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Posts Tagged ‘sociality’

From the sound of it (thanks, Fool’s Age, Rowan x 2, Syp and Syl, I can’t recommend your articles enough), the social scene in Guild Wars 2 is exactly what I’m looking for when it comes to MMO sociality:  a light touch, encouraging cooperation instead of demanding it.

The way of the Open Hand of friendship, instead of the Closed Fist of the designer.  It’s a Zen kinda thing, man.

It’s… less Big Brother, more… Crazy Uncle Eddie with golems and firecrackers.

I’m just wired that way.  Tell me I must do something social, like find a tank and a healer to run a dungeon, and I’ll fight it and try to solo it.  Tell me that there are baddies that need whumping over thataway, give me tools to help anyone I happen to stumble into, and I’ll stop to give a hand up to a fallen friendly or do whatever tricks I can to offer assistance in killing said baddies.

Tell me I can be social, and I probably will.  Tell me I have to be, and I probably won’t.

Guild Wars 2 apparently also has a big exploration factor, and that’s kind of what I do in these MMO things.  Yes, I’m looking forward to playing GW2.  I’m selling some of my older games to fund it (and make my blasted computer work), and one of those WoW time cards, but that’s OK, new vistas await.  One can’t dwell in the past forever.

Unless one is a nasty, grumpy ghost of Ascalon, I guess.

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Traditionally, these blog things start out with some sort of introductory post.  It’s sort of the text equivalent of a “hello, I’m Bob the Fish” that you might offer at a social gathering in real life before going on to the preconversation chatter about the weather or the hostess, then slowly weaving in to any other relevant topics.  Of course, this isn’t always necessary, as I’ve certainly had conversations in stores (hardware stores, usually… it’s a guy thing) where no names were exchanged.  Still, it’s nice to give a sense of who you are to begin with, if only to set a tone for any later writing.  A blog that starts with a “Hello World” post will read differently from a blog starting with a “Did You See What SHE Was Wearing?” post, though either is just fine.

Here’s my initial post, in all its rough glory, for better or worse.

I jumped into the blogging world by commenting on other blogs, like Big Bear Butt‘s place (he’s the one that really prompted me to start blogging, as he appreciated my comments, thereby making me think I might have something to offer… though I should probably post my rather verbose entries on my own pages), Spinksville, Wolfshead, Muckbeast, Stylish CorpseCapn’ John’s and I Has PC.  The administrators of these and other blogs have been gracious, engaging folk, and I think of them as friends that I’ve never met in person.  Their interests are varied, though there’s the common thread of MMOs that wound up leading me to each of them.  They don’t all get along with each other all the time.  They don’t have shared politics, philosophies or schemes for world domination.  (Not sure on that last one, actually.)  And yet, they all have great writing skills, strong personalities and interesting things to say.  And, well… I’m pretty sure I never read any of their introductory posts.  Sometimes, it’s perfectly fine to just hit the ground running.  After my quick intro post, I wound up posting this juggernaut of an article: Apple Picking.

That’s fairly indicative of my style.  I’ve done a lot of writing in my day, and I tend to explore implications and dig into game design decisions and theory.  It’s probably a bit dry, a bit verbose, and the language is a bit esoteric and archaic in places.  In sum, though, that’s my “voice”, so that’s how my posts settle out of the mental morass of ideas that I itch to get in type.  Sometimes, it’s as much about getting thoughts down “on paper” as it is about offering some thoughts to the internet.  It’s my experience that the act of formulating thoughts into a cohesive bit of text tends to refine said thoughts and make them more easily remembered and more easily explained.

At the end of the day, writing a blog is something you do because you want to, and what you write should be a reflection of that.  If nothing else, you are your own audience, and if writing is a drudge or a bore, it’s OK to do something else.  If you’re having fun writing and engaging with any commenters who happen to wander by, hey, that’s icing on the cake.

