Vague Patch Notes: Playing MMOs as an introvert

    
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This seems pretty Sharlayan to me.

I’ve heard people say that the idea of “extroverts” and “introverts” isn’t really all that accurate to the way that human beings actually behave, and let me tell you something: We’d have words if any of us would ever leave our homes to talk with another human being. I mean… more than usual right now because of the current state of the world. Honestly, you should probably be staying home as much as you can anyhow. It’s kind of nice. Let’s start over.

Some of us just have a harder time with social stuff than others. While I’ve heard tell about people who can do such things as “just talking with other people” and “interacting normally,” I certainly don’t have that particular advantage. So today, I want to talk a little bit about playing MMOs while you’re an introvert. You know, if it wouldn’t be too awkward or anything. I could just leave if you’d rather.

That’s a bit of introvert humor for you there. It’s funny because talking with people is scary.

The obvious question that some people have is why someone who is introverted would want to play an MMO in the first place, but the answer to that one should be pretty obvious when you think about it for a bit. Introverts are still human. We still crave human contact and interaction with other people. It’s just difficult for a lot of us, and we crave less of it and/or more control over those experiences.

In all of these ways, MMOs are ideal. There are always people around and reasons to interact with them if you have a hard time striking up conversations, but you’re never longer than a logout away from an exit from a given situation. You don’t have to talk about anything beyond the task at hand and sometimes not even that. It’s that passive social experience that can be like catnip for some of us, and it makes MMOs uniquely seductive.

Of course, this also brings with it unique challenges – specifically, the problem where a lot of MMOs are based around social friction, and social friction tends to make introverts catch on fire. We’re flammable like that.

Dead friends.

Here’s a little example. Suppose you, a presumably average person, wants to get something done with a group. Say there’s a quest requiring a group, for example. You then go through the following sequence:

  • Use the tools available to you to find a group, possibly just shouting in general chat for one.
  • Join that group.
  • Get the thing done.

For an introvert, the process is somewhat more difficult:

  • Take stock of the tools available for you to find a group.
  • Decide you’ll do it in an hour.
  • Pace awkwardly for an hour trying to psych yourself up for this.
  • See a group looking for exactly what you need that you could join up.
  • Think about it for a minute.
  • Realize that someone else probably already joined.
  • Even if someone else didn’t, you’d probably just be bothering them because you’re not good enough at the game to be very helpful.
  • They probably don’t want you around anyhow.
  • Resolve to absolutely never get this content done.
  • Feel simultaneously frustrated and relieved.

It’s for this reason that introverts generally love content you can just queue up for, because then you theoretically can avoid talking to anyone else about what you’re doing. You don’t need to have a friend group to rely upon. Heck, you can just queue in and get something done and maybe people will mistakenly think you’re cool! And by the time you could start feeling some regret, it’s too late and it’d be more awkward to back out.

Of course, this doesn’t cover all of the permutations available to you, but this is just a small slice of what it’s like to being an introvert in these games. For example, introverts I know in Final Fantasy XIV are almost universally omnicrafters. Why? Well, crafting is difficult and expensive and sometimes might require you seeking out other people… unless you can do all of it yourself. Then you don’t have to know anyone and you can just be self-sufficient, like a little tiny island.

It’s not that you hate people. It’s that people make you feel anxious and self-conscious and aware of all your flaws in ways that are hard to articulate. Being a sort of low-grade lonely might not make you happy, but it’s familiar in a way that you know how to cope with and that you can thus handle. It’s enough to know that you can join up with people even if you’re disinclined to actually do so.

You’re almost always disinclined to actually do so, of course. That’s what being an introvert is all about.

I see.

Now, you’ve probably ascertained by this point that I’m being at least a little silly and dramatic in this particular column. (If you hadn’t caught that by now… well, uh, welcome to here.) But there is actually a point to be made here, and I think that comes down to thinking a little more about the features we support and fight against in MMOs and what effect it has on people you may not realize.

