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The staff of MMORPG.com gets together to bring you some behind the scenes insights on stories, the industry and the site itself.

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Contributors: BillMurphy,MikeB,garrett,SBFord,Grakulen,

Community Spotlight: The Decline of Socialization?

Posted by MikeB Sunday September 16 2012 at 8:41PM
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In this week's Community Spotlight, we're focusing on the thread, "Socializing getting the shaft, from us the players?" by Dewm. In the thread, Dewm hits on a recent trend of discussions on the state of socialization on MMOs. Dewm feels socialization is on the decline in MMOs and pins the cause on the pace of contemporary MMOs:

So this thread is kinda in conjunction with the other socializing thread on the board here. But I didn't feel it was on toppic enough to post there.

But in the discusion people were talking about whether grouping is the same as socializing, which quickly turned into a thread about why you like or dislike chatting in groups and what not..

... my view/question would be:

    Is chatting and socializing getting the shaft because games are quicker these days. Here is what I mean, it used to be in the old days, it would take 10minutes-1hour to get a group togeather and in this meantime you would be sitting in a partial group chatting it up, and then you would go to said zone and start killing mobs, now the attacks were slow enough you could quickly get out some chat in the meantime "Mob behind you", "don't pull the rabbit" "buff please" etc etc... and then the whole group would have a 20 second cooldown before the next pull/attack.. Lots of time for chat.

But nowdays everything is so fast paced, you join a random group, 1-2minutes.. you get auto transported to the begenning on the dungeon, you zone in...start kiling stuff and all of the skills happen so fast and have fast enough of a cooldown that not many people chat and there is no communications, which not only leads to less socializing but also less communications leads to more mistakes = more disasters.. frustration etc..

so I guess I'm wondering what your opinion is.

Is Dewm correct in his assessment? Read on to find out what the community has to say!

Aerowyn certainly agrees:

I agree with the OP ...fast pace of games definitely attributes to the feeling of lack of socialization for some people.. like the OP said back in the old MMO days you generally had time to talk during fights and the pace of everything was much slower in many games. Nowadays I don't see this type of game really getting mass appeal anymore as obviously the more "action based" combat systems seem to be taking more center stage... but think of it like CS or CoD.. all very team oriented online games that require teamwork and coordination to do well yet no one types anything because to be productive you NEED to really be on voice chat.. voice chat is much much bigger nowadays than it was in the past and this as well can attribute to some people feeling games as being less social.

evolver1972 sees what Dewm is seeing, but has a number of different theories as to why things are the way they are these days:

Mama told me never to talk to strangers.  I think that's a big aspect of the anti social behavior in many games today.  It used to be that only a certain type of person (usually geeky teenaged males - no offense, just telling it like it was!) tended to play MMOs, or even RPGs in general.  So, most everyone had a common passion that came out quickly in most interactions in the game playing.  That common ground was a natural ice-breaker for many people, so it was easy to build a fairly tight-knit community especially within a guild setting.

Then comes WoW.  If nothing else, it put MMOs into the mainstream.  But now that means that many people no longer have that common ground at first.  The new people to MMO gaming didn't have that passion for RPGs and MMOs, they had a curiosity about a game and then maybe developed a passion for that particular game.  Some of those people have branched out to other games and may be a little more social than the freshest MMO noob, but are still not as social as the old school players.

Fast forward to today, and most people are living fast paced lives, so they don't have much time to devote to slowing down and talking to people.  They also have a heightened sense of security which brings them right back to the "don't talk to strangers".  I think many people shy away from talking to others online, even in a game, because they just don't know, and hence don't trust, the person on the other computer.

Khaeros is perfectly happy with the current MMO climate:

As a guild leader, I prefer the current MMO climate.

Back in the so-called "good old days", people were forced to socialize in order to progress.  To some people on here, being forced to socialize sounds like a good idea, but let's take it apart a bit more. 

If players are forced to socialize, then the people who don't want to socialize have to look for a guild.  When they decide to join my guild (which is based around social events, hosting world events for all gameplay types, and generally being a respectful force that strives to leave the community better than it was), they fill up my guild roster and don't show up to all the stuff we focus on - except the events that reward them with the loot they need to go forward.  I do not want this kind of player in my guild.

