WTFBBQ: Solo Vs. Group Play (in MMOs)


Welcome to a new weekly edition of WTFBBQ-where we talk about the stuff that makes forums explode, but ends up just being a bunch of people venting their egos and piling more gasoline on an already flaming dead horse. This week, we’ll be looking at Solo Vs. Group play.

Why is this a potential flamewar topic? Well for some rare arenas and even more rarefied gamers, it isn’t, but in this new modern world, very few gamers who engage on PC or console don’t also have an MMO account, and more than a few have multiple. Thus begins the flamewar.

There’s an age-old (or at least as long as MMOs have been around-which really isn’t that long ago) argument that always gets aired on MMO forums, basically being that MMO translates to Massively Multiplayer, which seems to mean to some that players should be forced to group whether they like it or not. Those who promote this particular argument state that if you’re truly not interested in grouping with others, then you should stick to single-player games. I find it interesting that these arguments don’t seem to apply to team PvP games, like LoL (League of Legends for the unaware) or similar where the emphasis is on curating your team and not accepting new people, but that’s another debate for another time, and probably one I won’t get into. Nonetheless, it’s interesting.

The problem with this argument is that it assumes all players are equal (again not the case in PvP teams) and that should someone want to join, you should feel obligated to admit them to your party. Now, I haven’t actually talked to folks, so I have no idea if this is merely promoted by people who no-one wants to group with, or if it’s just a weird idiosyncrasy, as so often crops up in varied social groups. I expect at least a fair margin are those kinds of people.

The thing is, not everyone is equal. Some people are just idiots and jerks and no one wants to group with them. Being socially ostracized is an age-old penalty for people who refuse to be even mildly socially conscious. Yes, this can be a problem with people on the autism spectrum, but for those on the spectrum who do play, may I propose that the people that refuse you would probably drive you up the wall anyway, and you should consider yourself to have dodged a bullet there.

And, honestly, some people are gear and experience snobs. They’d rather run the same thing over and over for the same pieces of equipment until they have it all. I mean, it isn’t my thing, but maybe it’s comforting? Maybe it’s the MMO equivalent to poker night, and you must be x tall to enter (pardon my mixed metaphors). Honestly, if they’re like that, again, you may have dodged a bullet. Or maybe it motivates you to be better and do better. I don’t know. I am pre MMO, I played on MUDs, ye olde text-based game fare via telnet, so the idea of people feeling better about themselves because of pixels doesn’t really get me. I find most GCD (Global cooldowns) are slow enough I can get my needed buttons mashed, so I see no relevance in masters of button mashery. Tactics, maybe, buttons, no.

Either way, these aren’t the people insisting on being grouped and accepting all comers. To be honest, I don’t think anyone means to accept all comers, but just themselves. And that’s where I get a bone in my craw. If you aren’t being picked up, there’s probably a good reason. No one is obligated to carry you, socialize with you or sympathize with you. MMOs may be massively online and multiplayer, but that doesn’t mean they have to play specifically with you. It means they play with others, who, in fact, may not be you.

The world is bigger now, borders mean little in online games, and for some, it’s the only time they can hang out with their online friends. If you’re not one of the said friends, you’re simply not invited. This isn’t kindergarten, you’re not expected to give everyone an invitation. It’s expected that you will understand that different people like different things. And those people will group together, as like attracts like. If you don’t fit, you just don’t fit. That isn’t necessarily because you’re a bad person or that there’s anything wrong with you, the thing is, with the lowering of borders online, you also have a huge pool of people who are your people.

You can “find your tribe” online. Granted, if you violate the TOS by being a racist or bigotted twat, yeah you’ll find yourself without people to play with as you get reported and banned, but aside from that, there should be plenty of people for you to play with. Go out, talk to people, ask for parties, hang out and talk with people. You can let your weird out, and if someone doesn’t like it, find people who do.
A small population of an MMO is about 200k. Out of two hundred thousand people, you will be able to find a group you like. Not that you have to, because by no means are you necessitated to group if you don’t feel like it.

Yes, there are self-titled “old school” MMOs out there who try to enforce grouping. Do you know what I hear when I hear “old school” applied to an MMO? I hear “obsolete”. People game for fun. Yeah a very small percentage do so professionally, and a slightly larger group aspire to, but most people? No, they’re there for fun. To turn off their brain and just enjoy-whether that be through tactics, through socializing, through chasing flaming squirrels across the forest, they’re there to have fun. Not to be forced into archaic roles, and grit their teeth to make it past an arbitrary gate for no reason other than to gain specious gamer cred.

Exclusive unboxing of mad loot I got from my gamer cred!

And after all of that-if someone wants to solo in an MMO, what does it matter to you? They’re there, enjoying themselves, paying the same money to see the game continues, putting out the same data and loving the very same game. Sometimes people just want others around to make the game feel alive. That’s okay too. You try and force a solo player into a group and you’ll have just as rough a time as trying to force parties to take all comers.

Thing is, we’re all different people, and the game industry and scenery have shifted significantly, and for good reason. People want to play online but don’t want to be forced. No one likes to be bullied or pushed around. Hells, I’m pretty sure every one of you reading this now can think of times in school when you were teamed up with people that you really wish you weren’t. Why on earth would you force that on someone else? You may think you’re perfect, but let’s face it, you’re not. You’re not everyone’s cup of tea either. People playing solo impact you in absolutely no way whatsoever. Leave them alone and spend your time doing something more constructive, like finding the people who do want you, will appreciate you and enjoy having you around. The investment in time will be much better spent.

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