The Average Gamer

Ding! Grats! MMO Friends For Life

It’s Spring (nearly) and with it come thoughts of cleaning or at least thoughts of other people cleaning. To try and get in to the spirit of the moment I decided to have a bit of a rummage around on my PC and maybe organise it a little. This tends to involve randomly deleting anything that looks messy (i.e. not in a folder) and if I think deleting might be a bit dubious it gets a brand new folder made specially. Aww.

Long story short, I came across some screen shots from World of Warcraft including this terribly cute romantic moment between my Mage and some random Druid who follows me around. There we are on some steps in what looks like Uldum, floaty confetti stuff and a pretty parasol … we were probably having a picnic or something, I don’t know, I can’t role-play. It made me think about relationships and especially the ones that involve gaming or, in fact, games that involve relationships.

MMOs are the obvious candidate for games that involve social interaction and I’ve played a fair few over the years, from Ultima Online to SW:TOR via EVE Online, World of Warcraft, WAR, LoTRO and probably others that I’ve long since forgotten.

For me, a good in-game community can make or break my decision on whether to subscribe to a monthly fee. Without one any release can wind up feeling like an especially boring ghost town. Yes, new content and spangly loot will keep people logging in but as is often the case, it’s so much better if you can do it with someone else.

So this random Druid, played by a very middle aged man, has spent the last seven years dragging me across the maps of all these games. Mostly I’m the type of girl that could get lost in a bath tub, especially when I’m being lazy and playing up the “hopeless and need a hero” card .. he could probably find his way around Azeroth blindfolded by now. I’ve pinched his epics, blown up his very expensive battleship, screamed at him during raids and generally been a bit of a pain.

Along the way we’ve made friends, pissed some people off and I would like to think we’ve also helped others. I know they’ve supported me, even before I’d met these people in *gasp* real life they were holding my hand through several months of impenetrable depression. They helped where real world friends couldn’t simply by virtue of the fact I didn’t have to face them and admit I had a problem, it made it easier somehow.

These people, these friends would never have meandered in to my life if it wasn’t for gaming. I met the Druid playing EVE Online, he was a Battleship Captain … I’m a girl, you know the story. Along our way we’ve become part of a small group of people that form the core social group of any new game we play. Bonded together by a love of correct spelling and high levels of snarkiness we fearlessly criticise stuff whilst moaning about our respective jobs. I love these guys and will happily spend hours reminiscing about all the cool things we’ve done as a group, I say cool … we’re easily excited. Affection is shown easily in MMOs – I’ve saved screen-shots like some people keep letters.

Working as a team and dealing with often (very) frequent defeat is an excellent way of a) bonding and b) starting smoking again. Yet for all the good points there are the bad points too.

I suspect any part of life that involves humans will inevitably involve idiots. A segment of reality where you get to hide behind a virtual avatar and not be held accountable for a lot of what you say, more so. I’ve been called “disgusting” for being bisexual, “stupid” for being a woman and a “bitch” for possibly not being the most tolerant of raid leaders there could be. My favourite number one insult of all time still stands as being accused of having “saggy baps” … by a teenager, who had never met me. Awesome.

Sometimes the idiocy is far less about outright arsehole-ism and drifts into shades of grey where personality clashes and egos play just as big a part in on-line communities as they do in the office. Trying to schedule a raid rota when you have too many of one class leads to huffiness; trying to get the right loot to the right people leads to jealousy; and trying to run a Guild leads to a nervous breakdown.

The complexities of all of these relationships alongside the game content itself is what makes MMOs great in my mind. People are endlessly fascinating and when placed in virtual environments where they’re not necessarily constrained by the normal scripts of society, even more so.  

It’s the added randomness of it all. A game can be designed to have repeatability but it’s ultimately finite. When you add real personalities it becomes different every time you log in. The scope for creative fuck-wittery is enormous. I give you: Baron Geddon vs The Auction House; it takes a special kind of mind to have that kind of idea occur to you.

Friends, enemies, people you just mildly despise, they all go in to making up the community. We help one another (or at least have the decency to pretend to be AFK when assistance is called for) and are mostly happy when we see one another achieve something. Idiots tend to be swiftly ostracised which is best for everyone’s blood pressure and the continued harmony of a Guild. I genuinely feared for my existing friendships when I introduced my boyfriend to WoW, never have I seen the Priests’ Leap of Faith spell used so often to yoink one person out of whatever shit he was stood in.

On-line games allow us to showcase the best and worst bits of humanity, in microcosms, containing absurdities like pink haired Gnomes and seasonal events which see you transform in to a rabbit to hunt Easter eggs. To me, MMOs are the perfect escape from the rather banal grind of my everyday life and I love them. Oh and for the record, I don’t have saggy baps.