This is why ‘playing alone together’ still makes you feel connected. But is it helping?

    
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Whenever the topic of playing solo in MMORPGs comes up, invariably the expression “playing alone together” is worked into the conversation. This is the idea that, for some people at some times, it’s simply enough to be gaming around other people to get that social connection.

There may be another term for this: ambient sociability. By gaming in the same virtual space and pursuing similar goals, players can feel connected and have that social need filled to some extent without having to share physical proximity. But one question is whether this helps or hurts gamers’ real world socialization.

In a short essay on the subject, blogger Laura Smith argues the latter: “I see [Jane] McGonigal’s point that gaining confidence in video games can lead to gaining confidence in the real world, thus turning introverts into better extroverts. But if we continue to live in alternate realities and not our own, I don’t see communication between people getting any stronger.”

What do you think? Read the piece and let us know in the comments!

Source: Imedia Musings. Thanks Joe!
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Juu ken

“I see [Jane] McGonigal’s point that gaining confidence in video games can lead to gaining confidence in the real world, thus turning introverts into better extroverts. But if we continue to live in alternate realities and not our own, I don’t see communication between people getting any stronger.”

When you start playing a game, you are still in the same reality as before. The game was made by real people, is played by real people and continues to exist alongside real people. People who talk about it, share information, experiences, even feelings they had while playing it. Talking to people online is the same as talking to people outside the internet. People just tend to forget this too easily, which is why they act like assholes on the net so often.

Talking to other people online, makes them happy, sad, furious, reflective, defensive – you name it. It’s the same as out there. People influence each other and leave a small or large mark on the lifes of others.

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Toy Clown

To me, gaming is about freedom of choice in our free time: It shouldn’t be a 2nd job to the jobs many already hold. Anytime an MMO forces me to group with others, interact with others or forces me into the same content ad nauseum through forced dailies, etc, its time for me to leave.

The beauty of today’s bloated MMO market is there /are/ choices, and I can take what I need from those MMOs that satisfy a portion of my social needs that I enjoy. While I’m an ambivert, the things I enjoy when involving people are very draining – unless the people involved are giving creative energy into what’s going on, and I need recharge time to get my creative energy levels back up again. Until I find those rare people that I share collaborate energy within online environments, I tend to float around doing my own thing. I do like feeling connected in non-forced activities, and it’s why GW2 gets a huge pat on the back from me because they have a lot of gameplay based on non-forced interaction.

But yeah, I remember when these types of articles were making the rounds 5-7 years ago and they were eye-rolling inducing to think that these people knew our behaviors better than we did. Some devs have tried to hold onto that philosophy and yeah, thank goodness for choices these days, where we didn’t have much choice then.

Serrenity
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Serrenity

I was going to respond on her article, until I saw someone said below it was 5 years old and Ms. Smith probably forgot she even wrote it at this point :-)

Anyway, my problem with this piece is one of implied good and bad. The tone of her piece implies that real world interaction is somehow better, more valuable than online interaction — but there’s really no reasoning to support this — only a vague feeling of anxiety as our social evolution marches on. But really the entire premise of her post is that it’s bad that some people now prefer online communication to in-person communication. And it’s not better or worse, it’s just different.

I tend to find these pieces like this bothersome — that start out with a bias one way and march off to prove their bias (granted, I’m just as guilty of this as any other writer, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try not to be).

The fact of the matter is that all of our communication, forever has been mediated. I’m a firm adherent to the McLuhan perspective that all objects have a message, and that the medium they exist in impacts that message (hence: The Medium is the Message). That is to say that the advent of online-focused communication isn’t anything terrible or groundbreaking that we haven’t seen before–it’s just a new step, a new medium to communicate through – neither better or worse than what came before.

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Jack Pipsam

I am a fast & loose kind of person, I get distracted very easily. If I group up or connect with someone, I feel like now I to obligate my time and attention purely on them. I can’t alt-tab as much, I can’t just walk away from the computer and I can’t just leave in an instant like I would when I solo.

