My significant other is something of a strange bird where MMORPGs are concerned. Whereas a great many players love MMOs solely for the social interaction they offer, she falls into the opposite camp. She’s not interested in climbing up the ranks in a guild, nor is she terribly excited to meet new people. She’s a solo player; she’s there to experience the story and the world rather than the people.Recently, that got me to thinking…there’s actually a pretty good case for playing MMORPGs mostly by yourself. For the sake of fairness, I’ll also include arguments from the opposite stance. It’s up to you fine folks which you decide to go with; just know that there’s a case for both.
WHY SOLO IS THE WAY TO GO
One thing I’ve noticed about a lot of modern MMORPGs is that they’re actually designed to reward solo play as much as much as they are group play. Take Guild Wars 2, for example. While a lot of dungeons in the game might require a group to pass through, none of them are strictly mandatory to the plot. It’s entirely possible to go through without actually grouping up with a single other player (world events don’t count). The Old Republic, meanwhile, feasibly allows you to experience everything but flashpoints with just you and your companion. The fact is, if you want to play MMOs by yourself, you can actually get away with doing so.
Let’s be honest, folks: most people online aren’t worth meeting, let alone spending any extended amount of time with. For evidence of this, all you really need to do is look at League of Legends, which currently has one of the most toxic communities in gaming. That nasty little cross-section of humanity provided by League? There’s a good chance you’ll wind up with at least one player like that if you’re grouping up in an MMORPG. During my time playing World of Warcraft, for example, I encountered several hunters who didn’t understand aggro, a rogue who insisted he could run an instance naked, and plenty of Mages who rolled need on warrior- or hunter- specific gear.
Yeah…people suck. Sometimes, it’s better to save yourself the headache.
Sometimes, coordinating a team of individuals in an online game can be more challenging than getting a classroom of hyperactive five year olds to sit through a reading of War and Peace. They’ll get distracted by side-quests they forgot to do. They’ll join your party without realizing they need to travel halfway around the world (and you need to wait for them). They’ll run off whenever they see something shiny, leaving you standing about twiddling your thumbs. If you’re playing by yourself, you don’t need to waste time helping other people with quests from which you derive no benefit: you can just focus on your own stuff.
Particularly if you’re running a higher-level instance or raid, there’s a lot of pressure from your teammates not to cock things up. After all, in certain situations, all it takes for an entire party to wipe is for one player to make a small mistake. That’s a fair bit of pressure to be under in a game you’re playing for fun, no? By yourself, you don’t really need to worry about any of this, as any mistakes you make will negatively impact you and you alone.
Last, but certainly not least, if you’re playing by yourself, you’ve free reign to pretty much do what you want. Want to wander around ganking low-level players? Go for it. Looking to explore and admire the landscape? It’s your call. Want to run around the world’s major cities with your clothes off? Whatever floats your boat. Since you don’t have to consider what everyone else is doing when you’re playing by yourself, you’ve a great deal more freedom.
WHY YOU SHOULD GROUP UP
My best memories of World of Warcraft all involve instances and group quests. It’s no coincidence why – pretty much all of the best content in WoW is tied up in quests and locations which require a full party (or sometimes even a full raid) to fight through successfully. If you play a game like that by yourself, you’re missing out on some amazing experiences, since all the coolest stuff is almost always reserved for a group.
Remember how I said a lot of people play MMORPGs for the social aspect? I’m one of them. In spite of all the societal tumors I’ve run across in my time online, I’ve also encountered quite a few genuinely awesome people. Truth be told, most of the people I come across don’t fall into either category. Instead of being awesome or horrendous, they’re sort of just bland and not at all memorable. I suppose that’s better than being genuinely unpleasant to play with, right?
What I’m saying is that while a lot of people on the Internet do suck, you shouldn’t let a few mouth-breathers ruin your opinion of everyone else.
By opening yourself up to play with others, you’ll meet potentially scores of new people. By meeting new people, you’ll make a bunch of new friends. By making a bunch of new friends, you could actually form lasting relationships that’ll remain strong for decades to come. I actually know of several gamers who met some of the most important people in their lives online; a close friend of mine first met her husband on World of Warcraft. If you play by yourself, you’re denying yourself the opportunity to form these relationships.
When I was younger, I knew a kid whose dream was to work in business (he didn’t really know what sort of business he wanted to work in, just that he wanted to run his own). There was a catch, though: he didn’t want to have to work with people. My attempts to explain to him that he needed to be able to work well with others fell on deaf ears, and I sort of just shrugged and left him to his own devices. He’d have to figure out himself that it’s impossible to succeed in life without knowing how to work with (and manage) other people.
Believe it or not, MMORPGs actually teach you that skill pretty well, so long as you decide you’re willing to play with other people.
Last, but certainly not least…no matter what you happen to be doing, it’s almost always better with a few good friends sharing the experience. That’s sort of a universal law of life, and one that most definitely applies to MMOs. Sure, you might feel like you’re playing with a bunch of chimpanzees on occasion, but that’s all part of the fun.