We’ve all been there. That stack of rainbow goodberries has been taking up a spot in your inventory for far too long. It’s time to craft. As the monotonous filling and re-filling of the crafting bar begins to lull you into a hypnotic state, a new movement in your peripheral vision catches your attention. Guild chat!
I never thought I would be a social player. When I first logged into LOTRO several years ago, I avoided other players. The reputation of elite gamers belittling new players along with my unfamiliarity with RP tainted my expectations. To be honest, I still don’t like random grouping. I much prefer completing group content with people that I am familiar with and with who I have some kind of persistent connection. Coming from single-player games, I didn’t like that MMO’s designed systems specifically to force people together. I even had to ask somebody about the benefits of joining a guild.
But something strange has happened to me over the last four years. I’ve become a social player. Some of it was out of necessity, but some if it was out of pure boredom while doing things like crafting or riding a stable horse from place to place. What better time to pop a joke into guild chat than when you’re doing nothing other than hitching a ride between Suri Kyla and Talvi Muri in Forochel! Over time, this aspect of the game became so enjoyable that I would log in every night, whether I really had plans to play or not, just to see who was around. In fact, opening the guild tab is still the first thing I do when I log into a game. That point when my LOTRO kinship stopped logging in marked the start of my interest in the game waning.
So, I guess I am a social player. Those in my Guild Wars 2 guild will probably tell you that I can be pretty chatty in the channel. However, I still don’t think I speak up as much as I did in my LOTRO kin. It has nothing to do with familiarity. I’ve known most of the people in my new guild for at least a couple of years, either through my involvement in LOTRO Players or via Twitter. What I’ve noticed is that I’m getting pulled into different aspects of the game such as the personal story or a tough event, and when that happens not only do I not participate in chat, but I’ll go several minutes without even reading chat. This is good, I think. It speaks to the quality of the story and to the immersion of other aspects.
Still, there needs to be balance. In Guild Wars 2, the amount of strategic cooperation during combat (at least in the landscape, which is where I have the most experience) is fairly low. During dynamic events, everybody pretty much shows up, fights “together” in the same way that they would if they were attempting to solo, and then disperses. Thus, the need for communication during combat is also fairly low. In order to interact with members of my guild, I usually have to specifically seek out a safe (or safer) place to stop and respond. I haven’t tried crafting yet, but I’m guessing that would be a good time to participate in a little chat. While I’ve complained about crafting systems in the past, the more mundane systems do afford us the opportunity to interact with others. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that some level of dullness should be built into the game in order to encourage this type of downtime. It may seem counter intuitive, but encouraging social engagement as an alternative to a boring task is actually kind of brilliant! Imagine if every task in the game was so engaging that guild chat stood mostly stagnant for the remainder of your play session. Some people might enjoy that, but I wouldn’t. I like catching up and joking around with guildies over the course of the night. It’s all a small part of the big bundle of unwinding that I do of an evening while in-game.
I’m a social player after all.
Featured image by David Shankbone of Flickr Creative Commons