Socially Inept: Why Aren't We More Social In MMOs Any More?

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor


Having only started playing MMOs in 2004, my “old-school MMO gamer cred” résumé is a little light. Still, even I can remember back when people were a lot more social in MMOs. In City of Heroes, people would advertise for and form up groups to grind out mobs for XP or for Task Forces. I can even remember asking in chat for groups in the early days of The Lord of the Rings Online to help with difficult quests. I found my first kinship (guild) that way, which includes some people I still keep up with, seven years later.

Now, though, socializing in MMOs outside of your guild is almost unheard of. A few months ago, while I was leveling an alt in Guild Wars 2, someone asked in zone chat for company. I agreed, and we had a blast for an hour or so. It was a kind of nostalgic feeling that got me wondering: Why don't we do this any more? Why are we so non-social? There are probably several reasons.

Leveling is quick and easy. This was why I often grouped in CoH past level 20. It took a long time to level, and ripping through mobs and instances en masse got me more kills and extra XP just for being in a group. I don't know that I'd advocate going back to the days where it took a year-plus to get to max level, but I wonder if it shouldn't take two weeks, either.


Everything can be soloed. Similar to the last point... not only can you get to max level quickly in most MMOs, you don't even need anyone to do it. This is different, though, because in the first case, soloing was possible; it just took a long time. But in some games, you had to form a group to advance past certain parts. There are still group quests in modern MMOs, but they're rarely “progress-blocking” quests. You can typically just ignore them and do the non-group stuff if you can't find people to do it with.

Star Wars: The Old Republic, in particular, had a lot of these kind of quests. I spammed group chat to do them, just so I could do something different from the typical grind, but rarely got any response; either the zones were empty or most people realized, rightly so, that they were a waste of time when they could level more efficiently solo.

Talking isn't required. Even for group activities, like dungeons and big open-world events, after a certain point, everyone knows how to do everything and/or the challenge is trivial enough that nobody needs to talk. And when people do talk, it's more than often via voice-chat software, which has sucked a lot of the idle chatter out of in-game chat channels.


Even coordinating for the dungeons doesn't require much talking. With dungeon queues doing the work for us, there's rarely any more “4/5 need tank” going on any more. I don't know if that kind of talk really qualifies as being “social,” but it at least requires some kind of conversation between people that's more in-depth than hitting the “Ready” button on your queueing interface.

Lack of commitment. Let's face it: gamers as a whole aren't the most extroverted bunch. It usually takes a while for us to open up and really get into a game's community. With so many games available now, especially free-to-play games that we bounce between at a moment's notice, we're less likely to stick with a game for an extended period of time. As such, we're less likely to participate in that game's community and chat.

Pre-made communities. Because we have easier ways of staying in touch outside of games, such as social media and guild forums, you're less likely to dive into a game “fresh” and have to find friends/a guild. If a bunch of your gamer buddies are trying the new game, you've got a ready-made group of friends to play with and don't need to be as social in the actual game.

People are awful. Seriously. After the 100th racist/political/sexist rant in global chat or even just garden variety rudeness or idiocy, there are times when I'd be OK with never seeing chat again. And a lot of people keep their chat tab closed for that very reason. Granted, that's always been an issue, but it's probably a reason why players and developers have gradually veered toward systems that don't require in-game chat. And a lot of people are perfectly fine with that.


But here's the thing: While I'd like to go back to a (preferably non-awful) chattier MMO world, I don't know that I'm willing to give up all the advances that have precipitated its downfall. Do I want year-long grinds to level that require multiple people most of the way? Do I want to to not have social media to coordinate my gaming with my friends? Do I want to not have voice chat?

It's a little like someone pining for “the good old days” when kids played outside all the time instead of being glued to a monitor or handheld but they're not willing to give up their universal remote control, DVR, and 300 cable channels – you know, like it was back in “the good old days.” Advancements don't happen in a vacuum, and you can't just “turn back the clock” selectively.

Is there a way we can bring chat back without gutting our newer, shiny game systems? Should we even care to?