You might say that being introverted doesn’t entitle me to any sort of accessibility options, and in a way, you’re entirely right. But in another way… if I run into a point in a game where I literally can’t advance without grouping up and there isn’t some way to just queue up for the content? I’m more than likely to just leave outright. A proper queue system for group content is something that’s worth a lot more to me than whatever archaic social friction can be preserved without it.

And that is ultimately a good thing. Because the point of MMOs is that these games are for a lot of people with a lot of different goals.

Part of making something with the sense of a full-on world is having a mixture of different people in it, different perspectives and viewpoints and goals within a given game. Some of that is definitely down to the content that’s available in the game, but just as much comes down to how players are able to interact with the game, what they can do comfortably, and what can be done in certain timetables.

You might be of the mind that no one should really be playing an MMO without the expectation of playing for an hour, for example. Is there a case to be made there? Certainly. But advocating for that is also telling people with shorter play windows that the game shouldn’t be for them. And those people who may not regularly have multiple hours to play at a time contribute to the game. Just like the introverts and the extroverts and the people with hours to play and the fashion fans and the people who don’t care about appearance and so forth.

Think a little about what it is you advocate for with a game’s mechanics. Are you making a game that can attract more people? Or are you telling certain branches of players that they’re not welcome in your title?

Because trust me, the introverts won’t tell you if they feel unwelcome. They’ll just leave. And you might not notice when they leave, but you will when they’re gone.

Sometimes you know exactly what’s going on with the MMO genre, and sometimes all you have are Vague Patch Notes informing you that something, somewhere, has probably been changed. Senior Reporter Eliot Lefebvre enjoys analyzing these sorts of notes and also vague elements of the genre as a whole. The potency of this analysis may be adjusted under certain circumstances.
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Schmidt.Capela

It’s just difficult for a lot of us, and we crave less of it and/or more control over those experiences.

Control is the key point for me. I will only ever socialize in MMOs under my own terms. Which, incidentally, means that any attempt at forced socialization will actually reduce how much I socialize in-game.

social friction tends to make introverts catch on fire.

Yep.

It’s for this reason that introverts generally love content you can just queue up for,

I don’t just love it; content I can queue for is the majority of group content I play in most MMOs, the rest of it being group content where groups can form without even trying (like some overworld content where the presence of other players around you is always beneficial even if they aren’t grouped, or even communicating, with you).

Well, crafting is difficult and expensive and sometimes might require you seeking out other people… unless you can do all of it yourself. Then you don’t have to know anyone and you can just be self-sufficient, like a little tiny island.

Exactly why I often say that I will only ever trade with other people for things I could have crafted or otherwise obtained myself; if I don’t have to trade, it means all the trading (i.e., commerce-based social interaction) I do is by my own initiative, under my own terms, which in turn makes it acceptable and sometimes even enjoyable.

You might say that being introverted doesn’t entitle me to any sort of accessibility options,

Yep. But by the same token MMOs aren’t entitled to having introverts playing (and paying for) them. Given that at least a quarter of the population, and more likely closer to (or even more than) half of it, are introverts, driving introverts away can really cost a lot of the game’s potential player base and revenue.

(BTW, measuring the true proportion of introverts is hard. Introverts are much less likely to speak up, meaning any and every research on the subject that relies on self-selection — in other words, people volunteering for it — has a big tendency to grossly underestimate the introverts.)

Because trust me, the introverts won’t tell you if they feel unwelcome. They’ll just leave. And you might not notice when they leave, but you will when they’re gone.

Very true.

