Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A talking cure

This post started out as a question on how much our game life is an escape route from real life; but it's a debate well covered elsewhere and Zaboo pummelling real life into the ground probably sums it up sufficiently.

But I had been musing upon the post by another community member about hitting the doldrums and logging in merely run around a bit before logging out. And I know that feeling all too well. There was an entire spell where I would just log in, drive my speeder in idle laps around Tattooine, then log out again. Because, ofc, the essential thing about these games is that they should be fun; we should enjoy them - this isn't a job of work. And you do hit a point where you feel like you have to log in, and have to level up. And there's no better way of killing enjoyment of a game.

What makes an MMO something that I find time to play is the community. I log in to gather with my friends, to talk nonsense if I feel like it, or to be quiet in company if I feel like that instead. It's like being a regular at a much-loved pub; you can go to the bar and launch into cheerful conversation with your friends, or sit at a table at the back, supping a pint and staring into space. And if you want to be an antisocial bugger and go to a different pub around the corner, feel free – enjoy the peace and quiet. All options available.

However, I do have a difficult relationship with Ventrilo. As a tool, it is marvellously useful; but for a community it is both angel and demon. Yes, it makes huge difference to ease of communication and it definitely negates the likelihood of death by typing; but it does split us. By talking on Vent, we're only talking to part of the community, and another section is left out of the conversation altogether. And not being on Vent, doesn't necessarily mean that people want to be left out of the conversation - there are other reasons to do with surrounding external noise, game immersion, and labouring technology.

There's also the issue - to go back to the bar analogy - that sometimes you feel like you have to force your way into a conversation. At least at the pub, you can catch someone's eye, find out with a glance if you can join in or if this is a group-only discussion. It's not so easy on Vent; you can jump into groups to find the usual free-wheeling chat, or you can find very focused battle tactics. There are those among us who can happily channel hop with aplomb, but for others it is not so easy.

Groups form swiftly on voice-chat, and with the limited numbers needed for flashpoints in TOR, there's little need to call out beyond the voiced participants. Which again shifts the community into two tiers.

I'm not trying to argue that we should stop using Ventrilo. You can't put the genie back in the bottle. Perhaps a rather more Delphic 'Know thyself' and 'Nothing in excess'. Try to make use of all our channels of communication - forums, voice chat, guild chat, chat channels, whatever; mix it up a bit and nothing to exclusion.

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