I recently bought a new anime box set while I was visiting the city, some may know it as ".hack//sign". For those that don't know it I linked it to wikipedia, or here is a quick intro...
Set in the near future where an MMO is played by downloading your conciousness (your body stays active) MMOs are fully immersive. The story focusses on a fictional MMO where a young player finds themselves unable to log out of the game. The story follows several players ranging from a player-killer to a noob-helper as they meet for the first time and deal with the problem as well as others. In essence it is about characters that were previously solo players but discover they work better with the support of eachother.
...and back to the article. The story was fascinating as it helped me look once again in the area of social support in an MMO. While all the characters play the game to escape from reality (for different reasons, some unknown) they all discover that they truly appreciate how others look after them. This reminded me of my first true experience of group work.
I originally got into MMOs with the fantastic game Eve:Online which I accidentally found while I was randomly browsing the web. Signing onto the beta I was solo for a long time, even when the game went live I was solo. I was even solo when my brother played, only talking to him in order to transfer some ore fro me to process or for him to ship to another place to sell. it was not until Guild Wars that I experienced true encouragement.
My mind view on social gaming changed one day in Guild Wars soon after it was first released. i was in a group to kill some NPC in Kessex Peak (been so long I had to look it up) and we were doing very poorly. By the time we were through a quarter of the instance we had died several times, we decided one more try. We moved forward and... was overpowered. One brave person said they would hold them back while we ran for the exit, so we did. As I was running behind others we were suddenly overcome by several more enemies and seeing we were doomed I turned around again, this time heading away from the exit. Soon everyone lay dead except me, and I was not faring well as I was trailing a dozen angry npcs. I made a decision "I am going to take them to the end! hopefully they will kill the boss." i began running the the end of the instance.
Now what was teamwork was not the fighting, we were hopeless at it, what made it teamwork was the sudden encouragement my team gave me as I sprinted across the grassy fields towards the enemy, shouts of "OMG!" and "Keep going" flashed across my chat window as I trailed over fifty enemies. by the time I was almost there one of my teammates had made it back in and had joined me to heal and also help with trailing the massive army we were dragging behind. We were almost there when the team mate died and I was a centimeter from death... and I died, at the foot of the boss we had to kill... And cheers went up, the group watched as their screens indicated that the army I trailed massacred the boss, completing the quest for them. Celebrations were heard and everyone thanked me for my insanity.
See, it was not the action of healers, tanks, dps and coordination that won the day, it was the social support that won the day, otherwise I may have dropped dead on the spot.
From that day many people used the strategy, however I can guarantee that very few of them experienced the lesson I learned that day. For you can play an MMO for years but when you get the prize of a group that supports and encourages each other you get an excellent feeling, one that I hope many others have experienced before.