Time-zones, ping-difference, attention/commitment difference. Many factors all avoided if I simply spam space-bar to jump when running near them as a form of hello. I don’t mind banter in general or the random spontaneous emote-party. But when I connect in a group outside of a match-made temporary instance, I often find myself simply enjoying the game less as I can’t play it my-way.

Only exception naturally is people I know.

Vexia
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Vexia

I cannot take the “science” cited in Smith’s article seriously when it links to a Cracked.com article that, aside from having not apparently been proofread, it seems like Smith has failed to comprehend. The first paragraph even says, “Here are some of the many bizarre (but possibly bullshit) ways that modern science thinks video games are screwing you over.” I’d look over the UCLA study the apparent hypothesis, not findings, are pulled from, but the link is long dead.

Keeping in mind that Smith’s article is 5 years old, it just looks to me like a common misunderstanding of what introversion and extroversion truly are (explained very well by Ashfyn Ninegold below). You can’t “make” someone switch from introversion to extroversion; all you get is a tired, stressed-out introvert. This comes from an introvert who actually prefers online socialization in small groups rather than ambient socialization. But one way is not right and the other wrong!

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NeoWolf

Not sure I really agree with her viewpoint.

In this day and age we have the benefit of being able to interact with people whom under normal circumstances we would never meet or speak to from literally all corners of the planet. Without games I never would have made most of the friends I have.

Playing together or not did not hurt my ability to or willingness to communicate if anything it gave me FAR more interactions than I would have had normally.

For example I am from a gaming standpoint a soloer by preference I prefer to play on my own, even though I run guilds and interact with people constantly I am not grouped with them more often than not but I am interacting and chatting with them constantly.

In my real life I am a carer, my work is 24/7 the free time I have is spent playing games, reading, watching movies etc.. but I don’t have the time or means or indeed patience any more to have an actual social life in the way I used to when I was younger. My social life is almost entirely online.
I am also fairly introvert by nature anyway, I can smile and perform in groups but it is essentially a front/performance as I am incredibly uncomfortable in large groups of people, I find it taxing and I quite literally disappear in a crowd like a turtle into its shell especially if they are not people I know or have anything in common with.
In small groups however I am very comfortable and most happy. However gaming online and social media allows me to control the flow of people and interactions I have to deal with to copeable levels, which helps cope with the social anxiety of uncomfortable situations and allows me to interact WAY more than I normally would and with far more people, without which i would essentially be almost entirely cut off from any interactions outside of my family.

Her article is an interesting read but it is also seemingly wirtten from the negative un-impartial standpoint of looking for problems in a thing while ignoring the possible benefits in a thing. So it isn’t really subjective.

There are many instances like mine of where social media, playing games alone or in groups and interacting not in person etc.. can give you a voice and a presence where otherwise you would have none.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Gah. Another “What’s wrong with introverts” by an extrovert.

Answer: There is nothing wrong with introverts. We just experience the world differently from extroverts.

Quick definition: Extrovert: Someone who relaxes and revives in the company of others. Introvert: Someone who relaxes and revives when alone.

More complicated definition: Extrovert, an individual who takes what they learn and uses it on the external world. Introvert, an individual who takes what they learn and uses it on their internal world. External/Internal, get it?

There is no amount of “socialization” that is going to get an introvert to be any more social than an introvert wants to be. Now, imagine if I told you that if you fed your cat dog food it would bark. Stupid, right? That cat isn’t going to do a damn thing it doesn’t want to do.

But, but, but. Yeah, died in the wool introvert here, but yeah I blog all over the internet, run a guild, play with friends, socialize with family, have people over at Christmas and send out over a 100 gifts during the holidays to friends and family all over the country to stay connected. What is up with that?

Simple, I have a good amount of extroversion. It’s in there somewhere and it expresses itself, but it’s not the main way I interact or view the world.

This article was an expression of how the social media is, in fact, desocializing people to the point that they can only communicate effective through it. They aren’t good at face to face interactions, which emphasizes how completely nonsensical the theory that socializing online, as in MMOs, helps introverts feel more secure in an extroverted world. Being an introvert, by the way, in case there is any confusion, is not at all the same as being shy or social awkward.

