When it comes to games, I’m a social butterfly. That may be in part because IÂ tend toward the other side of the spectrum in real life. IÂ like games more, and stick with them longer, when there are strong elements of community and ‘playing together’.
Beyond a sense of belonging,Â I like ‘feeling’ that sense of other people playing alongside me. My experience is validated when I know that others are investing time too. When I know there are others participating in the game I feel as though what I do somehow matters more because it somehow integrates with their experience, and vice versa.
A good example of this is Ultima Online. I could dig in a mine all day and gather ore. I could build a house out in the wilds. I could kill the hard monsters and amass loot. But what does that matter if there’s no one else around? There’s a connection there for me that somehow makes it all more real. We’re all working towards making that experience real. That input from them is a missing link that magically binds all of the gameplay mechanics together into a living, breathing, cohesive world.
I feel the same in games like Minecraft. I can make a magnificent monster spawner or automatic wheat farm, but if no one is there to see me do it — or preferably help me since I love co-building things — then it all seems like I’m just doing it for myself. The magic dies once the creation is finished or once I provide to myself I can do it. Â However, if someone else watches or helps me make something then I feel this urge to do it again and again.
I love teamwork. I love working with others to overcome obstacles. I thrive on the energy of minds coming together to combine ideas and create strategies. Sieging a castle in Dark Age of Camelot with a bunch of bots would not have been the same as doing it with 300 real players all thinking independently.
In MMORPGs, I like getting to know people. I like conversations. Some of the most fun I have ever had in a game was grouping in EverQuest in a dangerous area with a group. We would hunker down in a room or on a hillside and sit close together. Once the group was secure, we would pull monsters for hours and just shoot the breeze. Some of those relationships grew so strong that we would group again and even form guilds. Relationships opened new opportunities. Relationships and socializing were almost like unwritten or unprogrammed skills your character needed to advance. It was an element of gameplay no designer could possible account for, and it made the game 10x better.
Not all games have to beÂ multiplayer or have social gameplay, but as a gamer I know that I thrive on and enjoy games more with others. I also know that I enjoy games most when the game itself is designed to encourage and promote players to experience the games together.
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