Is it Vanity? Or Camaraderie?

Interesting post by Syncaine over at Hardcore Casual about the difference between single-player and massive RPGs, and why Star Wars: The Old Republic will be a bad MMO (he makes a distinction between ‘game’ and ‘MMO’, with which I agree, even though I don’t necessarily agree with him about TOR…yet).

While I disagree with a few points (specifically the supposed direction TOR is going, and it’s fate), I completely agree with many points. Particularly, the necessary difference in mechanics and types of content between single-player and multi-player RPGs. He’s right – the nature of the game and the extent of a timesink it represents dictates how it plays and, more importantly, what players do. A single-player RPG that required, or even encouraged, grinding monsters in a specific zone for hours on end would be torn to shreds.

So why is it acceptable in MMOs (I’m looking at you Turbine, with your damnable Deed Log)? What makes it tolerable? I think it also comes back to the nature of the game. Grinding boars alone is just plain dull. But grinding boars together with a group, or even just grinding while in guild chat, because more palatable. The nature of combat mechanics in WoW or LotRO allow us to grind endless mobs with only minimal attention paid to what we’re actually doing, leaving the rest of our attention and energy to be paid to the other people with whom we’re sharing our space.

In many ways, the games encourage this, on the assumption that the achievement systems make players log in night after night, and the more a player logs in, the more likely they are to continue to be a paying customer. In reality, for me at least, the opposite is true – good gameplay and story will keep me paying (except for LotRO – Turbine has gotten all the subscription money out of me they’re going to get), where “the grind” completely turns me away. Who has the time? More importantly, who wants to spend their time like this?

If it comes down to the presence of other people, I have to wonder: is it vanity or camaraderie that makes the grind worth doing? Is it more a desire to achieve, in the eyes of others as much as ourselves? Or is it just that miserly loves company?

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