Impact of Technology on the Social Aspects of MMOs

I’ve been sitting on this post for a little while now. Checking the publish date on the video I’ll share with you shortly — it is likely I’ve been sitting on it since March, or at least April. The topic of the video is an old chestnut so far as this community is involved. That being, the shift of MMO’s from being a high social endeavour to a much more solo affair. Case in point, Kaylriene recently touched on a particular aspect of this, matchmaking systems.

I’ve given this topic a go in the past too. I took a rather me-centric look at the process though. While I talked to external factors, the focus was really on how I changed over time. The morphing of my habits from being incredibly social and willing to build relationships into someone very closed off from this kind of thing. To someone not only content with his existing friend group but actually someone who can be actively resistant to the expansion of this group.

I have complicated feelings around what I think of that latter fact. But fortunately I don’t have to unpick them in this post. It isn’t the focus.

I’m taking a much more external-led view of the subject this time, triggered by the fact I just happened across some videos from Josh Hayes on the reasons why we don’t think about MMOs in the same way anymore. One on why, perhaps, they’re not as fun as we once found them to be, and the second as already noted, on the change of social to solo as noted.

The Video that Triggered This Post

In particular, Josh’s forth point.

The Offloading of Social to Third-Party External Services

The video is very good and well worth a watch, but I can summarise Josh’s forth point relatively easily. It’s kind of there in the section-heading.

This isn’t even the current typography or logo for Discord, but you get the point.

It isn’t just Discord. Rather I highlight as a proxy for the ease of accessing communication services outside of specific games. Josh’s argument is that social interaction — as a whole — hasn’t truly decreased where MMOs are concerned. Rather that with the rise of Discord, YouTube, Twitch, and other community-building tools the socialisation has migrated.

And for me? This tracks.

I even highlighted the lack of such tools as a possible reason for losing some of the connections I valued so highly in the past. In the early days, there was no FaceBook. No Discord. No Steam. Beyond forums, very little in the way of connective tissue with people outside of the games we played. Even with Forums, it was often the case when a person dropped away from the game they also dropped away from the associated forum.

Now though, I’ve moved with the same group of friends in Discord (and Skype before that, MSN before that, etc, etc) for years. We organise dungeon content. Raids. Heck, any group content.

All things that once upon a time we would’ve had to do in-game.

In retrospect, none of this is really revolutionary information. To the point where it is actually somewhat striking to me that I hadn’t quite thought about it from this side of things, despite touching on it when looking at my own observed changes.



Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.

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