Extroverts just need to stop thinking of introversion as a malady and we’d all be happier:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/08/15/famous-introverts_n_3733400.html

I don’t want to talk to you because what’s going on inside my head is way, way more interesting than you are. When I game, my internal dialogue is way more interesting than your stream of conscious talk about your car, your dinner or your mate. Deal with it.

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styopa

What’s so funny is that extroverts seem to take introverts as some sort of personal insult.
No, I don’t want to interact with you. I just don’t.

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BalsBigBrother

I would like this 100 times if it were possible. Thank you for writing and I agree with all you have said. Bravo o7

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Thanks so much, BBB.

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Utakata

My pigtails are neither extroverted or introverted…they’re just are. <3

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NeoWolf

Feeel like that sentence should have ended in “pink” lol

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Utakata

<3

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Toanstation

I completely agree with you, Ashfyn. I’d classify myself more as an introvert than an extrovert. But, I have a job where I manage a team of 6 developers and talk to users nearly every day, and even prefer face-to-face conversations over email. I like to join guilds when I play MMOs. I even have a live stream where I encourage talking to me. But, at the end of the day, I need time that is just mine. My wife understands that when I’ve been social for a period of time, even when it’s a handful of family, I need time to myself.

Introversion vs. extroversion isn’t a matter of which is better, they’re a means of understanding ourselves and others so that we can get along better.

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thirtymil

We don’t need to turn introverts into better extroverts. Possibly, you could argue, we need introverts to better understand the extrovert desire for socializing as its own reward (as much as we need extroverts to understand that introverts just like to recharge their batteries alone) – but that’s just another way of saying we really just need introverts and extroverts to understand each other better.

We also really need to move on from equating introversion with social anxiety. The two are entirely different – case in point, I’m almost a pure introvert and yet I spent fifteen years as a project manager with absolutely no qualms about meeting clients, hosting meetings and presenting to rooms of 40+ of people. It just didn’t give me any problems at all – and yet at the end of the day I’d prefer nothing more than a quiet evening with nobody talking, soloing in my favourite MMO.

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Ozzie

I think online games give another layer of “gameplay” than offline games. Having ambient sociability gives at the least the possibility of interacting with people, which can add to a game. That’s why I like MMOs, people can be interesting and funny :D Offline games never have that possibility, and that’s not always bad.

So I don’t think it’s a matter of intro/extrovert. Online sociability is how and how much much the game/app supports people interaction, and people fill in that capability with their own unique personalities. Making sweeping conclusions about people doesn’t work, but making conclusions about the social tools themselves does.

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Stormwaltz

I am extremely introverted.

I started playing MMORPGs almost 20 years ago, assuming that it would be easier to interact with others through a cloak of anonymity. For a time, perhaps, it was. As our lives moved more online, as online handles became RL nickname, as voice chat became a “must-use,” as social media blended online and RL personae, and as the expanding audience made toxicity and harassment the norm instead of the exception, I pulled back again.

I play almost nothing but MMORPGs to this day (I somehow have 12 in my taskbar). But I couldn’t tell you the last time I exchanged realtime texts with another player. I watch people have fun, but don’t interact, and there’s a comfort from knowing that if I enter their awareness, they don’t see me — just the avatar mask. I never have to worry about accidentally meeting anyone’s eyes, and creating an expectation of interaction. When someone emotes at me, my shoulders hunch. And while my characters from my first decade of play are still in their depopulated, abandoned guilds, none of my characters from the last ten years has a guild tag.

No, “ambient sociability” doesn’t help introverts become more social. Not this one, at least.

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thirtymil

I also consider ‘ambient sociability’ to be a miscoined term. To me, ambient sociability would be being at a party but not interacting, or sitting in a MMO listening to /general but not typing anything. I.e. the sociability is there but you’re just soaking it up from the world around you, not getting directly involved.

The moment you join a group and start contributing – whether in the physical or virtual world – I think the ‘ambient’ part no longer applies and it’s just plain sociability.