These days, if players want socialization, they are forced to seek it out themselves.  Therefore, almost everyone who applies to my guild is genuinely interested in socializing and being a positive force in the community.  Because the people who are solely in it for the loot have other options, I now have no doubt that anyone who expresses interest in my guild has the 'right' reasons for doing so. 

The only people who can't find socialization in the current MMO landscape are people who are plain bad at socializing.  This is exactly how it should be, and my guild has prospered because of it. 

If you want to play socially, find guilds like mine.  Hit up the forums.  Get involved with the people who act as caretakers for the server you are on, like the people who often get their posts stickied.  Join user chat channels and actually talk to people instead of whining on MMORPG.com about it.  Don't be awkward. 

If you can't find social players, then there's something wrong with your approach

 

I am seeing a lot of what Dewm is seeing, as well. I do think a lot of it does have to do with the pacing of MMOs these days, but at the same time, I don't necessarily want to go back to where MMOs forced socialization down your throat.

All my favorite MMO memories are social ones, especially those in Star Wars Galaxies, but if I take off my rose-tinted glasses for a moment, I really only had time to do most of that socialization due to SWG's pacing. There was a lot of prep involved in adventuring in Star Wars Galaxies and it was that pacing that encouraged players to talk to each other. Sitting around in a camp buffing before taking on Ft. Tusken, getting entertainer buffs at a nearby cantina, these all took long enough that you'd be inclined to talk to other people in the vicinity. I enjoyed all of that socialization quite a bit and I've made friends that I game with to this day as a result of it, but would I want to play an MMO today that was slow enough in pace to encourage the same levels of socialization? I'm not too sure.

I have a full-time job now and my own social circle on voice chat that it's become a bit less important. I think this is probably true for a lot of us and that combined with the current breakneck pacing of most MMOs is likely the culprit for the lack of traditional socialization.

I feel many developers have recognized this over the years and that's why instead of trying to go back to the way things are, MMOs have evolved to make playing with others seamless and accessible. Implicit grouping via Public Quests, RIFTs, or dynamic events seems to be where the trend is heading and it's this sort of content design that encourages players to get together and play, even if most of these relationships are transient in nature. I guess you could say that these designs further enable the current trend of things, but I don't think going back to the designs of old would even work today. Players just wouldn't play those games. I know many of us here at MMORPG.com might, but looking at the broader market, I don't think an MMO with the pacing of say, SWG, would really work in  today's MMO landscape.

MMOs still offer the potential for a great deal of socialization, but as Khaeros said, it's more up to us to seek that out specifically if we want it.

What do you think of the state of MMO socialization? And why are things the way they are? Let us know in the comments below!

theniffrig writes:

"MMOs still offer the potential for a great deal of socialization, but as Khaeros said, it's more up to us to seek that out specifically if we want it."

Why? Why is it that way & why is it that seems to be the answer everyone gives to the problem of socializing in MMO's now? For me, that generic answer is part of the problem. MMO's by nature should be focused on the social side of the game more-so than any other part as that is the one USP (that's unique selling point if you dont know) this genre of games has over others. As I said before single player games do PVE better than any MMO could hope to & the same can be said for online PVP focused games. That pretty much leaves MMO's with socializing. Why devs don't see this point and make or engineer situations that essentially force socializing in these games I don't know. Seem's to me they are giving the same answer I keep seeing, which is this rediculous answer of 'seeking it out yourself'.

Mon Sep 17 2012 4:30AM Report
SpottyGekko writes:

In modern MMO's we have "virtual socialization", i.e. you can socialize without having to talk to anyone :D

In public events and GW2's DE's, you play alongside masses of other strangers. When it's all over, they are still total strangers, but you all socialized for a while !

It's a natural evolution I suppose. Those that actually want to socialize in the classic sense still can. They just need to find others that are likewise inclined. In the current MMO world, that % of the playerbase appears to be fairly small though.

It probably always was, it's just more noticeable now that the number of players is vastly bigger than it was 10 years ago. As one of the qouted posts in the article states, there simply was a higher % of socializers in the early MMO's, most likely because so many of them came from pen-and-paper gaming backgrounds, where talking to others was an integral part of the game experience.

Mon Sep 17 2012 4:43AM Report
Kyleran writes:

As mentioned, it's the pacing of the games that's changed and brought about the decline of socialization in MMO's. (and no, fighting along side each other is not socialization, might as well be bots with you)

But that's what the greater player base has demanded, faster paced MMO's, so developers have given it to them, however it's really changed them into mostly single player experiences that are quickly discarded after a few months of play.

