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MissPickyGamer

MMORPGs: Material interdependency amongst players ruins the social aspect.

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MMORPG: Material interdependency amongst players ruins the social aspect. What is material interdependency?: This is when players depend on each other for getting good items. Forcing players to play together because of material interdependency just ruins the fun, it makes gaming resemble your workplace or something. Interdependency amongst players encourages pseudo-social-behaviour instead of sincere friendships. It is an important social aspect of a game that a player is able to show that he/she is not playing with you because of the material advantage you give but because he/she likes your company. But the material disadvantages(the fact that you can only get crappy items) of playing solo or in a small group of players inhibits the social aspect of many if not all existing MMORPGs. Perhaps female gamers care much more about this than males do. I myself being a female gamer find this aspect extremely important in the process of making friends. [Edited by - MissPickyGamer on January 25, 2006 8:08:33 AM]

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An interesting point - but I think interdependency on others for good items is a neat thing to include - providing that the opportunity is there for everyone.

I genuinely liked looking around for my favourite blacksmith on UO, and getting all my stuff custom made. I liked the dependencies in Star Wars Galaxies (before they effectively killed player crafting) - decent items required decent materials, which had to be got by hunting, and they'd always pay a premium for them.

Mutual benefit is one of the prime social factors in MMOs (you group to survive against certain mobs, you get material A for person B who can then give you C), and I think they're generally required to drive interaction between players, who initially are strangers. These things are also the force behind any game that has player crafting. Those dependencies are required to drive the virtual economy.

Besides the material dependencies, which are all well and good in a materialistic MMO, I like the idea of task dependencies - Bloodspear, the game project I'm working on based on the libraries that are my main project, has a VERY complex social system based on player dependency - to get to the top of certain heirarchies, you need to delegate, and you need to trust and be trusted to do your job correctly. Screwing around can (and probably will) get you assassinated - possibly by the players beneath you, or even above you if you're proving to be a destabilising influence. But this also can force interactions like getting assigned to a military task along with a whole bunch of other recruits you've never met before. There's no material dependency, but everyone has a vested interest in getting the task done and therefore helping each other.

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Everquest 2 tradeskilling is the perfect example of this (or at least it was when I played it a year ago). It feels so much like work. And what's even worse is you have to begrudgingly establish a network of work contacts just to do your job.

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I think part of the problem here is that it is too tempting to model real life in simulated social systems. In the real world, I rely on untold thousands of other people to provide various things for me, which I then "consume" at a high level; that's how a capitalist economy works. The only really obvious alternative, where every "player" has to be totally self-sufficient, sounds like too much work to possibly be "fun." We don't want people to be islands, and we definitely want some social interaction... so the easy and obvious solution is economic or materialistic dependencies. People use each other to get to the top. Isn't it really that way in real life, too? How many real-life human interactions are genuine friendly relationships, and how many are people grudgingly acting nice to each other, because we both benefit from it?

Of course, that doesn't mean that it's "fun" or even excusable to build a virtual society around the same pattern. But it's familiar, and it's easy to tell when it's working, so I think that might be a large part of why we see the pattern so heavily in most online games (and even online communities outside of gaming).


IMHO it's pretty clear that this is a serious shortcoming in virtual society systems today, but how do we get past it? What can we do, in terms of design, to bypass a selfish, I-don't-really-like-you-but-at-least-we-both-will-get-paid sort of model? How do we go from point A to point B?

I've never actually subscribed to any MMO type games, or heavily social games. The closest I've ever come is routinely playing multiplayer games with a group of friends. I do that because I've already got the friends; I tend to not mess with "artificial societies" because, in general, they don't connect me to the kind of people I feel like playing with. Statistically speaking, the odds of me jumping into a new MMO and finding a like-minded player with whom I genuinely get along are basically zero. I can't jump into an MMO world and have a way of finding new friends; I have to "Get lucky" and hope that the "friends" I find aren't just ripping me off for the good quest items. (Of course, I'm probably very spoiled by getting into role-playing via "real" RPGs. You know, the ones where you have to use a pen and know arithmetic.)

When I'm looking to expand my social network in real life, I know of a few places where I can find like-minded people, and have a good chance of meeting someone I can really befriend. College campus gaming groups, the philosophy section of the bookstore, etc. etc. In an MMO, I'd have no point of reference in which to start creating a genuine social network. I've always said that the only way I'd ever get into an MMO is if I already knew a good dozen people IRL with whom I could play on a regular basis. This all gets even more complicated when you factor in role-play (which, frankly, few players really engage in anyways). I have to not only find characters whose real-life players I can get along with, but we've got to be compatible in-game. For a real world example, I might play a Horde character on World of Warcraft, but all the people I really want to game with are Alliance. If I don't already know those players, I'll never meet them in a way that allows us to play together socially; in the best case we might PvP each other in a raid, but that's hardly a good "friendship" [wink]. We have a fundamental barrier to creating a genuine social network, and in the absence of that, we fall back to more pragmatic and selfish behaviors.


