What a community SHOULD be.

A game’s community can be either a huge strength for the game, or something that counts heavily against it. When it comes to online games and MMOs, the community is especially important, possibly more than many people realize. Some games have an absolutely terrible community, which can put people off before they even start playing. Other games have a great community. Most tend to fall in between, and have some bad apples, and some awesome.

Things may change between now and when the game actually releases and it’s given some time to settle in, but so far, the Guild Wars 2 community is leaning mostly towards the “awesome” side of things. And I say that as someone fairly new to the whole “being part of a community” thing. I pretty much just posted on forums, but never really made any friends outside of the art forum on GWG (which is in fact a great little community-within-a-community, but Guild Wars + art will be a later topic for me to discuss). Then towards the end of last year, I saw that GuildMag was in need of people, and I decide hey, what the heck. I’ll apply.

And as silly as it sounds, that was one of the smartest things I’ve done.

I began using twitter more, because it made it easier to keep up with GW news and GuildMag stuff. I started chatting with some of the other people working on GuildMag, and found a few other people who looked nice and like they’d be fun to talk to. And…I enjoyed it. I’ve always been a pretty shy, quiet person, so being able to talk with people with such ease and be accepted was nice. I’ve got a nice group of friends now and we pretty much can chatter about anything – from Guild Wars info, to current news, to just general life stuff.

That all started because of my love for Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2.

The GW2 community so far actually has something of a very odd feel to it, but if you spend any time around sites like GW2G, you’ll see what I mean fairly quickly. The community is actually fairly large, for a game that’s not out yet and won’t be out for some time. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming trying to get into conversations on forums. But there’s also this feeling that we’re really just a small, tight-knit group of people that all like the same thing, and are all excited about it.

For example, look at the number of GW2-related blogs and fansites. There are so many! When I first started up Under the Pale Tree, I fretted about – there’s so many other blogs already up and running and well-known; what chances did I have? I’m used to fandoms and communities where another blogger is simply seen as competition for your hard-won readers. But that’s not the case here. Rather, it’s more of a “the more the merrier!” mindset. Even with the limited info we have now, and the fact that anything new released will spawn dozens of blog entries, everyone is going to have their own interpretation. Everyone is going to have different ideas, different things they’re speculating on, different opinions. And so instead of competition, it’s friendship.

And it’s great.

ArenaNet themselves and their hand in this can’t be forgotten, of course. Take, for example, the recent community open house that they held. How many other developers would do such a thing? I honestly can’t think of any. The contests they hold, both for GW1 and now GW2, encouraging fans to exercise their creativity. They openly admit to reading forums, and I know they like reading what their fans have to say about the games on blogs. Even just chit-chatting on twitter. They don’t do what a lot of game devs do, and hide away as faceless beings controlling everyone’s fates. And the way they approach their games with such love, excitement, and determination to make the best damned game they can…as a fan, it’s hard to not get excited.

Things may change as the game releases, and the community suddenly expands very quickly. But I hope the core of what the GW2 community is and how it started out remains. Because damnit, this is how a game’s community should be, and I love being a part of it.

2 thoughts on “What a community SHOULD be.

  1. Your enthusiasm for the subject matter comes through clearly in your writing, and makes this a blog I would recommend to anyone interested in the lands of Tyria. You are certainly a welcome addition to my personal reading list.

    I agree with the general premise that a game’s community has a significant effect on how much a player can simply relax and enjoy the game, and I agree that the GW community is generally a polite and welcoming group, and far less prone to the “abusive” nature I’ve seen associated with other games’ communities.

    There is a reason for that though, and it’s not just, “Hey, aren’t we a nice bunch of folks? :-)”

    Many, many MMOs have inherent design flaws which, in effect, pit their players against one another in a fashion that is almost guaranteed to instill frustration and antagonism. The examples of these design flaws are far too numerous to list but, just a couple of the more common ones are; kill stealing and resource node access…

    Players of other games are constantly presented with the experience of having their playing sessions disrupted by, and their enjoyment of the game thwarted by, the presence of other players. You see a node of iron you would like to harvest for crafting resources but, another player gets to it a fraction of a second before you do… “Guess it sucks to be you brah…” Or, you have a KTR style quest (kill ten rats) and are having difficulty completing it because other players in the vicinity are “tagging” all the mobs you need, making it impossible, or at least much more difficult for you to fill the needed quota.

    These (and many, many other examples of desgin flaws) are common, everyday occurences in most MMOs, and those are just the ones where other players are simply trying to go about their own business… don’t get me started on the numerous examples of out-n-out “griefing” that takes place due to other players with actual malicious intentions.

    Puppies don’t start out as pit fighters… even a breed like Pitbulls that has natural tendancies bred into it only turn into pit fighters after they are horribly abused and pitted against other dogs repeatedly until the fight response to the presence of any other dog becomes reflexive.

    MMO players have been abused and constantly, repeatedly, pitted against one another so frequently, and for so long, that it’s a wonder
    there are any of us left who aren’t pit fighters.

    MMO players are systematically being “turned mean” and they don’t even realize it. Certainly some are mature enough to resist the process, but it still impacts them significantly.

    All MMOs are, in fact, social experiments but, unfortunately, many MMO developers have abdicated their responsibility as a “game designer” to create an atmosphere where their players can actually “have fun” (which is, after all, the intended purpose of playing a game.)

    ArenaNet is a clear exception to this overwhelming trend. They are clearly designing their games with the over-all atmosphere of the gaming environment and it’s effect on players’ attitudes towards one another very much in mind. It’s not just “chance” that the Guild Wars community tends to be a little bit friendlier… “coincidence” is concept used by uninformed people to explain what they do not understand. The Guild Wars community is “nicer” because ArenaNet designed their games without so many of the flaws that cause game communities to not be nice.

    And like you, I am very grateful to have found this small area of calm in the otherwise turbulent seas of MMO communities.

  2. Very insightful from both of you.

    One thing that does worry me, though, is that in my experience there IS a tendency for game communities to be more tight-knit and generally nicer before a game releases than after. Partly this is because you simply have less people before than after the release, partly it’s because people are generally more optimistic about an unreleased game while a released game tends to attract demand for nerfs and outrage at those demands being met… and partly it may be because, due to the above, the stakes are simply higher once a game gets released. You go from a community of generally dedicated fans speculating and looking forward together to a community of competitors.

    Now, for the reasons ArcherAvatar said, this might not happen with the Guild Wars 2 community. I hope it doesn’t. But there have been a few times when the release of a game has resulted in a noticeable decline in the general… cosyness of forums associated with the game.

    Mind you, it’s not all doom and gloom – what can happen is that the sort of feeling that used to be the general feeling pre-release starts to migrate elsewhere. Once you get into things like the art community, the lore community, and so on, you’ll start getting back into the people who’ve invested differently into the game than the most efficient method of farming or the best way to pwn n00bs in their preferred PvP format, and that tends to result in the general quality of people being more on the awesome side of the scale.

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