Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Carebears and the Monkeysphere, a Love Story

Meet Enura:
The Face of a Cutthroat
Enura is a rogue in Rift. She likes to kill things. If she has a motto, it is "More Dakka." However, all by her lonesome, Enura dies. A lot. Look up "Glass Cannon" and you just might find a picture of Enura, laying on the ground.

Meet Achillea (formerly known as Rowan):
The Face of a Carebear
Achillea is a Cleric. Achillea loves Enura (shut up, we're playing roles). Achillea wants to protect Enura. She is what we would call a Tank. With Enura focusing on "Pew Pew," the role of Shepherd also falls to Achillea, and she heals herself and Enura as necessary. Alone, she is almost impossible to kill, but takes forever to kill a mob. Achillea is a slow yet inexorable force on the battlefield. (OK, I often to get in over my head, or forget to summon my fae healer. And often enough, Enura's DPS saves us both. I'm using artistic license here.)
Teamwork Is the Key
Together, Enura and Achillea make a pretty unbeatable team, because they know their roles, and they care for one another.

Needless to say, Enura is played by my beloved Scooterz, and I play Achillea. We have a reasonably synergistic team dynamic, and fill these roles in almost every game we play together. You could substitute Dortmunder and Dex-y from TSW, Heide Uhrmacher and Reina Echowald from GW2, Versteckt and Chico from SWTOR, or Ginger and Regina McBane from WoW, and you would witness similar duo dynamics playing out. If Scooterz takes on a more tanky role, I still do the healing. It comes naturally to me.

I like my roll as Tank/Healer and Scooterz loves DPS. Does that mean I want to fill either role in a pick-up group? Hell. No. Frankly, those people are outside of my Monkeysphere, and I am outside theirs. They only care about my mistakes relative to how it affects them. And I refuse to dance in the Blame Ball. I once started to tank a PUG with a healer friend. I had barely entered the instance and was getting my bearings. The second a DPSer started shouting (in chat) to GoGOGO! and insulting my ability to tank—which I had yet to demonstrate—I dropped group and left. I don't put up with that kind of abuse from complete strangers in person. What makes you think I will in a computer game? I have never tanked for PUG since. The toolbaggery (it's a euphemism, live with it) I have dealt with as a Healer (and a quite good one I might add, if I do say so myself) is too much to recount in a single blog post. Suffice it to say, I have ceased to do so. For a guildie/friend, I'll bend over backward to try to help, to make sure they have a good gaming experience. I'll help out random strangers in the wild if I think they need it. I've never had a bad experience doing so, though I've heard tales of unappreciative victims recipients of random kindness in various games.
101 Freeway, Burbank Blvd. and Ventura Blvd.
We talk a lot about community in the MMO genre, but the truth that MMOs are not communities, they are sprawling metropoli with thousands or hundreds of thousands of competing interest groups. What seems good for some is not at all good for others. And people are jerks. This is not misanthropy, it's tribalism. Doing a PUG is like riding a public bus: I will if I absolutely have to, but I won't be happy about it, because of all the creepers I have to deal with. Much better to get in my own car, or carpool with friends. Because a city of strangers does not form a community, a group of friends does.
A Face in the Crowd
However, the Devs are trying to manage the city, as well they should. This means they will cater to the majority. And with limited resources, priorities are made, and the smallest interest groups fall off the priority list. While some may be loud on the forums and the blogosphere, they do not necessarily represent the majority, which votes with their pocketbook. The lowest common denominator that causes television to be populated by "Reality" shows and CSI clones, also affects the development of any Online Game that hopes to be Massively Multiplayer. Cuneum economicus follows the money, because—while they may want to make Art—ultimately, it is always about the bottom line.


  1. Nice post though I do think you miss one point with your (wonderful) analogy of the MMO server as a sprawling city. Yes it's anonymous and people on the public transport are not exactly models for good social behaviour.
    But mostly this comes from one fact we will never see those people again. And because that is the case we will not feel the need to interact as the chances of a gain in doing so are so low.
    But I have frequently started a few polite and nice conversations with people I noticed took the same train to school as me and even though we did not talk everyday at least one got a nice hello every time one saw the other.
    And yes it did not form a community but it formed the seed for one.
    Similarly in MMOs if one had the incentive to talk to people (harder content and the illusion that one might see or hear from the other players again, because let's face it who can say they knew everybody on ther serve back in the day. We knew many but not everybody). That way communication forms that might evolve into more grouping up with a person you found nice and later on it might go as far as you forming a guild or a RL friendship.
    It's happened to a lot of us so I do not think the community even on something as big as a server is an illusion. The lack of communication simply starves the community of what it needs. Namely communication between participants.

    1. Thank you for your comments. As I pointed out in the post, being helpful and kind to strangers I come across is part of my carebear nature. With some few I have formed long-term friendships. I encourage people to do similar things. Just being kind goes a long way toward fostering a community spirit. However (and that's a big however), I am under no illusion that any MMO is actually a community, especially in the way we would expect to see one in the real world. The primary reason being the limitations of the Monkeysphere. The larger a group of people gets, the less likely the entire group will act as a community. I think fostering strong guilds (and by that I don't mean huge "zerg guilds") is the way to encourage community in an MMO.