Your Friends or The Game

Monday, June 15, 2009

Why do I play LOTRO? To answer that, I have to first go back to why I play games. That's easy though, I love getting sucked into the worlds the games create. Why is Mass Effect so awesome to me? It does a very good job at creating a world you feel connected to. Why do I love Lord of the Rings Online - because it does a great job at linking me to a world I love so much. I started playing LOTRO because of the IP connection. From there, I discovered it was a good game. But what about now - what keeps me playing?

Honestly, I have to point more towards my friends than the game itself. No game can sustain interest forever, and nearly three years with one game is a long time (August 2006, closed beta). But in the process of playing LOTRO I gained some friends. I was extremely fortunate in running into the kinship I'm a part of. When I haven't logged in for a while, I don't feel guilty for not playing. It's not my monetary investment. That paid for itself already. It's not the game that I'm missing, or I would have logged in. It's the people. I feel like I need to keep in touch, let them know I'm still alive, kicking, interested, etc.

The best moments in LOTRO have been playing with my kinship. My first memory of grouping with a bunch of them was going through the Great Barrows. Such a blast, especially since previous PUG runs weren't successful. And every point thereafter where I would play with a kinmate, the game ceased to have any of it's faults. Well, that's not quite accurate. The faults were there, but they didn't matter, because what I was currently doing was fun. And it was fun because I was doing it with another player who I enjoyed playing with.

MMOs are more than just games, LOTRO no exception. They are venues to hang out at. I wouldn't continually go to the billiards hall and shoot pool by myself, even if the first few times were fun. I would go over and over again because I was hanging out with my friends. The same holds true for MMOs. There's the activity, then there's the society. It's the latter that holds our attention indefinitely. People are an endless resource of activity, and when you find people you like, your friends, it doesn't matter what you do, so long as your doing it together.

LOTRO is fun primarily because of the people I play with. It's secondary that it's a good game. Any MMO that can create the easiest system to play with friends will ultimately be the winner, so long as the activity within doesn't detract from the "hanging out". For example, let's say an MMO had City of Hero's/Villians sidekicking mechanic, arguably one of the best ways to bring friends together, but there was absolutely nothing to do except maybe kill things. Even playing with friends would get old rather quickly. So, there's a limit, a balance to this issue. No game will be endlessly fun, but a game must have a "reasonable amount" of fun in the first place in order to build the foundation for playing with friends.

So, is it the friends or the game that keep you playing? Maybe both? Which has more influence?

4 Responses to "Your Friends or The Game"

The LotRO Follower Says:

I got linked to this by a friend, so your blog is indeed being read by a number of people greater than 2, and its drawing the occasional inactive LotRO blogger back to comment as well.

Going off of your post and also what I thought the title really meant, first off if you're not in a kin, get in one. Hopefully its a good one meaning that the people know what they're doing, and they're also fun to play with. It makes the game 100x better, as Jax said.

Also, I want to draw attention to the dangers of the MMO. I have a friend who's the stereotypical WoW player. He has what I like to refer to as the "MMO tan", he never leaves his house over the summer, and I'm pretty sure my 16 year old sister could take him if she was pissed off enough. The not-so-thinly-veiled message is get out and do stuff with real-life friends as well. I'm aware that I'm among a minority of the (ex)MMO population that can attest to a decent social life, but I hope that becomes untrue.

Jaxom92 Says:

Yeah, there's the aspect of the stereotypical gamer social life - or rather lack there of. I don't think I want to venture into that territory, however.

As to having a kin, yes, that's a good thing. Or a static group you play with (even if it's not officially a kinship). I will say though that just having a kin isn't enough. That kin needs to exhibit certain behavior to make them a kin that'll fulfill the friends need, so to speak. Perhaps that'll be something I talk about more tomorrow.

Yeebo Says:

Everyone looks for something specific from a KS. The sad fact of the matter is that regardless of what a KS says it's about on their website, you need to "audition" one before you know it will be a good fit for you. It took me four tries to find the one I settled on in LoTRO, and two of the ones I went through are much higher profile than the one I'm in now.

In any case, agreed with LoTRO Follower. Having a KS that is a good fit for you will make all the difference in the world.

David Says:

It's both and, for me, not either or.

That said, the one game I played for 5 years was SWG and that was primarily in the last couple of years because I, with a couple of others, started our own guild to meet the need for gamers that was not being addressed. So it was the game that drew me in - but relationships that kept me there.