Are You a Team Player?
There’s an interesting post over on Tobold’s Blog, regarding how he personally had a successful game in World of Tanks, yet because his team mates didn’t perform as well, they failed to meet the overall group reward criteria. This all too familiar anecdote got me thinking about teams and group play mechanics that are still prevalent in many game genres. Over the years I have tempered my attitude towards teaming up with other gamers and being dependent on them to achieve a collective goal. I have moved from a social gaming mindset born out of my initial altruistic experiences playing MMOs, to a far more transactional outlook. I suspect that I’m not the only player who currently thinks this way.
I suspect that the issue that Tobold faced in World of Tanks, was down to auto-grouping and teaming up with random players. I have had similar experiences in Star Trek Online when joining Task Force Operations. Although there is a Team Chat facility it tends not to get used in any useful fashion. Most of the PUGs I join tend to avoid discussing any strategy and assume that players know the accepted method for efficiently clearing the content. Naturally there are times when it’s a free for all and somewhat chaotic and on such occasions a suboptimal outcome is most likely. Such is the nature of PUGs as opposed to grouping with friends and playing co-operatively in a more organised and co-ordinated fashion.
A decade ago, games such as LOTRO required much of the content to be played as a group. Plus, MMOs still had an air of novelty to them and the community was possibly more socially orientated. I have written previously that this was a period of my life that lent itself to such gameplay. I had both the time and inclination to group, form a plan and play towards shared goals. In the case of LOTRO, we had a lot of high tier players in our kinship who were happy to group. So most of the time, instances and, raids usually went well. Therefore, if we failed, it wasn’t a major blow. Sadly, that mindset is no longer the default position. Time is now a premium and so it is desirable to ensure that any group activity is efficient, resulting in a positive outcome.
Gaming has changed in many ways in the last decade. For a while there was an egalitarian air to the MMO genre. The social dynamic was embraced, extolled and acted upon. But as gaming became more commercial and more “business like”, that community vibe slowly dissipated. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist. There are still plenty of social guilds and player who do everything as a team. There just seems to have been a major pendulum swing. I still join guilds in other games I play but they are a means to an end, rather than a specific social choice. Auto-grouping has become my default means of grouping because it’s quick and easy. Overall, I prefer to play solo and endeavour to do as much as I can that way. The main reason for this is time and not wishing to be dependent on others. Grouping despite its social benefits is not always an efficient use of game time.
I guess whether you’re a team player or not, comes down to several things. Are you disposed to such behaviour in real life? Do you play to specifically to interact with people? Do you feel that it’s tactically better to play as a group? Whatever the reasons, I’m not entirely sure that game developers looks at this social imperative in the same way as they use to. Auto-grouping is really just auto-facilitating. It simply allows players to loosely co-operate in the most basic of terms. It’s also a lot easier to implement in a game and thus leads to the ongoing evolution or dilution, depending of your perspective, of the MMO genre. And I’m not much help because I’m on the fence with this issue. There are occasions when I have the time and inclination, that I want full blown, old school group play. But most of the times, I just want to get stuff done via the path of least resistance. What about you? Are you a team player?