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Psychotrashcan

There was something similar posted on the mmorpg subreddit about this very thing. To a degree at least.

link to post

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Schlag Sweetleaf

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texyFX

the aspects of inclusivity in game-(esp. MMO) design

inclusivity is a great, if not huge word with a diverse variance of meanings and contexts. and also due to its controversy an abused one, too.
inclusion is nominally defined as the overcoming of (social) barriers, to reduce overall social division and marginalisation of (not exclusive to) social, ethnical and sexual minorities (LGBTQ) – to include (eg homosexuality still is a criminal offence in some nations).

inclusivity in overall game design is nominally defined as social integration(, not to be misunderstood with technical, which is covered by accessibility) – user should feel welcomed, if not invited, but never offended by the games elements, like aesthetics, narratives and also mechanics, as those technical systems have a social layer too. (recognize the difference between social and technical esp on mechanics)

while already a massive challenge in Single Player, inclusivity poses maybe the most substantial, if not ultimate threat in MMO design – cuz by design the supreme genre (of gaming culture) requires a massive audience, which never will be homogenous, but diverse.
WildStar failed due to its neglection of the casual majority, its high endgame entrance (and progression) barriers created a massive gap to the hardcore minority (aka crowd, which in context this very small niche of any communities userbase is not a crowd) – a social gap, which casuals were demotivated to overcome (due to high skill barrier, and skill not simply correlates, but (also!) originates from time investment).

esp. in MMO design inclusivity means to enable users not simply for the content, but for any, not exclusive to, social interaction.
on the front end inclusivity uses extrinsic tools like LFG/R, guilds and WQ-helper, but also report and ignore functions, costumer support, tutorials(, but such tools wouldnt knight a Wehrmacht glorifying Shooter).
inclusivity is a core element, if not the primary design principle, as every game is social. in its intrinsic implementation inclusivity is respect of any players (legitimate) attitude, demands and feelings, not simply as a customer, but in their dignity as human beings. (see – we dont want to be exploited by gambling sytems feeding on our addiction system)

personally my expectation to any game is to respect my time(schedule), integrity (as social being, dont force, but invite me into any system, loot is bonus, just means to a social end) and enable me to new (social) experiences.

so in inclusivitys basic aspect any game is required to be designed from an overall perspective of inclusion, which covers every design element, like mechanics, narratives, aesthetics etc.

gaming culture claimed a critical role in the definition of post 2k Political Correctness esp. the latter half of the last decade, which is not simply a symptom of a growing (global) awareness on structural issues like racism, mysognia and exploitation, but an affirmative re-inforcement of a (very required and demanded) social change.
esp. MMOs have been a focus point of this constant process of social evolution, due to their genre-defining characteristic of massive social volume. and many failed, cuz of utter neglection of the constant demand for social (which already is a very long historical) progress (as mankind overcame feudalism etc).

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EmberStar

I think I’m probably an introvert. That doesn’t mean I can’t interact with other people – in fact I’m quite good at it, *especially* in situations where the social contact doesn’t really have long term consequences. Back in the “Before Times,” when malls were places that still existed and where people actually went, I’m the person that could have a pleasant conversation with the cashier, or the person next to me in line at the food court, or waiting in line for a movie.

In my case, the thing is that I don’t *seek out* those situations. I don’t feel lonely if I’m not constantly talking to someone. I can quite comfortably go for days without speaking to anyone.

I also have either the worst luck, or some kind of bizarre Internet anti-super power, where the most despicable jerks, trolls and griefers will notice me and give me special attention. I’ve gotten random hate tells and even actual *threats* in Star Trek Online for having a lockbox “The Original Series” Constitution on one character. (IE, the same kind of ship as the Enterprise from the original TV show.)

I have Caitian, Cathar and Charr characters in the respective games, all cat people. So of course I’ve gotten MUCH hate from random strangers who are just *dying* to explain how I’m the worst kind of pervert in existence. (If only they were *literally* dying to tell me that…) I’ve also been subjected to repeated verbal attacks in several games because I’m playing a character class that *can* heal… only they were inspecting my gear without permission and realized I’m DPS. Just to list a handful of examples that have happened over time.

