Sesame Street taught me a lot of valuable lessons when I was a kid - like how to share licorice with friends, how to group up and pwn a carebear, and how to figure out who stole my bike. Although the cops thought I was crazy when I told them Cookie Monster absconded with my two-wheeler, the show still taught me valuable lessons I would use later when dealing with people in MMOs. And yes, kids, the theme today is SHARING.
Without falling too much into the "back in the day" trap, it's safe to say that there was at one time an inclination for collaboration in open worlds. Players adventuring in the Guk dungeons in EverQuest, for instance, kept detailed lists of groups for each boss and arranged rotation schedules. More experienced groups even helped less equipped groups get to more difficult areas. That isn't to say that open-world dungeons worked with Marxist idealism; there were plenty of conflicts, lots of name-calling, and guerrilla tactics used between rival factions that didn't get along. The greater attitude, however, was one of cooperation, of an attitude that everyone had a right to get what they wanted and that the community would work as a whole to that end.
As MMOs became more mainstream, that attitude fell away. At the time, many blamed it on power gamers, a faction of gamers that were late to the party and were viewed with disdain by the community - a real flip from today's MMO scene. Others blamed it on the "kids" that were coming in and playing selfishly, instead of the rest of the mature adults who clearly were better gamers. The real blame, however, probably had to do with an increasing population, both in quantity and diversity. Quite simply, demand was too high to continue to share with a smile. We kicked the dog out of the chair, because it was ours.
Fast forward to the present day, where bosses and desired loot have been mostly relegated to private instances. What's left for people to fight over are world bosses (which are also becoming increasingly scarce) and quest mobs. World bosses, of course, fall into the same category as the open-world dungeon bosses of yesteryear. Quest mobs, especially named mobs that take time to respawn after every kill, should fall back to the egalitarian rules of share and share alike.
You're laughing at that notion, aren't you? Don't worry. So am I.
While a lack of sharing happens in all MMOs, across all level spans, there's nothing like a new MMO to remind you of just how bad the situation gets. Take 15 new characters, all who need the same quest mob. Three parties, three respawns, 15 people awarded credit. That's not what happens, though. Instead, you end up with 13 individuals and two people who decided it would be wise to group, all vying for the same mob repeatedly, playing a damage roulette to see who gets credit. Why? Because no one wants to party up, even if it's for the few minutes it takes to wait for an enemy to spawn and die, even if there's no chance of loot being involved. It isn't even a matter of "first come, first serve" - it's a more cutthroat "it's mine and I'm going to get it before the rest of you" attitude.
The effort of grouping together for a single quest mob is simple and painless, and benefits everyone involved - so why do players opt for the selfish route? There are a few possible explanations. First, people may just be anti-social. They may want to play the game in peace, not having to worry about what other people might do, say, or think - that is, it's their game and the rest of the world can just deal with it. Such attitudes, of course, leave a question about playing social games in the first place, but every solo-only MMO player has their own reasons.
Ignorance could be another reason, especially in a new game. New players may not know what certain mobs are for. If they've played other games, they may see a named mob as a chance to drop rare loot, and simply demolish it without second thought of the others congregated around. While calling out people for their ignorance may satisfy us, and possibly educate them, as the saying goes, what's done is done.
In the end, though, it might just be because we've come to expect disrespectful behavior. Our mindset has developed into a core belief that everyone is out to get us - or, at least, that everyone is an ass. As famous Three Kingdoms general, turned prime minister (turned tyrant, according to some) Cao Cao eloquently states, "I'd rather betray the world than let the world betray me." In simpler terms, we act the way we do because we don't want to be screwed. No one wants to wait 30 minutes for a quest mob to respawn because someone ganked it from under our noses. Instead, we act upon baser urges, and when we see the object of our attention, we strike with little thought of anything else. At least it's not us left waiting around on a respawn timer, this time.
Even if it's clear there are 14 other people around us waiting for one quest mob. Even if everyone immediately jumps on the mob in question in hopes to prevail. Even then - we persist in our selfish attitudes.
The solution? Remember there are other people playing the game. Simple? Not quite. One of the biggest obstacles is communication, which takes manners, effort, and the hope that the other person gives a damn. Be polite: let them know, if the mob isn't around, that you're waiting for it to spawn. Let them know it'd be quicker to group together to kill it, not only in actual time spent in the act, but also in the logic that two people getting one kill takes less time than one person getting one kill, leaving the other to wait. The less time spent waiting, the more time spent doing productive things, like killing more common, wide-spread mobs for other quests. Take initiative: even if the person doesn't respond, toss them a group invite. Sometimes the silent stand-bys will get the hint and accept.
Barring that, just move on. Assuming you can get quests for other areas, if it's not that important to you, continue with the game, smug with the knowledge that you're advancing past them. If it's an early level, is it that important to get a short sword of weaksauce when the next area will give you the almighty claymore of destructo-vision? Sure, the reward from the quest may help you short term, but overall, it's only acting as a hindrance to your progress if it involves fighting off hordes of selfish newbies. If it is something you're stuck doing, just try tabbing out for a few minutes or getting a drink. The crowds often clear out after a few minutes and give you a brief chance to make your move.
Finally, you can always step away from the game, and come back during off-peak hours. Then you can laugh as you're the only one for miles around, and can exclaim, "It's mine! It's all mine! Mwahaha!"
This column was brought to you by the letter Q, the number nine, and brought about by viewers like you. Maybe. Just make sure to lock up your bike and hide your licorice. Some things aren't meant to be shared.