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About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor

Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

More Stories by Jason Winter

Discussion (49)

Kevin Flemming 6 years ago
I socialize about half of the time I play games. If the game is good and I stick around, I typically play solo for quite some time, often taking on dungeons solo too (after I've leveled a little higher than the requirements). This is the best way for me to learn my character and their skills, become adept at surviving when the odds are against me. Playing with others, I find you become reliant on them and don't push your character to their limits, as you have that safety net. Nobody learns from getting everything right first time. Failure is your first and foremost friend.
After a while, I'll try to interact with the community, having previously kept a beady eye on the various channels to see who I'm dealing with and whether there are any nice people to talk with. Then once I've chatted for a while, potentially added a few friends, I might consider either joining a guild or creating one of my own (although, this rarely happens as the games typically aren't enough to keep my interest for long and become bored, then move onto something else).

Hellsworth 6 years ago
C'mon JW... mid life crisis at your age is not good, especially not about MMOs. You know perfectly well why everyone prefers to play solo especially the "old schoolers".
Lack of Commitment: Everyone you'll meet randomly on the chat are only doing so because they are "fresh" in the game and will only play for "3 days" and thus they'll end up being a crutch and not a helper, especially since...
People are awful, seriously: And almost everyone you'll meet are underaged and if not physically then mentally because go figure, we're playing online games, if we wanted something more "adult" and on a higher tone then we'd be playing poker and besides we're all more selective since we all have our...
Pre-Made Communities: Online gaming is a thing for... hmm around 20 years now, people have their own friends and they are the ones we want to play with not some random "dewd" on the internet, besides would your father be letting you talk to a middle aged man on the internet for long periods of time if you were a 16 year old?
But here's the thing: Times change JW... you can reminisce at the good ol'internet innocence back in the day but nowadays things are different more... "disconnected", and it got there because "reasons" it's not a good or a bad thing, it's "digital evolution".

nicholcm 7 years ago
One way to make MMO's sociable would be to have most (if not all) gear created by PC crafters. Entropia Universe for all its flaws, does this reasonably well. No one person can become extremely good in all professions, so you need to interact with other people, whether it is supplies to craft, or gear to hunt mobs for the materials. I would love to see other games take this concept and tidy it up a bit.

The other problem of course is that level caps are usually pretty high now, so people are more spread out level wise, so finding people at your level is much harder. If gear became more relevant to how powerful you were, rather than your level, people could tailor their gear better, even lend powerful gear to bring a friend up to spec for particular mobs.

ASD 7 years ago
If they start adding player houses back again and have plenty of hubtowns to visit and adventures and tournaments and mini quests along the way then I might be willingly to play. But it feels like no one want's to build a big MMO project. I'm sure if somebody built an MMO as big as World of warcraft it will draw in alot of people.

Razer 7 years ago
People realized the stilted "social" aspect of MMOs didn't live up to the hype and that they would rather be playing a single player experience anyway. "Social" interactions in online games will never compare to face-to-face contact. I'd wager that deep down, even basement-dwelling mutants know this.

Guest 8 years ago
MMO Community
4 type of reason
Comment: The Gaming Community is very negative on all online games. it best to play with (real friends) and not random people on video games who can be siting there waiting to attack someone online plus there a huge hacker Corruption going around on new games and updated games from each year. it is no longer about having fun on video games anymore nowadays. Solo alone in a game but do not talk to weird people online. (Very Dangerous)

GamerJesus 8 years ago
I've always been social in mmos mainly because I grew up with RO(back when it was p2p),Lineage 2(back when it wasn't a pos),MU(back when it was being tossed around),and so on. I HAD to communicate with players and make groups to progress in most of these games! I didn't have to talk to them after that but it made things pass by so much faster! Nowadays I make it a point to talk to other players. Sometimes I just sit down in town and compliment random players armor or costumes and strike up a conversation that way! Yeah there are flamers and immature little brats but most mmos nowadays have a block feature!

I don't blame them for the lack of communication in an mmo I blame people who are afraid of pixels and a few "hurtful" words.

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Nindigo 9 years ago
The main reason I don't socialize much in mmorpgs is because I like to read/listen to in-game dialogue - others more often than not just rush through dungeons/instances/etc. Having turned 30 a few summers ago, I also often encounter kids who don't care about storylines or can't read that much and advanced english, so they just go with the flow without any sense of direction. It's frustrating. There is also the frequent topic of lecturing that I personally won't stand for. I figure out things my own way at my own pace, thank you. My impression of gamer kids/young people these days is that they are a dysfunctional lot with anger issues and an abnormal craving for attention. Thus, I go solo wherever I can.

