I recently read this Soapbox article on Massively: Of course I care what you’re doing in MMOs.
It’s a soapbox article, so I’ll grant that it’s supposed to be controversial. Jef sets out to refute what he calls this misconception he read on a forum: “Why do you care what other players do in an MMORPG? It doesn’t affect you.” I didn’t write that, but it’s something I might have written. So I was genuinely interested in hearing the reasoning behind Jef’s belief that it’s a “misconception.”
Unfortunately, Jef never directly addresses the question. His article goes on to say (in summary), “It does affect me and everyone should care.” But he never says how or why, except with the vague idea that the genre is diminished without more socialization. If Jef was trying to convince a soloist that his gameplay would be fundamentally enhanced by interacting more with the players in the game around him, he never gave any concrete examples from any real games.
So I remain unconvinced. You might already know that I play solo most of the time. I usually don’t give a whit what people are doing around me, unless they are somehow impeding me from completing my PvE goals. I’m not oblivious to the other people, though. I try not to interfere with them while I’m going about my business in the collectively-shared virtual world. This is more-or-less how I behave in real life, too. I don’t bother other people and I expect them not to bother me. This doesn’t seem very controversial to me.
My guess is that Jef was just trying to say that the social aspects of MMORPGs are more important to the genre than the RPG parts. He doesn’t want all MMORPGs to devolve into single-player games while leveling (I imagine he is thinking of games like ESO and SWTOR).
I can understand that, and even I am glad that there are group activities available in these games, but I never, ever want to log into an MMORPG and have to find other people before I can do anything rewarding. I don’t want my MMORPG to be some kind of dinner party, where introducing myself to people and mingling and striking up conversations to be polite is the social norm. I want to choose whether to be social or not. Just like real life.
I will always come down on the side of introverts’ rights–whether in game or in real life. :)