The Daily Grind: Do MMOs need ‘friction’ for social bonding?


Not quite a year ago, World of Warcraft Game Director Ion Hazzikostas sat for a Wired interview in which he discusses social bonding in MMOs, effectively arguing that “friction” was an essential component of old-school MMOs. “There’s an inverse relationship between friction and the strength of bonds that are formed as a result of that friction or to overcome that friction,” he said.

Our commenters were… not impressed, but I think it’s worth exploring in more detail since it’s an idea developers and gamers have been kicking around for as long as I can remember there being MMORPGs. And I’m not entirely sure the sentiment is wrong. Humans do bond over harrowing experiences. Any soldier would agree with this.

But humans bond over pretty much everything else. They bond over movie fandoms, sports, politics, music, children, on and on and on. This is why you likely have friends in your MMOs and guilds who’ve been around a long time but didn’t necessarily spend weeks camping jboots with you or fighting the long war in spreadsheets online. It’s always seemed to me like “friction” – be it PvP or PvP – is the MMO way of fast-tracking a specific type of community that also drives potential community out the door. Or as MOP’s Chris once put it, “Equating an inherent need to put up with people long enough to get through something isn’t a bond; it’s basic survival instinct, and it’s not how a community should form.”

Where do you stand on it all? Do MMOs need “friction” for social bonding?

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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