In general I think virtual social interaction is an incredibly young and unexplored field, so there's probably hope of all these things getting figured out and "corrected" over time. As my therapist says, recognizing the problem is the biggest step towards finding the cure [wink]

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That is a really good point. The idea behind 'material interdependency' is generally to encourage players to interact with one another. But in the real world, this kind of interdependence results in the formation of companies, not necessarily friendships.

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As much as I agree that working wih people because you pretty much have to is tedious, I sometimes find working with a freind even worse. It becomes stressful, your after this item and you don't want any mess ups, everyone is ordering each other it's not fun, it's business. But lets face it not everyone does want to make freinds. Many just want to play an online game for it's content rather than the social side. Also friends arn't always online and not everyone is patient.

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Quote:
Original post by MissPickyGamer
MMORPG: Material interdependency amongst players ruins the social aspect.

What is material interdependency?:
This is when players depend on each other for getting good items.

Forcing players to play together because of material interdependency just ruins the fun, it makes gaming resemble your workplace or something.
Interdependency amongst players encourages pseudo-social-behaviour instead of sincere friendships.
It is an important social aspect of a game that a player is able to show that he/she is not playing with you because of the material advantage you give but because he/she likes your company.

But the material disadvantages(the fact that you can only get crappy items) of playing solo or in a small group of players inhibits the social aspect of many if not all existing MMORPGs.

Perhaps female gamers care much more about this than males do. I myself being a female gamer find this aspect extremely important in the process of making friends.


First off, I'd recommend reading this. I find it insightful. It's not canonical, but it certainly shares a view into online gaming which I think is fairly accurate.

Players tend to play online games for different reasons. Given that you seem to fit into the 'socializer' category (as opposed to the 'number cruncher', 'explorer', or 'killer' categories), you might tend to feel used if a character comes up to you and requests something from you without first saying Hello, or attempting to interact with you in a manner befitting of a social environment.

However, what game are you playing? Chances are, you're attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole. That is, the game you're playing was designed with the primary intent of a 'system' primarily targetted at 'number cruncher' players. I say this because it appears as though current-day games seem to cater almost exclusively to the 'number cruncher'. By its very nature, the game you're playing attracts one type of player; being a different type of player, yours and the other individuals' game-goals clash, hence your post here today.

I can't really recommend a remedy; you might simply try segregating yourself into a roleplayer's or socializer-oriented guild, and minimize contact with non-similar players. If your game of choice has a player-run equivalent, you might try looking for a roleplay-only server.

Good luck,
- m³

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Quote:
Original post by MatrixCubed

First off, I'd recommend reading this. I find it insightful. It's not canonical, but it certainly shares a view into online gaming which I think is fairly accurate.

Players tend to play online games for different reasons. Given that you seem to fit into the 'socializer' category (as opposed to the 'number cruncher', 'explorer', or 'killer' categories), you might tend to feel used if a character comes up to you and requests something from you without first saying Hello, or attempting to interact with you in a manner befitting of a social environment.

However, what game are you playing? Chances are, you're attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole. That is, the game you're playing was designed with the primary intent of a 'system' primarily targetted at 'number cruncher' players. I say this because it appears as though current-day games seem to cater almost exclusively to the 'number cruncher'. By its very nature, the game you're playing attracts one type of player; being a different type of player, yours and the other individuals' game-goals clash, hence your post here today.

I can't really recommend a remedy; you might simply try segregating yourself into a roleplayer's or socializer-oriented guild, and minimize contact with non-similar players. If your game of choice has a player-run equivalent, you might try looking for a roleplay-only server.

Good luck,
- m³


I agree with you on everything you say and I find the article you linked to very interesting, I'm gonna read it through and get back to this thread in a couple of days. I'm pretty busy with my exams atm :)

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So what does help the "social" aspect of games?

People exchanging their time freely for mutual gain IS my definition of social.

(that's why socialism is the opposite of social).

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I think something that might help is players cooperating for the *prospect* of gain, rather than an absolute result, that is to say mechanisms that promote exchanges of trust rather than material resources. Of course, this could be viewed as an abstract form of 'gain' anyway. It's a question of viewpoint.

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