The first MMO I ever played was Final Fantasy XI, which meant that I got used to the idea of having no zone-wide chat. If you needed to get the attention of everyone in the zone, you used the /yell command, and that was considered intensely rude. It was only when I started playing City of Heroes (my second MMO) that I started getting used to the idea of zone-wide chat… which meant it seemed noisy at first. Going back to FFXI and then later in Final Fantasy XIV, it seemed downright quiet.
On the one hand, having a zone chat feature means that you get to talk with more people on a regular basis, so in some ways it helps with socializing. But it also means socializing that you might not want; Barrens Chat in World of Warcraft was legendary for being awful, and there’s a running meme in FFXIV to just turn off /shout when people are using it heavily. Plus there are people who prefer not to have it for immersion or the sense of immediacy. So what do you think? Is zone-wide chat a good thing for MMOs?
Of all the chapters in Rachel Kowert and Thorsten Quandt’s book The Video Game Debate: Unravelling the Physical, Social, and Psychological Effects of Video Games, this is the chapter I’ve been most dreading to cover in our ongoing series on MMOs and psychology.
It’s not just because, as I previously mentioned, it’s one of the most difficult chapters in the book. It’s the findings. Dr. Kowert is very balanced in her handling of the topic, both pro and against gaming in terms of social outcomes. But for me, someone who recently had a huge bout with depression and used online games to deal with it, this chapter began as a knock-out punch to my ego before I was able to rely on some other strategies to stand up and tackle my understanding of the chapter, and myself, from different angles.
Here’s something you probably didn’t know: Online worlds researcher Dr. Richard Bartle didn’t actually write the Bartle test.
His original research explored, analyzed, and defined the four player archetypes — killer, socializer, achiever, and explorer — but the test based on that paper was created a few years later by Erwin Andreasen and Brandon Downey and named in his honor.
We’ve been talking a lot about Bartle’s ideas’ relevance to modern MMOs in the last month or two, so I thought it would be fun to ask the Massively OP staff and readers to take the test, share their results, and talk about what it all means in this week’s Massively Overthinking.
There are, of course, some caveats.
This week’s Massively Overthinking topic from an anonymous Kickstarter donor asks us to set aside our criticisms of the social environment of MMOs and figure out what we, as players, can do about it.
“We criticize MMO devs for making our MMO experience less social, but are they the only ones to blame? I think our (the players’) behaviour to others and within the games themselves has also changed. I’d like to know if you can think of ways we players could improve that situation – from behaviour, less game or guild hopping, ways to grow our friends lists – to make our MMO experience more social again.”
Is he right? Have we changed, too? And how do we solve the problem from the bottom up in an MMO genre that increasingly thinks social media shares are all the social we want and need?