The social experience of MMOs

The revamped Battle.net interface in World of ...

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Anyone who’s ever played a MMO of any kind, be it farmville or World of Warcraft you have been told “You have no life”, “You have no friends”, “You should go outside”. For starters we all know that the sun is dangerous and causes 2 damage per second- which is pretty lame DPS if you ask me. However when you think about these claims they’re pretty stupid. On games like World of Warcraft, pictured to the left you’re always interacting with people, making friend etc. The truth is that without a social experience WoW would not have as near as many subscribers, on the other hand if WoW didn’t dominate the experience we would have more, maybe more innovative games at that.

But let’s think WoW, it’s a good example to start with. In WoW you have to make friends, you don’t get anywhere playing on your own. Since most of the high level raids are done by guilds which may require member invitation, or a certain gearscore or achievements. You need to get friends to get anything done. Trading is also important, if you know someone who regularly needs materials you are obtaining being friends with them has various advantages, and can lead to many opportunities. You’re probably wondering what I’m talking about and why I sound like a drug user. Simply put: Get friends in high places. WoW is less about how much your battleaxe pwns and more about how  you manage your connections, when you get to higher levels this becomes more apparent.

Everything in MMOs has to be social, if it’s not people will not feel connected to the game. Someone who plays Fable 3 will never feel the same connection, urge to play and willingness to dedicate many hours to the game as a World of Warcraft or EVE player does. Similarly even in games like Call of Duty. Would you get another bland shooter with a crappy plot, because your friends have it? Chances are you will. And yes this isn’t the same, and the reason it’s not is the reason WoW eats people and refuses to give them back.

WoW’s social experience is continuous, you can play with your friends for hours doing quests and instances, even after you stop hanging out with your one in real life friend you can continue. Then you meet someone else doing the same quests- hey you like the same music and films and where did 5 hours go? Call of Duty gets boring very quickly, not just because it’s full or people who can’t keep their mouth shut, the experience isn’t continuous, you won’t make any friends with people because the interaction isn’t long enough. This is why you can spend 5 hours on WoW and 5 seconds in a CoD game, 10 if you have no sound.

But why does WoW eat smaller developers for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner? Because people can’t play two MMOs at a time, try it. MMO’s are designed to take up all your time, every day. Trying to play two at once will make you hate the new one. In the end you’ll want to spend the time with your friends. So in answer to the insults: no the social experience of MMO’s is what gives the developers a golden money palace and the users the biggest time eater ever. However it’s not just the social experience, we have achievements, skinner boxes, and the aesthetics to why WoW is a small dev killer.

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