Sometimes what the players want really isn't good for the genre as a whole, they just don't realize it yet.

 

Mon Sep 17 2012 6:17AM Report
gaeanprayer writes:

I'd disagree, I prefer the current pacing of MMOs, though going back to the old ways would be a good way to make me more productive, considering I'd drop MMOs all together. People keep saying the "nature" of an MMO is that "focing socializing" down one's throat, but that's an incorrect assumption. MMO stands for nothing more than Massive, Multiplayer, and Online. Nowhere in any of that does it state it's going to be a social experience, at most it's implied by the "multiplayer" part, yet even then when I log into a multiplayer game I don't talk to the people around me, much less those I'm probably in the middle of killing. Even before the current genre of MMOs came into being, I didn't play them socially, and those I had to have a group for in order to play I immediately moved away from, or just played until the point when parties became essential. 

 

People are lazy as hell. They can't be bothered to make and maintain friendships so they'd rather developers force them to do so. Nevermind that the way it is now, we at least have the ability to PLAY our game and the majority of its content long after the rest of the playerbase has moved on to other things. If you want to socialize, there's outlets for them; join a guild, make a guild, run group content rather than sit on your ass waiting for someone else to start the group for you, get over yourself and download a voice chat program, etc. The world evolves whether you like it or not, enjoy the ride or get left behind.

Mon Sep 17 2012 11:16AM Report
Torvaldr writes:

Since when did socialization mean entertaining needy people in chat?  I socialize just as much now in GW2, RIFT, City of Steam, and my other MMOs as I did in Lineage.

I'm not there to entertain you or be your buddy.  I'm there to game and, if after a while we happen to meet enough and get to know each other, we might form an online friendship.

I'm really not as stand-offish as my posts might sound.  It's just that people who complain about others not socializing with them and making "friends" with them come across as very needy and sort of creepy to me.

Not only that communities take time to develop.  Are we seriously so short sighted as to compare socialization and robust communities in games that sometimes span a decade with new games that have been out a year or less?

In the world of MMO problems needing to be addressed this rates way down on the list to me.  Choose your battles.

Mon Sep 17 2012 11:30AM Report
mmoguy43 writes:

If you have been around to observe MMOs in the last 10+ years you can clearly see the change in socializing. Faster paced gameplay is only one of the may reasons for the decline of socializing. And when I say socializing I mean more than just the chat box. Interacting with other players used to be a natural part of MMOs and it is largely removed with the change from grouping to solo centered content.

It is good that at least some are try to improve dispite still being solo centric like Rift and GW2. However it is only socializing by player presence, playing cooperatively with no communication, this could be laziness though....

Mon Sep 17 2012 12:55PM Report
Daranar writes:

Regardless of what we all say, we lie.  We say we want fast paced, but then devs give us that, and weeks later the games are ghost towns.   I agree with Kyleran,  Sometimes what we players want, is not good for the genre.   I cant find a game to stick with like I did EQ because socialization is gone.   Game mechanics, content, end-game all that other crap isnt what retains a player...It is a thriving social community.

Lets forgot MMO for a second and look at one of the biggest and most succuessful RPG franchices in gaming history:  Elder Scrolls.  Every installment has had incredible sales, and dedicated players who play through multiple times.   I still know a lot of people who play Morrowind, let alone oblivion.   And everyone on the forums knows Skyrim is still kickin, that's where we all go when we get bored of the MMO we are playin.   And aside from paper and pen and our first gen MMOs (EQ, AC, DAoC) there are very few RPGs with a slower pace.   

Now let me ask you all something, Do we the players really want fast paced RPGs?   It seems to me we quit our fast paced games after the buzz wears off and return to our nice and slow paced favorite time and time again.

So as has been my plea for years now: DEVS!, stop giving us what we want (after all we only thank you with our sub cancellation) and give us your art.  Bring back what made us fall in love with the genre while still evolving it for new systems! At the end of the day, whether we admit it or not, we all love the time in which we can get to know our group-mates, fellow players, and peers in chat.   After all, 'slow and steady always wins the race.'

Mon Sep 17 2012 2:43PM Report

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