The Daily Grind: Is player competition in MMOs healthy or harmful?

    
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Youngsters these days probably won’t ever experience the real struggle of logging into an MMORPG and endlessly fretting that other players will get to a resource node first and “steal” it outright. Today’s multi-tap nodes are everywhere, and that’s just one way that MMORPGs have reduced competition, especially in the PvE market.

But still, competition is everywhere in our multiplayer games, and it almost certainly will always be. We compete for looks, compete in power, compete in the auction house, and compete in global chat for most scathing comebacks and witty political insights. Even in dungeon parties working together for a common purpose, competition will rear its head as various group members try to out-perform each other.

What do you think about that? Is competition healthy for MMOs, or do such elements feed into our darker natures and ultimately harm these games through selfishness and toxicity?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!

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Cosmic Cleric

Is player competition in MMOs healthy or harmful?

Friendly competition, yes.

Predatory “tea bagging”experiences, no.

P.S. By “healthy”, we talking monetarily, or societally? I assumed latter, in my reply.

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Brown Jenkin

Why not both?

I think MMO competition, and particularly PvP has been responsible for every one of my longest lasting memories and stories from playing an MMO. That being said, it can be very difficult to harness competitiveness in a way that is fun for *everyone* rather than only the players who come out on top. The best example of this is definitely Shadowbane, one of my favorite MMOs of all time, yet also definitely one of the most flawed. I have lots of hope that Crowfall is will be able to harness some of that positive competitiveness while setting aside some of the worst consequences.

On the other hand, I think GW2 did an *amazing* job of highlighting some of the worst aspects of competition in MMOs. There was never anything added to the genre through the systems of tagging mobs or stealing loot out from under folks, particularly when quite often in PvE focused games those players couldn’t do anything about it. GW2 has *systems* in place that encourage players to cooperate, rather than merely relying on punishing folks for competitiveness (ie hunting in the same zone).

I think new MMOs have plenty to learn from both approaches.

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Arktouros

Toxicity is a byproduct of competition. Competition is frustrating. Competition is stressful. That frustration and stress is going to build up until people deal with it. Your average person isn’t even remotely equipped to handle it and will just let it out on the path of least resistance (a teammate playing badly, an opponent with a perceived OP selection, etc).

The issue that most MMOs run into with competition is there’s very rarely a “win” condition for that competition. Imagine if you had infinite lives in Fortnite, it would just be frustrating. This is what most modern competitive MMOs are with victor often times going to who is the most stubborn rather than who is actually winning. This is why a lot of us old school PKs argued for mechanics like item drops since as you lose items you lose the ability to continuously re-engage. However so many games post WOW rely on item progression as character progression that isn’t feasible in those environments.

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NecrococoPlays

I appreciate shared nodes, and I don’t miss the frustration of racing other players for nodes – or the dick move of snatching a node someone was fighting over, etc. After playing GW2, I came to appreciate collaborative elements that don’t detract from the competitive. In BDO there were so many nodes available that it never felt as though I had to race for them (although, there were a few randos who decided an area was theirs, and would PvP for it, which was actually entertaining).

Competing for resource nodes in WoW wasn’t competitive, engaging gameplay in my opinion, or at least, it isn’t what I want devs to intentionally design – I’d rather compete in arenas, gearing up, raiding/server firsts, etc.

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Sunken Visions

Games are not competitive unless you want them to be.

Anyone that thinks you need to accomplish anything in a game doesn’t understand the definition of ‘entertainment’.

Veldara
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Veldara

It all depends on the direction the design team wants the game to evolve into. If you want a competitive community to the point where even economy based systems are part of that, then that’s their direction. They just need to take care that the community will be a lot more cutthroat and will attract more of those kinds of players.

The entire team, from top to bottom, and especially the community relations will need to really be some of the best they can find to handle and reign in the pack of wolves though.

K38FishTacos
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K38FishTacos

Different games for different types of players = good

Games where different player-types can find a niche = good

Games that try to cater to everyone and force players into unpleasant experiences = toxic then dying game (e.g., hindering or punishing pvpers or forcing pve-ers into nonconsensual pvp)

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

B.t.w, I forgot to add to previous post. Speaking of “competition” I am really glad that FFXIV does not include damage meter by default or support for any kind of mods and not many players bother installing the third-party plugins like ACT which can show that data.

