Being an MMO fan, playing with others seems like it should be a no-brainer. Popular wisdom dictates that people play MMOs because they want to play withpeople, right? Personally, I don’t subscribe to this: I play MMOs because they’re expansive, always available (except during patching windows), and updated frequently. I do like that there are other people in the world, though, because it makes the world more alive than it would be if it were just NPCs standing around, being helpless until you happen along to run their menial tasks for them. Thing is, I don’t like to play with random people.
I’ll jump ahead and say simply that I blame the game design mentality that puts loot and it’s inherent selfishness ahead of anything that requires people to actually work together for reasons beyond sheer brute force. I have no issues playing with people I know because I’m confident that we’re all nice people. If we want to take content slow, we’re all OK with that. If we don’t have the best gear, we’re also OK with that. We like the experience of the game, and aren’t in it for the loot or prestige.
One driving force that I’ve come to appreciate is honest-to-goodness community. This transcends in-game grouping, and isn’t even centered on MMOs. Finding a decent group of human beings who’s opinions you trust and who value the same things as you do when it comes to games is a much better motivator for me than any mechanical feature that a game offers. Sure, this is nothing new: tight-knit guilds or groups of friends have always been the tethers that keep people playing a particular game, or when severed, cause people to drift away.
The thing is, I’ve found I don’t even need that strong of an attraction: just a bunch of nice people being passionate about what they’re doing, so long as they’re all doing something in the same game. That’s important because a lot of people I interact with are gamers. Not all of us are playing the same games. It’s great to be able to talk about “gaming” with them, but if I’m not playing a game that someone else is, and vice versa, we can’t commiserate on anything specific. We can’t keep each other interested in the game itself like we can when we’re playing the same game, having similar experiences, discovering new things about the game, and even sometimes getting together in-game as well.
I realize now that after years of solo trekking across the MMO landscape, the reason why I’ve never been able to commit to a single game has been because of my lack of involvement in a really passionate community. I’ll take my share of the blame — I don’t find it easy to just drop myself into someone else’s life and feel comfortable — but I also wish there were more communities out there who organized along the same sentiments of “games as enjoyment” and not “games as ego-boosters”.