Thinking will, that is. Still, I like Spinks’ Thought For The Day, which I’ve pondered many times over the last few years. What do we mean by “socialising,” these days? Sitting right next to? Having drinks with? Babbling uncontrollably at? Being in the same room, even?
I will say that “social” endeavours as defined by MMOs in recent years (i.e. grouping) have become so activity-focused that I talk less in them than I do when I’m doing just about anything else in game. The more button mashing we have to do, too, the less we’ll talk.
So what sorts of things could we do in games that would be a little more conducive to old-fashioned sociability? Traveling is the big one, though I’m not certain it was designed primarily to encourage chatting — it just happens to be something time-consuming and passive that almost everyone has to endure. But when are we going to be able to have picnics or parties or, hell, darts or bowling competitions?
I’m not asking that the big games suddenly become arcade centres but… well, I suppose in a way I am. I just remember that in Asheron’s Call we’d have parties and stuff, because you could drop stuff (food, equipment, whatever) on the ground — or, if you were good at positioning, on tables and other pre-positioned landscape items. People would show up and pig out, not because it “fed” them in any real sense, but because eating with others is about so much more than just food. Also, Asheron’s Call food items sounded fun and tasty, and many of them were chocolate-based (always a win).
We’d also hold equipment swap meets based on the same principles: bring your excess stuff, drop it around the place, pick up other people’s stuff that looks interesting to you.
(For those who wonder if the world ended up littered in other people’s dinner parties and excess gear, the answer is no: there was a sweeper system that would just remove stuff every so often. Bad if you were muling (moving stuff from one character to another), good for the game in general.)
Most Asheon’s Call players will remember nekkid dungeon runs, too. There was no particular point to doing them nekkid except that it was fun — and dungeons weren’t instanced, so you essentially got to streak past whoever else was in there being very serious and professional. We haven’t lost the ability to do things like that, but we just don’t seem to do them anymore.
Have MMOs become too achievement-oriented? Have our incessant demands to have more to do resulted in our having so much to do we never have time to just kick back and be silly? Silly is a large component of fun, at least for me. I miss it. It makes people laugh together, and that is social.
Last and mostly unrelated but not least, take a look at another great post from the other side of the fence over at Brian “Psychochild” Green’s place. (My armchair is comfier!)