The Daily Grind: Do you play MMOs for ambient sociability?

    
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In my gaming time, I switch back and forth between MMOs and solo games (often adventure or RPGs) quite often. When I’m in the latter, I always feel that something vital is missing — the social component. Those worlds can feel lonely as I fail to see other players or have people available to chat. It often serves as a reminder why I do love MMOs and prefer to dwell in those worlds.

According to a post on Imedia Musings, this element is called ambient sociability: “Ambient sociability is a very casual form of social interaction; it may not create direct bonds, but it does satisfy our craving to feel connected to others. It creates a kind of social expansiveness in our lives — a feeling of inclusion in a social scene, and access to other people if we want it.”

We may sometimes define it as “playing alone together,” but in any case, it can be very comforting and involving to see and hear other players around us. So do you play MMOs for ambient sociability, and if so, what do you get out of it?

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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Sekkerhund

I view my choice to play a MMOG, solo, as akin to choosing to live in an apartment community. Just because I live in close proximity, to hundreds of people, does not mean that I have to always have them over for dinner, or to watch a TV show, or sit out on the patio and chat for hours.

It’s because that, while I prefer my privacy and ability to pursue my own interests at the time and place of my own choosing, I still like to be in proximity to other human beings. I like that ‘ambient sociability’ term. It fits well.

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Anstalt

No

I enjoy the ambient sociability and it pleases me to see 1000s of other people in the game world with me.

But, I play for actual sociability and the mechanics. I spend as much of my time as possible in a group and using voice chat, so I am directly socialising with other players. I used to run my own guild, lead raids and engage with pvp, so the social aspect of MMOs was extremely important. However, just having other people isn’t enough, the mechanics of the game also have to be good and it used to be that MMO mechanics couldn’t be found in single player games.

In this modern era of 99% solo, trivial content and shallow action combat, combined with low player caps (so they aren’t even mmos!) and shitty business models, the genre doesn’t offer me anything at all now. I just sit and wait for a good game to come along that meets my criteria.

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Fenrir Wolf

It depends.

If the ambient sociability is enjoying a roleplay, certainly. I might even join in and flaunt my thespianic bent. I have a penchant for vaudeville, which I’ll exercise at nearly any given opportunity. Though these days I keep the theatre speak to a minimum.

No one I’ve ever met knows what bona to vada means, anyway. More’s the pity.

Elsewise, the reason I play MMOs is to enjoy a less human experience. It’s why despite the many, flagrant shortcomings of Guild Wars 2 (not least of which is how convinced it is that its edgy story is in any way clever for dwelling on unreasonable degrees of tragedy)? I play it because the charr perhaps stand as the least obviously humanoid a playable race has been since Istaria’s dragons.

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

Nowadays, yes. I used to actually interact with others more, but nowadays unless I happen across someone out on the field somewhere and strike up a conversation or find a interesting conversation going on in one of the chats to join in…I mainly keep to myself now and just play through alone unless something requires people, and I usually use in-game group-finders to achieve those, if I don’t just ignore them outright.

I’m disabled in RL with numerous ‘issues’ that make it so I can’t work : I was born with club feet so I can’t stand for more than about an hour without excruciating pain, 25-50% deaf due to multiple ear infections, partially blind so I had trouble reading faces/distance, asthma which left me winded so I gained weight and became bullied (Already was before that for other issues, but it wasn’t a mitigating factor for sure.), along with lots of mental things including from being abused as a child and having my life threatened at numerous points leading to a PTSD diagnosis, and I have severe social phobia/social anxiety problems in real life from all of it, but since I grew up with access to computers and games and online, I feel ‘comfortable’ dealing in that medium more so than in RL.

I literally only have my mom/two adopted sisters to talk to in real life, and one obnoxious neighbor who doesn’t have any of the same belief system I do. (He’s one of these people supporting the confederate flag, and racism, which I’m blatantly against. I recently had to threaten to call the cops on him because he’s been stalking me/wouldn’t leave me alone.) Other than that, only the cashiers at the local convenience store or the grocery store.

At least online I have a chance to be around some possibly sane people, just going about their day/playing/enjoying life/willing to share in the happiness together with others for a bit. Not everything is a wonderfully chipper time sitting around a fire singing kumbaya and all that, but at least there’s moments in there where I can sit and just participate/listen in on conversations…and get other people’s opinions…even if I may not personally agree with many of them.

