Tuesday 1 February 2011

Socialising on the internet is to socialising, what reality TV is to reality.

It’s not so much ’not wanting to play with others’ as much as it is ‘wanting to play with the right sort of others’.

Before introducing NPC party members and reducing the game to solo play, perhaps we could try a less drastic Facebook-style Like/Dislike for other players. A player can anonymously vote on other players that they encounter, giving them a ‘thumbs-up’ or ‘thumbs-down’ based on their experience with them. The LFD tool can then match groups of players based on their mutual like of one another.

Perhaps this is a little restrictive in a game with millions of players? What other systems do we know where millions of people can come together and find like-minded individuals who share interests via a network of friends? Thus, based on your own social network within the game – guild mates, friends list, etc. – we could also apply the ‘likeable’ weighting to players you have never played with before, based on whether your friends liked them.

Now take Slashdot’s comment system, where you can browse comments between a level of one and five, where level one will include everything from the common sense and the obvious, all the way down to the racists, trolls and other undesirables, and level five consists of only those comments that have been rated highly by others; looking at Slashdot you might begin to see a system for adjusting the level of ‘likeableness’ you’re willing to accept in your group. Set your acceptance level high and you’ll only get friends, guild mates, and people rated highly by yourself. Set it a little lower and you can open the search to those people who have been rated highly by your friends and guild mates as well.

We don’t need to remove everybody, we simply need to reduce the population down to a subset that is agreeable. At the same time, we need to cast a wider net than the one that pulls in only friends and guild mates.

If MMOs want to insist that they are games where people come together to socialise and play, if they want to justify their requirement of an Internet connection and payment models outside of the box price, then they could do a lot worse than look to the successes of the social networking sites before eliminating multiplayer society from MMOs altogether.

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