I dug this intriguing question out of our brimming-over letters-to-the-editor bin, and it’s particularly timely given the recent launch of Wander, notable for its curious glyph-based chat and language system. Massively-that-was reader NerdWithABigStick wrote in to ask about MMO chat, calling back the decision made by the devs of Divinity: Original Sin to shut down global chat within a few minutes of launch.
This resonated with me. The first thing I do when joining a game is seek out general chat and immediately turn it off. It’s only in the last six years or so that I’ve noticed an increase in the amount of “snark” in chat. There was definitely a time when chat was fun, helpful, and yes, even entertaining. People shared their positive excitement, and while the occasional asshole did show up, it was the exception, not the norm. That time is long gone, sadly. After working a full day at the office and signing in to a game that I am loving, the very last thing I want to do is to have that happiness and the joy of the experience ruined by reading negative remarks and armchair designer opinions full of Family Guy-style “humor” and poop-slinging. So I’ve gotten into the habit of turning those channels off, sometimes even hiding the chat window entirely.
So I keep wondering whether more game studios, particularly MMO studios, will ever embrace D:OS’s attitude? Will they ever say, “You know what, this really isn’t helping our game — or our community — at all. It’s not adding anything to the game experience or the social experience. In fact it’s detracting from both. Let’s shut it off.”
Heck, I hope not!