For me being an introvert doesn’t mean social paralysis or awkwardness. It also doesn’t mean I’ll be rude if someone does want to have a normal conversation. (The ones sending blind hate tells are welcome to fold it in half and then shove it in sideways.) But it DOES mean that I probably don’t have any reason or desire to talk to anyone I don’t know, and it will be a very rare occasion where I would seek such contact out.

(Forums/comments sections are a weird, special case. Since I have absolute control over when, where, and how often I interact, and limited control over with whom I choose to do so. I can’t stop someone from replying to me, but I’m certainly not required to respond or even acknowledge them if I don’t want to.)

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Bryan Correll

For example, introverts I know in Final Fantasy XIV are almost universally omnicrafters.

I had all the crafting/gathering jobs maxed out before I was past the mid20’s on my first combat job.

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jealouspirate

I know this column is purposely somewhat “tongue in cheek”, but I feel you’re doing introverts a bit of disservice here. Introverted people are not necessarily shy, socially anxious, or insecure. Introversion is a lot more complicated than that.

I would consider myself an introvert. Maybe I’m getting too personal here, but I’m a Doctor of Audiology for a large corporation. I spend all day talking to members of the public about their hearing. I have to assess, diagnose, and then act as a sort of salesman to convince people to treat their hearing loss (usually by buying hearing aids). I have to build trusting relationships with my clients, make them laugh, help them through difficult challenges. I also have to navigate all the corporate events, teleconferences, planning meetings, mentoring student audiologists, and so on. It’s not uncommon for my throat to be sore at the end of the day because of how much talking I’ve done.

And even though I’m an introvert, I’m pretty good at it. I’m not shy, awkward, or insecure. I’m just tired at the end of the day. When I get home I need some alone time to recharge. That’s what introversion is for a lot of people. They’re perfectly capable in social settings or large groups, they just find it draining and are content with quiet and solitude.

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Rick Mills

Nailed it – I’m the same – I get energized from solitude, and exhausted from social interaction, but am not really shy.

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Sleepy

This is exactly it – introverts are drained by lots of (especially large-group) interaction, extraverts are energised by it.

Control is a big factor too. I’m a corporate trainer, and I’m perfectly happy presenting to a few hundred people or a board of directors because I’m in control of the room.

Stick me in a party full of strangers and I’ll run like the hounds of hell are at my heels.

PlasmaJohn
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PlasmaJohn

Spot on. Anxiety is common but not the root cause. I’m far more prone to social exhaustion. I’ve read some research that suggests that introverts trend towards high adrenaline sensitivity.

Where some seek out the rush I actively avoid it. For me it’s an intensely unpleasant experience more akin to “Why are you hitting yourself with a hammer? It feels so good when I stop.”

I have enough trouble performing tasks that require a lot of dexterity when calm and near impossible when I get “the shakes”.

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Anstalt

This is exactly how I understand introvert vs extrovert: energy levels.

Extroverts gain energy from social interactions, they feed off the energy of others and come out of a social situation feeling better than when they went in.

Conversely, introverts expend energy during social situation and often feel drained because of other people. They require alone time to recover and recharge.
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But, being confident, shy, awkward etc have nothing to do with being introverted, they are separate things entirely. I’ve always been an introvert, but have only recently started suffering from social anxiety. They are extremely different sensations.

Being introverted just means that I have to plan in some alone time after a social. I need that time to recharge and relax. That’s easy to do, and as long as an MMO includes some worthwhile solo activities then it’s doing everything it needs to to support introverted players. But being socially anxious? Whole different ball game, and there is really not much an MMO can do to help in terms of design.
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What I will say is that MMOs help with social anxiety (or at least mine, can’t speak for others) simply by being multiplayer games. The ability to walk away, the lower consequences etc help make it easier to join groups in game, compared to the real world. You get to be social…..from the safety of your home office space. You can log on and not talk all evening and people won’t think you’re weird, but can’t do that in the real world! All of this helps build confidence in social interactions, which can then be transferred to real life.

