don't worry much about your in-game actions and thus your attitude toward the game and people within changes. There is no character attachment.
Solo Game-Play: When you don't need a group to level you also don't develop the in-game relationships with the people in the game you used to. Most quests are easier and quicker alone than with another person tagging along, particularly collection quests.
Want it Now and Easy Crowd: Those same impatient players that flooded World of Warcraft have now spread into other games and want everything easy and now. They want to portal everywhere, they want "dungeon finders, they want insta-queues. Patience is gone, traveling the world for the sake of it lost and along with it is character identity. You don't ever have to have been a Role-player to have character attachment. Spending many hours on one character instead of having five 'alts' tended to do that.
Like anything in life, when you don't have to work for something you don't appreciate it nearly as much as if you did. My thinking is a game can be challenging and fun and still difficult enough to bring back some attachment to the character for his/her achievements and the friends you gathered along the way. The community would improve by neccessity.
A shift in direction back toward earning your way to the top would be a refreshing one.