TairikuOkami 9 years ago
If you find a game, that lets/forces people to play together, let me know, seriously. I tried to play some MMOs like Perfect World or my favorite Eden Eternal, but since I did not like playing alone, I quit.

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Bic Boi 9 years ago
Is it really that big of a shock that..people hate people? Seriously guys, look at the internet. Look at forums of various games. Hell, look at the DotA and SWTOR forums for just a taste of the kind of people that (generally speaking) online games attract.

Are you really that shocked that people aren't social? Unless you're new to the internet this shouldn't be surprising.

Shawn 9 years ago
I personally would rather it take a year to hit cap. People complain about not having enough content all the time. That's because they're able to blow through all of that content in a matter of weeks. If we were given more of a challenge, not only would leveling up be more rewarding, but it would add more playability to the game.

gorak 9 years ago
the community is the reason i quit playing mmo,s
also cuz we are in 2014 now and nothing changed for years

the genre mmo is death to me good luck whit youre crapy games lifewasters , enjoy!

Whimsy 9 years ago
Anyone wanna complete maps together in guildwars 2? from the level1 maps till orr ofcourse. let's be social! xD

Matt Wert 9 years ago
I think the problem is the meta games which developers are creating they break immersion and socialization in MMORPG (Dungeon Finder,Raid Finder,Guild Finder)...And the second problem why there is less socialization is that MMORPG's have stupid mechanics like when somebody mine ore he mine it and you cant have shit or when you want to group on quest with friend he get item and you must wait or you must split up items and when you in game steal some creep which another player was waiting for prepare for shitstorm and profanity coming your way...So the main reason is players in MMORPG dont share a goal because game tries to be immersive there in spawning resources and monsters but breaks immersion with Finders and stuff...Thats total illogical point devs are focusing on stupid things..Players should share a goal and loot need to be for every person different and randomly generated like in Path of Exile and Quests should be harder and without stupid pointing where you should go and finders needs to be deleted right away..

pingasman 9 years ago
The reason for this is pretty simple. Companies want their game to be accessed by many different people of which many don't have the time to get involved with people too much. So they make games easier to play through without the need of other players. That's also the reason we get copies of the same systems over and over since they have already proved themself to sell. Most companies try to sell their stuff through hype like "OMG action combat" but still having the same old systems from older MMORPG's. I'm not saying they are all shit since there are pretty good ones as well. However, the overuse of certain game mechanics really hurts most games then it does them good. One of the worst offenders is the leveling system. Player progression can be tracked through plenty different systems without needing to show one single global level the whole time. Currently, levels are meaningless in most MMORPG's. Especially when you reach max level which is honestly the only goal you have while leveling. Sure some games have a special twist in there but it's far from a new experience which MMORPG's were supposed to deliver.

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top lel kek hue 9 years ago
As time goes on more people get access to the internet. The potential for more trolls increases. There are still nice people out there but they are just dilute with a bunch of other mean players. Perhaps they think everyone else is mean so they just play with a bunch of friends and dont bother making new friends.

Morbid Desire 9 years ago
I noticed that people became unpleasant in my favorite games when the lower class got access to Internet. Since then it's just been, socially, a bitter experience.

Merkadis 9 years ago
I dislike people and enjoy solitude, which has nothing to do with mmos.
Nevertheless i do respond and socialize if i feel like it.. that's enough.

TwoDigitScout 9 years ago
That's one of the many reasons I miss Ultima Online. There wasn't an in game chat system, beyond /whisper dialogue bubbles, or friend's list. You made friends/allies by taking a chance and interacting with others. If you didn't, you were a hermit and the game most likely sucked for you. Also, off the subject, UO was hardcore at its best... everyone was your potential enemy... no of this zoned pvp or flag crap. I think this aspect lent to the social interaction required to sometimes survive Britannia. Too many MMOs have dropped the true hardcore nature we started with and have turned most MMO gamers into pussies, expecting everything to be handed to them and not lose anything in the process which I think has developed the social awkwardness of online gaming presently.

sadfsdfsdfseeeeeeeeeee 9 years ago
Grouping is a pain the butt in most games. You have to spam LFG for the quest you're on or either sit in a queue for raids and dungeons.

I think MMOs should consider an AUTO group function that automatically puts you in parties with players in the area that are the same level and quest range. Then make the quest share-able and not so each person has to pick up 20 of something and stand around waiting.

