But is it as bad as it has been made it out to be? And moreover, are these issues isolated to WoW or do the complaints apply to the broader MMO community?
In my opinion, the game’s only real crime is its popularity. It has, quite simply, become a phenomenon, and it therefore attracts an incredibly diverse selection of players. Take a look at another popular MMO, Guild Wars, for example. It recently had its 6 millionth account activated and its community is plagued with the same issues as WoW’s. Immaturity, fighting and general antagonistic churlishness is the norm as so many different people are brought together to intermingle in a single online space.
I’m yet to come across a large online game with an excellent community, which has lead me to believe that the time when great communities are built is when population levels are low. Think of a small MMO as a small town and a large MMO like World of Warcraft as a major global city.
It’s logical that in the small town most people will know each other due to seeing each other on a regular basis. Here, conflict is less likely and a sense of true community quickly develops. In the city, on the other hand, people are less likely to run in to each other whilst out and about, meaning that people feel less inclined to make an effort to be nice to those around them.
Small town charm
A great example of a “small town” community can be found in The Saga of Ryzom. Since its inception in 2004 it has struggled to stay afloat due to a sheer lack of players. This has lead to a sense of companionship developing between its players.
Those I encountered in-game were extremely courteous, willing to go out of their way to help me and even showering me with gifts at times. World Chat never spiralled out of control into massive flame fests as people had built true friendships with each other.
The entire experience contrasts starkly against that which WoW and Guild Wars players have become accustomed to.
The bigger picture
The reason most people play MMO’s is because they enjoy playing with real people. However, that does not mean that we should expect them to play nice.
The sheer diversity and magnitude of the bigger MMO communities makes conflict inevitable.
World of Warcraft boasts by far the largest and most diverse MMO community in the world. It’s a sheer numbers game, and the statistical probability of there being people that annoy you is greatly increased as the community’s population grows larger.
Sadly, the annoying and oppositional attention seekers are inevitably the loudest community members. They seek each other out, building upon each other’s childish flamebate commentary, and we are soon left with an annoying vocal minority that can be difficult to ignore. All things considered, it becomes easy to see why large MMO communities have such terrible reputations.
However, the key here is to keep things in perspective, and remember that those giving the community a bad name really are an insignificant minority.
With this in mind I have come to realise that the community is not nearly as terrible as I initially thought it was.
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