The Daily Grind: Do you think MMORPG communities are too cynical?

    
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A while back, I stumbled across the most bizarre and lovely multiplayer game I think I’ve ever seen. It’s called Kind Words, and the idea is sort of like if a Reddit advice board got mashed up with your 6th grade pen pal. People can log in and write messages seeking comfort, and then other people… write back something comforting, all anonymously. It’s slightly gamified with stickers, but the reviews make it clear that the actual human contact and chance to make a difference in some stranger’s life are what make the experience so captivating, even for cynics who don’t think they’re going to get anything out of it at all. “I haven’t felt this euphoric since I was ten,” says one person who was initially inclined to refund the game but wound up enthralled by the soothing messages people sent.

Reading about this game and the incredibly moving experiences people were having made me really sad for MMORPG communities.

One of the reasons I got so involved with MMOs as a teenager was because I could reach out across the void and connect deeply with people who looked nothing like me and lived nowhere near me and yet felt a lot of the same things I felt. MMORPGs, especially, are such a vulnerable place – we’re all playing Global Multiplayer Pretend together! – and yet I suspect that if we tried to introduce Kind Words-style content, people would just be giant, cynical edgelords about it. Our Massively Uplifting column chronicles the amazing, warm-hearted things people do in MMOs every month, so yes I know some people would be lovely, but by and large, I am saddened to suspect that the greater MMO community would at best participate only ironically. What happened to us?

Am I wrong? Do you think MMORPG communities have grown to be too cynical?

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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Solaris

Too cynical for the good of the genre for sure.

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Zero_1_Zerum

Well…the best feature of any MMO chat window is the ability to hide it or turn it off.

Random MMO fan
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Random MMO fan

Yes, you are wrong. I know you don’t play modern MMOs (or at least as often as many other people do) but for example FFXIV has a “message book” feature where you can place a guest book near your house where everyone is free to leave comments. I remember one time just reading the message books of some people whom I know on our server, as well as some random people. I have not seen a single bad word in them or anything negative, just a bunch of “cute house” and a few jokes. No “cynical edgelord” comments. And if this feature would be expanded to a more global way with a single message board where everyone would be allowed to leave their own messages and respond to them even if they do not own the house – I don’t think it would change anything in terms of the kind of comments left by players of this server.

Now, I am not saying that all servers in FFXIV have a nice communities but there are plenty of “warm-hearted” people in MMOs, even in games like EVE Online (I’ve met plenty of such corporations and players, people who are saying that “EVE players are sociopaths” have either not played it long enough or were too stupid to find better player communities in it). Only game where such feature (a global messageboard where people can leave comments and reply to them) would generate mostly negative comments from players would be WoW (this is the only MMO which has attracted a largest amount of selfish, cruel, rude players I have ever seen) ;-)

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Minimalistway

It’s not MMOs only, i’ve seen other communities, photography, electronics and programming, and it’s not about companies either, people piling on creative projects for whatever reason, not believing any good news but they will not doubt any bad news, politics kidnap any comment section and you’ll see 70 of them about politics and maybe 3 about the post.

I noticed that tech communities are more cynical.

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Schmidt.Capela

I couldn’t really tell, and don’t really care, because I don’t interact with the community; I interact with individuals or, at most, guilds, and ignore (preferably using in-game ignore tools) anyone I don’t want to interact with.

This is why I’ll only ever play MMOs if they allow me to completely ignore anyone I want, if there is no way for someone I’m ignoring to negatively affect my gameplay.

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Castagere Shaikura

MMO communities are why I don’t play the popular AAA titles anymore. I just have had enough of these people.

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NeoWolf

I think in all honesty that the nature of the industry and how developers communicate with the communities is largely why players are so cynical. I mean how many times have they said things, promised things, given dates and failed to deliver etc.. across the board of all MMO’s? It has been a learning curve for them for sure not to say something until the can deliver it and even now many companies still aren’t on that same page.. and the net result of that constant excitement leading to disappointment cycle for the communities has led inevitably to cynicism in relation to ANYTHING developers say.

Expecting the worst lessens the disappointment when you are, but it also doesn’t mean we don’t love it when they fail to disappoint us on occasion and actually deliver on something :) Cynicism is just a self-preservation mechanic :)

My dear old grandad who is no longer with us always used to say “Hope for the best, but PLAN for the worst”, it may be cynical, but it’s also totally on the money right lol

MurderHobo
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MurderHobo

Be cynical about the corporate overlords who mismanage our worlds and exploit us. Hold them in absolute contempt. Give no benefit of doubt where the System is concerned. That is entirely rational, and to suggest otherwise is to advocate lying down with a rabid dog.

I don’t think that’s the type of cynicism Bree is concerned about, though. I grew into MMOs through roleplay MU*s. I learned to script in MUSH, and we built many social game systems that required no win-loss condition. I feel like we’ve left too many of those experiments by the wayside, perhaps out of an overabundance of concern over people drawing dicks on the landscape.

In the end, whatever pro-social system I’ve found in an MMO had to be defended from dicks, often with counter-dickishness, but I seem to be fortunate in the other players I encounter. I may be cynical about our genre, but I’ve never lost hope in the people.

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Avaera

Yes, I wish MMO communities weren’t as cynical on average. But I suspect this is a direct result of our game design, unintentional or otherwise.

How many of our games don’t have competition and self-interest at the core of their mechanics and gameplay? If your virtual environment is entirely built around competing with others for your personal advancement and triumph, why wouldn’t that bleed over into other social interactions between players? I’d say holding two completely different psychological models of your fellow players at once is much more difficult, and so it’s not unexpected that MMO gaming communities are naturally cynical, selfish and unempathetic in general.

I suspect you wouldn’t see the same thing if cooperative or social mechanics were at the heart of gameplay, like I doubt LARPing gamer communities are anywhere near as cynical.

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Sray

You said something very much like what I was going to: cynicism and general hostility are a byproduct of present day design principles in MMOs. The games are built around entirely personal forms of character progression, yet force players to be dependent on the competence of others in a way that doesn’t really exist outside of professional sports. When my “paycheck” depends on you being good at playing the game, and that you’re not screwing around, it’s bound to create hostile attitudes in the community.

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Avaera

That’s actually a very astute point about focusing so much on the competence of your team to win. I didn’t even think about that, but it’s true!

kofteburger
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kofteburger

Absolutely