If you have been playing games for more than a few minutes, you probably know World of Warcraft. Released in 2004, it was a worldwide phenomenon. Although I was too young to play it back then, I had a cousin who made me a character so I could play. Now, this cousin was addicted to the game. He would not move from his room for days, playing the same raids just to get the drop he wanted. At the time, I didn’t really understand why he played Warcraft so much. Now though, I realize it was because of one thing: The social aspect.
In its early days Warcraft had a very interesting system for dungeons. You couldn’t just queue in and wait for other people that you didn’t know to join. You had to ask around in chat, find people, form a party and then enter the dungeon. Basically, the whole game was geared towards community and socialization. And it worked. If you go on the internet right now, people still reminisce about the people that they met on Warcraft. Some are still in touch with people they met on that game. Hell, some of them got married. Warcraft in its early days was not only a great MMMO, but a great place to meet people as well.
However, as more and more expansions came out for the game, that feeling of community got lost. While you can still socialize with a guild, you can now queue solo for dungeons. You can basically do the whole game solo, without interacting with any other players at all. While some people might prefer the solo way, it’s really a shame that World of Warcraft and all other MMOs are so anti social. Many do try to make a world feel alive and full of people. Some succeed, but no MMO has managed to reach Warcraft 2015 levels yet. It seems like MMO developers don’t really care about a social MMO anymore.
People who spend a lot of their time gaming usually are a bit introverted, although there are exceptions. Good social systems on MMOs allowed these people to not only play their favorite games, but share their love for the game with others. This is why I prefer smaller online games these days. I recently played some Naval Action, a game about being a sailor in the Caribbean. That game’s community is very small. There are probably a thousand people online at any time. This means people in each faction know each other and socialize well. It also means that they are open to newcomers, since they would like to teach them the game and help them along (There are of course some people who will take advantage of you). Small online games have that feel of community that other games lost as they grew.
Even though some games that should have a bigger aspect of community don’t, there are others that should be pure solo games that have fantastic communities. My best example for this is the Dark Souls series. In the Dark Souls games you can join covenants, which are basically groups of players that have the same goal. Some of them are devoted to invading other players’ worlds and killing them, some are devoted to aiding players in need and others are a bit more ambiguous in their desires. With all these covenants, you usually end up getting invaded or helped many times in one session, as long as you are online of course. And the great thing is, you actually cannot communicate with other players via text. There is no box where you can write things for others to see and reply to. Instead, characters in the Dark Souls games have stances. These stances signify various things for the players. There is one for determination (the edgiest thing I’ve ever seen in a game), some for joy, some for trashtalking… If you know how to use the stances, you can say pretty much everything with them. This silence in terms of talking or writing makes for some great community stories. Just go on the Dark Souls subreddit and you can find plenty of them. There’s people talking about their fights, their heroic defeats, the pure stupidity of some invaders, everything. The Dark Souls series is the prime example on how you can build a community without any normal communication between players.
Thankfully, there are still some games or player made modifications where you can find a community. Recently, the most famous of these places is Nostalrious, a vanilla World of Warcraft server operated by a few players who wished to emulate that form of the game. Unfortunately, Nostalrius is now closing, thanks to a cease and desist from Blizzard. However, the stories of some people leaving that server are very heartwarming and remind many of the old Warcraft games, which is one of the reasons why Blizzard actually met with the owners of Nostalrius.
Apart from Nostalrius, there are many Roleplaying servers -either official or unofficial- that can provide one with that feeling of community. This is mostly due to the fact that their nature as roleplaying servers requires more communication than necessary between the players. People in those servers act a bit differently when it comes to other players, because they don’t see them as another guy running to the same mission but as a comrade or an enemy. Generally, the better the lore of a game and the better its factions are outlined, the better a Roleplaying server is, because it allows people to take information the game gives them and use it to act in a lore friendly way in a given situation.
Most of you who read this article are either a Lone Wolf in MMOs or have never actually played one. I get why you think solo play is better. I usually play alone too. However, some of my best friends have been made through a computer screen, and some of my best gaming memories are from MMOs. So, come on. Pick a game, open it up, and just type “Hello!” in the chat. You won’t regret it.
-Philip “Snowchill” Alexandris