The Social Dynamic in MMORPGs


by Tiffany Garden

In most mmorpg's, there is a function to band together in social groups, referred to as guilds, monarchies, nations, supergroups, etc. These groupings often provide some form of benefit to the player, in the form of tangible game bonuses, but there is another, subtle benefit to joining in on such activity.

Whether you join for roleplaying, to have a good time, or just to have someone to level with, friendships developed in mmorpg's can get a real as you allow. Simply because someone is speaking to you through something that is not considered conventional means, does not make the person any less real.

While horror stories are told of the 40 year old man masquerading as a 15 year old girl, such a farce is often easy to see through (exactly how many men can profess to understand women to begin with, let alone act like them?).

I've been involved with several guilds over the course of the last few years, and have experienced first hand the supportive effort many of them will boast for their players.

It's not something you can find in recruitment spiels, or often times even looking over the prerequisite website or forums, but the most successful guilds are based around treating their members like one big extended family.

Yes, there is fighting, and shake ups, just like in any large family, but in every successful guild that i have come across, there has been a strong core of players that support the rest of the members, most often officers or the guild leaders, although many times even normal members can be a great source of comradeship.

I would not feel comfortable with relating several personal stories that I was both told, and in some had a part in, but I can relate an experience of my own.

My relationship with my boyfriend at the time was experiencing a rather rapid deterioration. I won't bore you with the details, but almost constant fighting ensued day in and day out.

In that time, I was deeply involved in my own personal guild, of which I was the leader. Although we had banded together out of a shared roleplaying vision, we all quickly became close, and I found myself talking to my second in command of my troubles.

While he was, by far, not the only person who helped me through that time, he helped with the guild administration and activities, and helped keep me engaged in game, to take my mind off of difficult matters.

Over and over again have I heard similar stories, from friends, enemies, many among the guild I have been with for a year+ now. Having such an online social group is good if your friends are close to unreachable, such as mine are, scattered over the country due to college coursework.

Another thing that is often overlooked is the fact that the relative anonymity of the Internet, often opens up discussions, enabling you to talk about things that you are perhaps too timid to in front of friends, as well as gaining an oft needed new perspective to the situation.

This is not, in any way, shape, or form, considered a substitute to real life friends, but over time and difficulties, you can often found the online part slowly being transformed to offline.

My guild is planning a meet for sometime next year, and I have to say I'm very excited about the prospect of meeting the players behind the characters. When we all have had much bonding time between games, where real life situations and problems are really focused on, in lieu of gameplay discussion and roleplaying scenarios, it really makes you realize, these people aren't 'fake people', as some refer to online friends. They are living, breathing people, with their own wants, desires, and degrading them as a second rate person, simply on the basis that you met through an uncommon medium, does not excuse any such behavior.

Looking at the more mainstream uses of the Internet, chatting and IM clients are among the most popular activity, so how is getting to know someone you meet through an online game considered anathema?

Some leaps of logic just boggle the mind at times, but I suppose that is the true in many other facets of life as well. Many aspects put into an mmorpg indirectly encourage the social aspects as well: From xp bonuses derived from grouping, to player run economies, to crafting, all create an environment in which to talk to your fellow player, and slowly form relationships that can last years.

In addition to that, depending on how drama driven your game is, it can definitely have a better story line than most soap operas. I've seen a crazy amount of break ups, fights, love triangles, relationships forming, and some very Jerry Springer-esque stuff. It's always exciting in the communities of the mmorpg!