This kind of damage meter is good for “self-improvement”, when you really want to maximize your own damage output, BUT it can also cause some toxicity since someone might start bitching at you that “you’re not doing enough damage”, so I am glad that developers don’t make installation of such plugins very easy and don’t take them into consideration when patching the game.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

I’m too old for that #$%@ as Danny Glover would say in Lethal Weapon movies, that said multitap nodes ruin game economies, I can make tons of money in ESO while I can barely scrape together a couple gold in GW2 these days.

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Fenrir Wolf

Competition can bring out the worst in us, but so can cooperation within artificially forced conditions. Sadly, the unnervingly vast majority of interactions to be had with other players fall under this category in MMOs.

There’s simply too much tied to it, there’s too much to gain and too much to lose. Even in raids there’s inherent competition in a scenario where players are forced to be there, and it invites the very worst kinds of personalities as it’s there they thrive. If you’re not familiar with the dark triad, reading up on it might help you understand why so many communal aspects of MMOs are so invariably toxic.

It’s kind of like wolves.

You see, when we observed wolves in captivity, we believed there was a stringent pack hierarchy. The alpha was at the top, and the lesser wolves patrolled in a militant, dedicated way to ensure the alpha wold be protected. This was ultimately all so incredibly wrong it was funny.

Sometimes, when a human looks upon that that which is unlike them, they’ll either respond with wanting to cast it out so that they might never need lay eyes upon its foulness again, or they’ll do their very best to try and alter it to become more akin to them, and thus, more familiar.

This is a subconscious process. In truth, the wolves were actually looking for a way out of the compound because they were afraid of a mad, psychotic nutter who was just so ruddy helter-skelter they couldn’t wait to flee the scene.

Humans are like that, too.

I can’t imagine you draw breath and you’ve not noticed that narcissistic, even psychotic people have a tendency to adopt the moniker of “alpha” for themself as though it actually means something. And usually anyone with an iota of sense wants to vacate the vicinity of such a person quick-sharpish. If they have any sense, of course.

Sadly, some people don’t have any sense. There’s a misguided belief that cosying up to someone so unbalanced will lead to some of their influence rubbing off on the suck-up. That’s how they end up with obeissant herds.

Online gaming is sort of like that. You have someone who’s a bit unhinged and then it’s a matter of either avoiding this person at all costs, or becoming part of their herd (or guild, if you will).

The systems are designed to encourage this behaviour, too, requiring a guild to achieve anything in what we colloquially call the end-game, or in PvP. Thus, unless we’ve won at another form of MMO RNG, we likely won’t be too happy.

This lack of satisfaction and happiness, usually as a result of having to deal with very toxic people who’re your superiors, results in sharing that toxicity around. For some, it’s nice to have power over others, as others have had over you. You can call them names, make demands of them, and so on. It’s not the most healthy scenario.

Though MMO players tell one another it is, that it’s lovely, wonderful, and perfectly healthy. That, out of competition to grow their own nutjob leader’s influence (and thus potentially grow their own), they invent stories about how fantastic their glorious guild is versus all others.

And yet, they’re not happy. They don’t really know why they’re doing this. It’s all a compulsion toward the social game. There’s so much in MMO that’s about status and hierarchy.

For those of us who’re very introverted or autistic, there’s no real compulsion toward power or influence. It doesn’t hold any allure, so we tend to have our fun as far, far away from guilds as possible. Interactions with people from guilds is usually quite a notably negative experience.

MMOs really do encourage this situation. A pack of wolves trapped in a cage with a nutter.

Except in this case, instead of being clever enough to want to escape, the other wolves spend their time speaking up their pack rather than seeking egress. This is a cage that I’m very eager to probe, though. Ultimately, I don’t think it benefits anyone beyond the most unhealthy of people in… well, in any way, meaningful or otherwise.

So, yes, I do believe that competition in MMOs is inherently harmful due to their design, but likewise I believe that “cooperation” is equally so.

And this will only end when MMO designers realise the folly of forced grouping.

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Cosmic Cleric

So, yes, I do believe that competition in MMOs is inherently harmful due to their design, but likewise I believe that “cooperation” is equally so.

You had me agreeing with you, up to here.

We cooperate, to survive, at the species level. It’s why we are at the top of the food chain.

You give up on cooperation, then you might as well let the nukes fly.