Just because someone fears social interactions, doesn’t mean they as a human don’t desire to participate. The human mind goes mad without outside input. Watch scientific studies of what happens to someone when they are put inside something alone. That’s what’s happening to me, very steadily and slowly but surely. At least with this, I have a chance to stave it off every so often…even if it’s often only me voicing my opinion and being ignored…

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

…forgot to add to my previous post, this is one of the major reasons I disliked FO76 so much. There’s almost no “ambient sociability” in this game – sure, I met a few random players while playing it (and I played a lot – I’ve done all quests and visited every location on map) BUT outside of events like Queen grinding or nuked Whitesprings grinding it was a rare occurrence (especially when game FORCED me into low-population servers).
And meeting any stranger (not counting the friends who can use same Discord) in this game was just like meeting dumb NPCs for the simple FACT that this game doesn’t have text chat and I cannot use voice chat for talking.

So yea, once again, “ambient sociability” is what makes me log into multiplayer games long after experiencing every area or quests, but only when the game provides enough tools for the players to make them feel like live players and not dumb NPCs ;-)

Vaeris
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Vaeris

When just standing next to someone who may or may not know you are even there is the “bar” for “being social”.

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Toy Clown

I admit that I do. It’s the same reason I don’t find solo games that appealing, unless they have a gripping, fantastically done story. I like being a part of things without having to necessarily deal with people’s crazy that comes out in anonymous online situations.

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Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

Even in this day and age when you say to people I like to play solo in MMO’s etc.. they assume it is because your in some way awkward or non functional or that you don’t clearly understand the gemre you are in… and over and over you find your having to explain and to some degree justify why you play alone in multiplayer games.

My response has always remained the same Multiplayer is in its literal meaning just that more than one player it has absolutely ZERO reference to teaming even if some people assume that. So playing alone in a multiplayer game to me at least has always made perfect sense.

But to explain why I prefer it more I would say I have played with the same small group of people in MMO’s for almost two decades and we cover most of the age groups with our youngest in his early twenties and our oldest in his last sixties. And when it comes to playing “together” we get each other. And that is to say we all like to do our own thing most of the time, but if we want or need to do something together or someone needs help we do. For us this works. We like to play alone together. We chat, we interact but we are all playing our own way and doing our own thing.

For me I find that when you play grouped in a team it quickly becomes all you know, I started MMO’s as a hardcore raider who was ALWAYS grouped, had expectations on my time and activities, I filled a role and that is all I was a single moving piece in a bigger machine that didnt matter.. and eventually it ceased to feel like playing games, and felt like work. My decisions and my times were not my own and I grew to hate it.

Whether you realise it or not playing with other people creates an obligation and expectation. An obligation you to feel you need to do what others want in preference of what you want so as not to go against the group and be a problem. And an expectation on others that you will always come when needed “by them” and drop what you are doing to again meet “their” needs not “yours” and creates bad will when you do not.
It is like playing in a bubble made by someone else that you cannot easily get out of and restricts where you can go and what you can do according to the person who made the bubble and if you go against the bubble they put you outside it and dont let you back in.

Whereas in contrast doing your own thing alone but with others of a like mind leaves you with a much more of an equal arrangement with a mutually beneficial support structure without the pressure of expectation and obligation on your time and activities but still allows for all the social interaction you could possibly want.

My time is my own again and I like that. People will have seen me say it on MOP many times over the years but to me “choice” is everything, literally. I have been the cog in a machine that I had almost no control over and I have no desire to play that way ever again.

MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

I always had the problem of out-leveling people so fast because I have ‘too much time on my hands’ and could be playing through while they were offline doing life stuff. I’d also learn through numerous play-throughs exactly what needed to be done/grasp mechanics a lot easier, so they’d come back and find me high level and be like ‘Weren’t you just about the same level as me yesterday?’ and I’d be like 15-30 levels higher than them already, and they’d ask ‘How do you level so fast?’, which often lead to admitting I have no actual RL to speak of.

One reason I’m wishing they’d move away from this ‘leveling’ mechanics in games and get to where we just can happen across people and help them out with our skills being something they need, and their skills being something we also would want. It’s become too easy for some of us to just ‘do it all’ and have no reason for others.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

Yes, absolutely – it makes the in-game world feel more “alive”, more “massive” and gives more opportunity for random interactions with strangers. Especially since I generally don’t like joining guilds for various reasons or any other kind of “forced grouping” (such as running dungeons which is something I never enjoyed in any MMO).

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Kickstarter Donor
Eboni

It’s funny because I was just thinking about this, too. I’ve had really good experiences in LOTRO’s and Rift’s global chats. You could solo through the game, but the global chat always had something going on: trivia contests, good conversations, etc. I like that since it was hard to find groups that was on my schedule. But it’s nice to know there’s always someone to chat with somewhere if you are feeling chatty.