A bit of a deviation today, turning once again to the social climate of gaming. I’ve been gaming for nearly 30 years now and across all that time there has been a definite progress in terms of social interaction and stigma. We’re currently in a time where it’s “cool” to be geeky but not yet cool enough to game. It’s getting better mind you. When I first started writing guides/selling items online, people looked at my like I was a weirdo. Nowdays, people simply talk to me about what I write. I’ve been at parties where complete strangers walk up to me and talk about it, simply from reference. There really isn’t much more to be said about this particular point as it’s generational. Give it another 10-20 years and gaming will become more popular than sports (if it isn’t already).
My point for this post is the social interaction that exists within gaming culture. This is no different than any sub-culture’s social growth in most respects. It starts small, with a dedicated group and similar (if not identical) interests. If you like to roleplay in real life, then the odds of you finding kindred spirits at a LARPing event are rather high. In essence, you need two things: common interests and opportunity.
Transcribe that to gaming. In the early days of BBS, the player pool was miniscule and the interests common. You could make friends rather easily. The first MMOs came out and with a lack of competition, again, simple to make social pairings. In UO, I ran the largest anti-PK group on the server and made good friends with most of the PKs. Vanilla WoW had server limitation, so that at the top end of any server, you had a pool of perhaps 100 players. It was rather easy to make groups. As the game moved forward and “casualized” the content, more and more people fit into that player pool. Borders broke down and LFD/LFR came into play. Now, when you play the game, you have better odds of finding a bad with 1000 gold than seeing the same person 2 days in a row. The player pool has been massively diluted.
This is one reason why the more niche games have a better social grasp on their players. The games serve a specific need – which attracts a specific individual. Since those are smaller groupings, it’s somewhat easier to make the social connection. EvE is a superb example of how a game goes from social-hive to wild-west. Over 80% of the player base never touches the social aspect of the game (minus the core mechanics of the game). However, EvE is still partially controlled by the original player base, through the CSM. Where WoW is categorically aimed at a different market than launch, EvE is headed in the exact same direction as day 1.
There’s an additional topic on about how EvE’s social atmosphere is actually negative and WoW’s is a positive one from a psychological aspect. By keeping a small social group that never changes, you become isolated and xenophobic. WoW’s idea to expose all players to all sorts of different social stimuli is a net positive for social integration. How both of these games actually integrate these ideas through game mechanics is a completely different topic.