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Stormwaltz

Agreed. This article largely describes me. It took a long time (most of my adult life) to work out that what I cope with isn’t introversion – a preference for being on my own – but social anxiety, a fear of interacting with others, especially strangers.

The problem is, we all tend to use “introvert” as a quick, digestible synonym for social anxiety. You don’t get eyerolls for describing yourself as an introvert, but if you say “I have anxiety,” there’s always somebody who’s going to dismiss, mock, or rules-lawyer your words. :)

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Roger Edwards

I agree. The term “introvert” is bandied about far too easily these days. I can in specific circumstances, appear to be an “introvert”. But the reality is I just don’t like small talk and superfluous conversations. I just like the company of intelligent, witty people.

So if Stephen Fry were to randomly pop round for dinner, I’d happily cross examine him all-night. Instead, I get collared by some local, while waiting for the bus, who tells me about “his Vera’s lumbago” or worse still, just blurts out something racist or some such bullshit.

Also, too many people are afraid of silence these days and feel the need to constantly fill the void with “chatter”.

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Estranged

@jealouspirate Same. And on another note, extroverts can also be labeled in negative ways.

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Eric Gray Jr.

Long time irl friend taught me how to be a great support role. Rule number 1: Reading Tool tips then applying it. Most of the time when playing support in new content, I’m quiet and focused (not really an instant fan of DPS in most tab target mmos) Folks ask about what I’m wearing at times in the middle of content, and are met with silence. Never fully cared much for that as an endgame goal.

But when they look glammed out or are WAY overgeared/leveled for said content yet we’re STILL wiping even after having explained mechanics and content tells? Yeah, I will open my mouth and make gameplay points as to why things aren’t dying or being done very rudely.

It’s odd getting almost immediately scooped up in newly released games as the “hardest” classes due to having the mindset of “dig deep yourself. Hit bottom? Then ask around” Got kicked from alot random guilds due to not “Running just for the team” but pugged tons of solo support raids to improve the play style. Actual players see that..

Got in a league in DCUO that had high end everything.. But played strictly with the meta mindset. They needed a healer but they had one near max combat rating (cr330) that wanted to see how I ran a nonmeta build (was cr325). Our controller and tank felt extremely at ease as the crit heals topped most everyone off and hardly used power to do so..

Middle of 2nd boss.. Got DC’d. Came back in the content as the other healer checking my build took over; but the teams health bars and power bar usage already gave me and them, the difference in the dedication involved due to all the alone time.

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h4

Hello fellow introvert gamers! I’m so introverted that I tried to avoid grouping completely. Instead, I focused on ways to solo things that were meant for groups. If I couldn’t do it, I just wrote it off as content not relevant to me.

However, this feels totally empty even when successful! I mean lets face it, the majority of MMO content is actually quite easy and designed to be beaten, including group content. So the point isn’t beating the content, but rather, the multi-player experience and the journey. So we gotta step out of our introvert comfort zones in the end anyways.

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Noel

Asking a game to accomodate your particular play style isn’t a case of entitlement. It’s an invitation for them to retain you as a customer. You pay, you get a say.

Also, people with anxiety may be introverts, but not all introverts are people with anxiety. Some of us are misanthropes who would just prefer to play with RL friends – who are either few and far between, or who just aren’t interested in engaging in this particular hobby.

I think game companies who monitor population/usage understand that people who do not organize for group-oriented content are a significant demographic that they would be foolish to ignore. But the game developers themselves may be conservative — or worse, antagonistic — to the “solo” play style, and so intentionally afford it a lesser accomodation.

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Mark

I second this; my primary way of playing MMOs – and most games, if possible – is as a duo with my wife. Yet due to the almost total death of couch co-op our choices are few. MMOs give the sense of character development as a team that we crave.

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jealouspirate

Have you tried “It Takes Two” yet? My wife and I have been really enjoying playing that together.