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Pinkishu 9 years ago
Systems that make socializing obsolete.
e.g. WoW's Dungeon finder. You pick a role, dungeon and swoosh teleport there and hack away. No talk needed, normal instances have been dumbed down so much that you can just roll through them anyway. Collect fancy loots, repeat, with another set of random people matched to you in another 5 seconds.
You don't care about them, they don't care about you. Back when WoW was launched people had to actually search in the chat channels, asking for instance groups and such. Instances were harder, there wasn't any "account-bound gear" with which any new alt gets an easy-mode on many things. And it made people actually care a little more (not saying greatly, but a bit, and thats still a big difference) about who they play with.

And then the point in the article of course: too easy, grouping feels punishing in some games (shared XP => you only get a percentage that you would have gotten solo + things are too easy, so no killspeed enhancement)

Agree, that if people talk its mostly on VoIP which then often goes back to it being the TS server of the guild they are in, which just goes back to "not socializing outside of your guild"

Its amazing how much more fun even tedious grind can be if grouping up feels rewarding, if you're chatting with some others while grinding, etc.

Another article i've seen also mentioned that MMO has lost its "social aspect". Things are often so much dumbed down that most of anyone can achieve most of anything. Theres no truly hard things anymore that someone in great effort can achieve, earning them some reputation. Well there is the whole "firstkill" and "top guild" stuff where they compete in ignoring the content and most social features of MMOs in order to rush through it as quickly as possible. Don't we live in great times? ;)

Just my thoughts~

partially spam 9 years ago
For me, the issue is definitely due, in part, to spam. Primarily currency spammers. Trolls and flamers (heh, flamers) don't really bug me anymore and I rather enjoy the silly nonsense chat. However, when I have to scroll through lengthy post after post of spam just to keep up with chat that I'm following, it doesn't take long before I don't care enough to continue doing so.

I report spam every time I see it and am not in the middle of doing something, but that doesn't seem to help at all.

Curst 9 years ago
The main problem is that games are too dumbed down and easy nowadays. Probably because typical modern gamers are incapable of handling any difficulties. They usually just want to get in and to be practically forced to have fun. Playing with a group of other players not only isn't required anymore, it is going to hinder you progress. The fact that everyone cares only about getting to the max level doesn't help either. All the other reasons are pretty much irrelevant compared to this.

MidAir 9 years ago
I am the kind of player that likes to do stuff by himself, like leveling and stuff like that just because when i play a game i just want to play it and when i play with a group it allways ends up with standing inside citys for 10-20 mins because someone has to get new skill or equip and needs forever, even when i play with friends.
But if i see some people that need help and ask in chat i most likely will help them and group up just to hlep and leave right after.
But i think mechanics like open pvp (in BlackDesert) and the mobsystem (in EQNext) can make the people more social i think, if a guy keeps killing newbs at the entrance of a city you maybe got some nice people or guilds that know what you are going through and will help. Or if the mobs that you need for your quest are running around on the whole map you have to find it and the easyest was is to be social and ask.
So i think there are multiple ways to make the players more social but if they dont want to they just wont.

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Jooq 9 years ago
For me SWTOR and LOTRO were the most social games I've ever played. Seriously. And it was awesome.

hovsep56 9 years ago
i worry that black desert online ain't going to have any socializing at all due to pk.
reason there aren't so many players socializing togheter is because these mmo's aren't enforcing it. mabinogi still has a nice community because the game ENFORCES you to talk to others because the game is so GODDAMN HARD and it got social stuff like making campfires,marriage,playmusic,make music,tailoring,blacksmithing,weaving,carpentry,alchemy etc

also if more mmo's had rly hard PVE like mabinogi or vindictus there would be more socializing to party togheter and stuff.

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sniperman248 9 years ago
Honestly I blame the hot heads and flamers in globel chat, because one is afraid to run into someone that typically now days turns out to be snobby or elitest in the gaming community and those that arn't typically turn out to be trolls, its sad to say most game community's are either trolls or rude players these days.

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James Brown 9 years ago
Why are you ranting about useless shit. Maybe if the developers came up with something new that isn't already a stolen idea. Yeah mmorpgs can be fun but the lack of effort in making something more then the same old mmorpgs. The developers lack creativity thus making players bored so they troll for fun. We need a new type of game based on open world pvp with a zone dedicated to 3 vs all. 3 different races going against each other in an open colony zone. With pvp rewards and bosses to hunt.

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