Trouble in paradise

Illustration by Ed Appleby
Illustration by Ed Appleby

MMO social communities—is there one that isn’t toxic?

By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor

As a lover of video games, I have had a long standing adoration and desire to play MMOs, a.k.a. massively multiplayer online games. Recently, I was looking to get back into them, but I was completely at a loss as to which one was worth my time.

The issue with these types of games is that their social communities are an integral part of whether the game is enjoyable or not. You can’t play an MMO by yourself; you have to communicate with other players even if you manage to master the game without ever having formed a steady group of play-buddies. The problem is that games in general are competitive, so this can foster toxic online interaction or an elitist mentality between long time players and people who have just started the game. This leads to segregation based off of timeline, which is never good. There are ways around this, however, and developers are constantly trying to find new ways of making their online community the best and most accessible. So what did this mean for me? A lot of trial and error.

I began by looking back into rejoining World of Warcraft. It’s hard to deny this game’s impact on the world, and it is the biggest MMO out right now. World of Warcraft is not the best MMO available, and its social community is extremely hard to break into. Blizzard’s efforts to make the game more accessible to new players may have made the learning curve a little easier, but it also bred dissent among the ranks—more specifically the long-time players. People who have been playing this game since its first incarnation say that the game itself has been massively dumbed down in order to appeal to new generations of gamers. All of this drama and a hefty $15 a month price tag for less-than-stellar graphics—yeah, I crossed this one off my list pretty fast.

Next was Tera. I will admit, I did play this game for quite a bit. The animations were a bit clunky, and the online community is pretty null and void if you’re under the character level cap, which is the max level you can be before your character stops gaining experience and becoming more powerful. I was willing to forgive most of this since the game is actually free, and the combat in it is really fun. But I hit a brick wall when it came to their customer support. To put it very bluntly, it’s awful. They treat you like you’re computer illiterate and constantly blame your computer for any issues that arise, even when it’s clear that there are problems on their end. Eventually I got fed up and just deleted the game.

After Tera, I played other MMOs like Elder Scrolls Online, Neverwinter, and The Old Republic—and quit them all for various reasons. What I did find that they all had in common is that none of them were able to bridge that gap between long-time players and new players.

As a last resort, I headed back to another MMO I had enjoyed in the past, but required a monthly fee. Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn (ARR), and its expansion Heavensward piqued my interest yet again, but I fully expected the social community to be the same as it was when I left about a year and a half ago. At that time it was no better than any of the others. Long-time players basically ignored the up-and-comers. Well, apparently the developers took note of this and decided to fix it. They created various incentives for people to help lower level players out through use of various bonuses and currency to purchase rare items, and by making their servers universal, which means that console and PC gamers can play together rather than having separate servers for Playstation, Xbox, and PC players. Socially this is great, because not everyone I know plays on the same system. Don’t get me wrong, ARR does have its faults. Their private messaging system is filled with spam, and if you don’t have a “free company” (player run clubs), you might feel a bit like somebody taped a “virgin” sign on your back at the frat party—propositions are constant!

Overall, I enjoy the game, and the majority of the players are super friendly and willing to help you out instead of calling you a noob.