MMO's are considered socially interactive games. However after reading and watching a very good video by Clint Hocking on generational differences that I followed off Tobolds Blog onto Teuts, I'm not so sure. It's an excellent video and well worth an hour of you time to watch I should add, and certainly has coloured a few opinions I had and opened a few avenues of thought. Well worth a look.
As a Gen X-er myself certainly I found myself considering many of the people I know of the various generational life cycle stages discussed in the video, and while I had issues with a few things in the video , certainly a few concepts clicked well.
So, back to my starting comment: MMO's are considered socially interactive games.... but are they?
Essentially, if you look at the market leading MMO, WoW, it is really 2 different games. The leveling game from 1-79, and the endgame at 80. Whats more, these games are pretty much chalk and cheese. One is a solo-ist grind which *was* when the game launched in 2004 quite a brutal grindfest of around 240 hours to max level your character (which appeals to a Gen-X-er audience of people who like punishing hardcore games), the other requires some need for interaction. Originally that Interaction was again, pretty punishing/abusive in it's commitment needs. Molten Core in classic initially (not by the time we had AQ & ZG out I should quickly add, my guild had it down to around 3 hours by then) could be 6-8 hours straight of work for no reward other than some metagame currency DKP.
Weirdly, it worked, WoW flourished, though admittedly, the game has had a steep reduction in the abusiveness/punishing scale since then from patch after patch.
The ultimate in the punishing/abusive gameplay being the classic PvP system. I knew someone who achieved Rank 14, they ended up playing 7 hours (or more) a day for weeks on end, and in the last few weeks before they (just) achieved it, they we taking sick time off work, Holidays and they nearly lost their job. That little relic of the past from WoW fortunately is now consigned to history, but just goes to show, despite this, people, Gen X-ers, did it, and the game flourished. (though the designers later admitted the size of the error in combining a grind system with a competitive system, creating a competitive grind....)
The problem here is, if you follow the (hugely generalised and very debatable in their applications admittedly) concepts of Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers and Gen Y-ers that Clink Hocking discusses, quite a huge portion of the WoW player base are probably Gen X-ers who like to solo (being loners), and, when they do like to group, they like to be able to do it on their terms.
Now, obviously the best part of "doing it on your terms" is to do it with people you trust at a time which suits you. So Gen X-ers probably like Guilds, in which they can carefully make their own determinations over who they trust to group with and who they don't (we like to make our own opinions).
Doing it "on your own terms" also means being able to pick your own abuse level. Some people still like the punishing/hardcore element of WoW, and self create this by signing onto hardcore raiding guilds were that need is fulfilled. Others, probably the less masochistic of us, pick guilds which more suit our needs.
One of the conundrums with WoW though, certainly for me, has always been the Pick Up Group. The PUG. The PUG certainly fulfils the need of "doing it when I want" for someone like myself, and not having to wait on anyone or anything. But the huge downside is that it breaks those bonds of trust sharply for us Gen X-ers that we like so much. We trust our guildmates (after experiencing the game with them) people in PUG's....?
Well, with the latest upcoming patch, 3.3., of WoW again try's to address this issue once again... and kindly they've increased the ignore list to compensate for the very expected issues that are going to arise.
Will everyone suddenly start using the system? I await to see. The incentive structures are certainly interesting.... but honestly, will we like meeting new people and interacting more in this "social game"? Will Gen X play nice?