So really, you don’t need to answer the question “who am I?” right away, or even explicitly at all.  Most of us operate under a nom de plume anyway, the digital equivalent of trucker or ham radio “handles”, and that’s how we are known.  That’s part of the beauty of this internet thing; I’m Tesh, the guy who writes this blog.  My real name isn’t important, nor are silly things like skin color, weight, clothing, or any of the other superficial things that people are judged and prejudged by.  My articles can stand on their own merit or lack thereof, my ideas and my writing have a purity of presentation that might not be possible in other venues.  To be sure, there’s a sense of common courtesy and even subtle undercurrents of online politics and agendas that one may run afoul of, but for the most part, this blogging thing is remarkably clear of a lot of cruft that other modes of communication deal with.  There’s just something… pristine about words on a “page” that makes for a nice philosophical playground.

Who am I?  I’m Tesh.  Who are you?  Well, that’s up to you. May as well make the most of it.

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The most insidious message of class-based sociality, whether it’s MMO design or classist notions in “real life”, is that people only are, and can only ever be, what someone else has pigeonholed them into being, or what they chose to be once upon a time, long ago.  Once you’re labeled, your entire raison d’être is defined, your fate sealed.  There is no learning, no evolution, no enlightenment.  Only a dammed populace, stuck in ways of thinking and action that were determined long ago.

If, on the other hand, everyone is self-sufficient, capable of stepping up and doing whatever needs doing, social interaction changes.  Old roles might be seen for the blindered workhorses they are.  Communities that are self-sufficient need not lean on imports to survive.  Countries that build their own abilities and resources need not pander to external agendas, slave to those who do not have their best interests at heart.

It’s no accident that airlines demand that you put your own oxygen mask on before helping others in the case of an accident.  If you are incapacitated, you are of no help to anyone.

So why do we accept being pigeonholed and crippled in MMOs?  Why do we accept a single role in the abstracted sociality present in group combat?  Why are we content to be the Best Darn Widgetmaker In The Plant, when we have the potential to be so much more as players?  When presented with the option, why do players embrace hybrid class design?

I posit that it is against our nature as beings of aspiration and potential to merely settle for mediocrity and mundanity, ever doing the same thing, never improving our varied talents or exploring other interests.  To be sure, gaming isn’t the epitome of human expression or progress, but it really shouldn’t be a surprise when some people want to do a little more in their entertainment than color inside the lines.

It’s no accident that I have played with other players more in Puzzle Pirates than I ever have in all other MMOs combined, forced grouping or otherwise.  PP lets me step up and play in any capacity that the ship or economy needs.  There are social structures and game mechanics that prevent me from taking the helm whenever I please on someone else’s ship, but I have unprecedented agency to fill whatever station I choose, if it’s available.  I’m limited by my own skills as a player (and perhaps a C.O. who doesn’t want me moving around), not my avatar’s level, gear or class.

I can solo my own ship with the help of a few NPC swabbies, or bring on other players who can then fill whatever role they feel like.  I don’t need to spam a chat channel looking for a Carpenter class.  I can take anyone on board who is willing to make an honest effort and do their best.

That is more social than any class-based trinity MMO could ever be, and it’s all because I have more options, and can choose how I approach the game.  When I have the choice to be social or not, but still make all the progress I care to, I have a tendency to be more social.  When I’m forced to group up to progress through the game, I kick against the impositions from on high, the ivory tower design ethos, the mandate that “MMO means playing together, noob!”

When I can do anything that the game might need, anything that the group might need, I’m far more willing and able to step up to the plate and actually play with a group.  When I’m self-sufficient, I’m more social.

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Thanks to Hirvox for calling attention to this fascinating tangent:

Greedy Goblin Raiding

Gevlon’s mindset is fairly alien to me a lot of the time, but at least I can understand it. His latest experiment with guilds and raiding touches on not only the nature of raiding, but the mercenary nature of sociality (and the kerfluffle between soloists and guildies) in games like these.

What a curious little drama. I, for one, applaud Gevlon for finding this interesting arrangement. I hesitate to call it equitable, since the Goblin mindset isn’t really interested in equality, but the “transaction” clearly seems to be making both parties happy, and that’s enough. Of course, everyone is clear that they are using each other, but when it’s out in the open like that, and agreed to up front, it works.

Social contracts are interesting beasties, and this one, between a guy who is happy doing his own thing (largely preying on others, but not in a “group”) and a guild that seems to work very well as a tuned machine of many players, provides some interesting views on the nature of MMO player interaction.

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